A group of fellow food enthusiasts and I were all frantically tweeting each other with excitement over trying Little Serow, the newest restaurant from chef and owner Johnny Monis of Komi. Through Twitter we (@frijolita, @chefallisosna, @notderbypie, @arlusk, & @bonappetitfoodi) decided it was only appropriate to schedule a meetup that we deemed "Occupy Little Serow" (or on Twitter: #occupylittleserow) where we would take the restaurant by storm and have a fun night filled with culinary delight. Occupy Little Serow became a reality last week where we all were able to indulge in a family style meal with food from the northeastern region of Thailand, or better known as Isaan-style.
I will first say that it is very likely that anyone who does not know about Little Serow will pass it 100x on the street and still never discover it. The door is just a few steps down from Komi with no sign, and limited lighting that makes it hard to recognize without prior knowledge. The interior is simple with concrete floors, teal painted walls, and high top tables with barstools. We were lucky that we did not have a wait, although the staff is kind enough to take your number and text you when your table is ready should there be a queue for tables. We started with some lovely ice wines and the meal began with a basket of fresh greens and herbs for us to use throughout the dinner- lettuce, basil, radish, daikon etc. which could be used as wraps or simple accessories to the upcoming food courses.
Our first course was crispy pork with duck liver and shrimp paste. It was a fried pork rind of sorts with a very hot and spicy dipping sauce-- note to future Little Serow diners: it is not for those afraid of spice. Be prepared to have a lot of flavor and heat throughout the evening (which I happen to really enjoy). Next up was an eggplant, picked egg, and garlic salad with sliced onions and then the catfish, shallots and chiles dish. The catfish was reminiscent of a hash with lots of small chopped ingredients that had a great crunch to it as well as a spicy kick that made it one of my favorite dishes of the evening. The staff also brought out a small basket filled with sticky rice that is meant to be taken out with your hands and rolled into balls to dip into the sauces throughout the meal. The next course was a very refreshing and light shrimp with lemongrass and lime leaf and provided a nice break from some of the hotter courses. We all loved the shrimp as it stood out from the other dishes and was also simple ane delicious.
After some of the smaller and lighter dishes it was time to move onto the heavier meats and we were served a pork sausage with kaffir and basil. The staff told us that it took the kitchen about four or five times to get the exact right consistency for the sausage and they really did get it right. It was juicy and tender and we were instructed to pair it with the basil leaves which wrapped around each piece of sausage creating a fresh and earthy flavor with each bite. The charred and hammered beef came out next and this was my favorite of the evening. The meat was so well flavored and came with a lovely red tomato based sauce that I was told is similar to a ketchup in Thailand. Not only was I dipping each lovely bite of the beef into the sauce, but also many of the little rice balls I was rolling up with my hands. I could have had three plates of the beef and been one happy girl. Finally, the last course was a pork rib with tamarind and ginger which I found a bit disappointing. The meat was cooked beautifully and fell straight off the bone, but I felt the sauce lacked flavor (which we did discuss could have been a result of the many spicy dishes beforehand which made this taste simple and bland). However, this did not spoil a lovely evening filled with wonderfully executed food.
The menu at Little Serow changes on a weekly basis and costs $45 per person (not including alcohol). It appears to be a fun and successful experiment by Johnny Monis and I'll be curious to see how long it stays open as an Isaan-style restaurant or if he might decide to try different types of cuisines and menus as time goes on. It was definitely a hit amongst our #occupylittleserow dining group and made for a fun evening out. Now we just have to decide which restaurant we might decide to occupy next.
1511 17th Street NW (ground level)
Washington, DC 20036