Little Serow Wakes Up the District’s Food Scene

For years now I’ve been living by Logan Circle, and for that same amount of time minus about a week, I’ve been watching for Veranda to close and a better restaurant to move into that lovely space at 11th and P streets. Finally I discovered a workaround for having a great neighborhood restaurant paces from my home: I moved.

And what a difference eight blocks can make! I can now get a decent bagel at Java House, a cheap, stiff drink at the Fox and Hounds, oh and one of the most interesting, exciting new meals in town at Little Serow. The tiny basement restaurant churning out Issan, northeastern Thai, small plates is the latest endeavor from Johnny Monis, the chef/owner of Komi next door. This sour and spicy regional cuisine is what Monis likes to cook when he’s not Greeking it up in the Komi kitchen. And the word I’d use to describe the food it stimulating.

But first a note about vibe and ambiance. Aside from the D.C. crowd, which I’ll assume is at least smarter than your average NYC crowd, the space could definitely hold its own in the more stylish city. It’s small, spare, brightly painted, but dim, with the kitchen the beacon of light at the back. Best of all, it’s not a bit cramped or overcrowded. Well, actually, best of all the music is terrific. The tables are just candle lit, but who needs light when there is no menu from which to order?

Little Serow is for walk-ins only. There will be a wait, but they text you when your table is ready, so you can get your name on the list and then head for one of those aforementioned cheap, stiff cocktails or, in my case, head home and wait to be called for dinner. The menu is set at a half dozen plus plates to share for $45. We took leftovers home.

The sometimes challenging, but always exciting, dishes come out at the right pace by warm, friendly servers. Most of the dishes did manage to be shockingly citrus-y and brutally spicy at the same time, and I turned to the basket of cooling vegetables–cucumber, lettuce, cabbage, daikon, eggplant, Thai basil–and the basket of sticky rice like I would a lifesaver in the middle of the ocean. With increasingly pink cheeks and bright eyes and sticky fingers, we feasted on duck liver and pork rinds, crunchy catfish, tart eggplant, fermented cabbage, lime-y sausage, charred steak, and curried pork ribs. And the conversation kept coming back to who we absolutely must bring to Little Serow and who wouldn’t be able to handle it.

The menu changes each week (at least somewhat) and is posted Mondays on their website. It’s always bittersweet to move out of a great apartment, but this time it’s also ridiculously tart and spicy.

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