I’ve gotten into a restaurant rut, and I don’t ever want to get out of it. Maybe it’s more like a gambler’s lucky streak–only it’s a sushi and Serow streak. I simply alternate between high-end sushi at Sushi Taro and the most exciting food in town at Johnny Monis’ Northern Thai Little Serow. And after a year, it’s only gotten better. A couple of nights ago, about three courses in, I had a terrible thought: One day I will not have access to this food. It nearly ruined my mood, so I quickly had another slurp of the tom kha pla duk, the sweet, spicy, tart broth before me. It starts with catfish cooked in coconut fat, but that’s all I could get out of our server. Oh, and the stock cooks for three days. I know there are chilies; I know there is lemongrass; And I know that if I enter my kitchen with only these instructions, I will fail. And yet, yet, I must be able to capture this experience however diminished and slight my own version might be.
This stunning broth was served alongside my other favorite dish, yam makeua, a tart and spicy salad of eggplant, salted duck egg, preserved garlic, and cilantro. Each bite is as bracing in the mouth as an outing with the polar bear club would be for the body. I’ll admit now that I never liked Thai food, I thought, and I’d say it to anybody. I’m even one of those people for whom cilantro tastes like soap! And now I’ll say this: Johhny Monis’ Thai food is my all-time favorite. (Sorry Wallse. I’ve strayed, and he’s younger, richer, and better looking.)
Still, I do love writing a restaurant review and trying a new place always gets the juices flowing. Once my Little Serow fix was administered, I allowed myself an evening at the new self-described “architectural inspired gastropub,” whatever that means, on 14th St. NW, Drafting Table. It was crowded on a Saturday night as were all the places along the Corridor. We got drinks at the bar… and let the judging begin! Hm, lousy cocktail list, we sniffed, and for a place with “draft” in its name, the beer list held no surprises. We sat at one of the communal tables and everyone seemed happy with their suppers. The charcuterie plate was nice, except for the big mound of inexplicable lemon chutney whose honey eventually covered everything on the plate. The burger with barbecue brisket, blue cheese, and onion jam pleased, and the duck confit was tasty when doctored with salt and dragged through the yolk of a poached egg that can be added on to any dish. The cabbage, onion, grape slaw it was served on, however, tasted only of burnt onions. To distract us from the pretty mediocre service from a server without a smile who puzzlingly recommended simply “a red” after rebuffing my request for a sparkling white, we had some snickers pie and then called it a night.
And so another middler joins the ranks of the D.C. restaurant scene. I think I may crawl back into my rut, only this time I’ll also start experimenting at home with my classic chicken soup. First I’ll brown the chicken in coconut fat, and then I’ll simmer the broth with chilies and lemongrass. Eventually I’ll serve it with pickled onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of kefir lime. What will happen in between is a little unclear. Help!