Last month, Rachel and I finally ventured out to Johnny Monis’ latest effort, Little Serow. Located in an English basement below his outstanding restaurant Komi, Little Serow could not be more different than what presides upstairs.
Featuring Issan, a regionalized cuisine found in northeastern Thailand, dinner is served family-style at $45 per person. Little Serow does not take reservations; it’s first-come first-serve, and with a small dining room, expect to wait. Oh, and just like Komi, photos are prohibited (sorry, readers!).
We decided to go on a Wednesday, and when we arrived at 6:15, we were told it would be an hour and a half. We killed some time over at nearby Agora over a few glasses of wine before the hostess texted us informing that our table was now ready. Talk about accuracy, it was precisely an hour and a half when we got the text.
Once you walk into the space, it does not feel like DC at all. And that’s not a bad thing. With its mint green walls and the Black Keys playing on the PA system, this isn’t your typical Thai restaurant. The friendly, inviting staff wants to ensure that your dinner is a memorable one. It’s always refreshing when your waitress not only has a personality, but also enjoys the atmosphere and sounds interested in what the chef is cooking. It’s rather infectious.
Oh yes, the food. We started with gluray tort – a duck liver and shrimp paste accompanied with fried plantains and pork rinds. Dipping the crispy pork rinds into the pate was one of the more interesting ways we have ever started a meal, but we all really enjoyed it.
Up next was ma hor, a gorgeous concoction of sweet and crunchy with ingredients ranging from fried catfish to eggplant to pineapple. Topped with dried shrimp, this was one of our favorite dishes of the evening. Just a wonderful array of flavors.
Soon after came om gabi baan, a green curry featuring at least four jumbo shrimp per bowl (this was the only dish served individually as opposed to family-style). If you’re a fan of bold flavors, this is right down your alley. The curry proved to be a little too strong for both Rachel and I as we tried to turn it down a notch with some sticky rice.
The next course was gai thiang kheun, perhaps the spiciest dish of the night. Featuring chicken, sawtooth, and shallots, it’s best to use the accompanying basket of vegetables to dull the heat. Wrapping the chicken in the lettuce was encouraged by our waitress, but given my impatience I went right for the dish which set my mouth ablaze. Not that I minded it that much.
Up next was nam tok tow hu. I never thought I would actually enjoy eating tofu, but Chef Monis did an amazing job here. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this dish. Prepared with mint, rice power, and peanuts, the tofu was crisp and spicy.
Our next course was easily my favorite of the entire evening. The ped grapao featured shredded duck, noodles, and basil and was topped with a sunny-side-up duck egg. It was like a Thai variation of corned beef hash, though I would much prefer Monis’ version on a Sunday morning any day of the week.
If the duck wasn’t savory enough, the short ribs easily tipped the scales. The si krong muu was simply decadent. The braised pork, glazed with Mekhong whiskey, was crisp on the outside but fell off the bone with little effort. The meat was beautifully tender, but we were so full from our prior courses that we had some difficulty finishing all four of them. You could even extract some marrow from the bones which was a nice bonus.
Our final course was a plate of coconut cream sticky rice, a light, mildly sweet dessert which capped off a simply fabulous meal.
Just like Komi, Little Serow’s service was exceptional. Their staff really knows how to treat its customers and made us feel welcome in their basement bistro. And for $45, you certainly get your money’s worth. If you are ever looking for a completely different dining experience that is just as rewarding, Little Serow is a fantastic choice.