December 2012. It’s been almost a year since my first dinner at Little Serow. This really is far too long between visits, but easy to get to it isn’t. For one thing, I am limited on the number of people who will go with me to this “eat whatever is put before you, because there are no substitutions” restaurant. I finally am set to go with five friends until we realize that Little Serow only accepts parties of four. Awkward. Three people end up bowing out, and I feel guilty but relieved that two friends will still accompany me. The no reservations policy means getting there early (4:30 pm) and standing in line for an hour for the first seating. It is certainly possible to time your arrival for a later seating, but we aren’t so willing to put our name down and sit in a bar for an hour or two. Despite the fact the eating here involves a carefully planned strategy, perhaps it’s part of what captivates and thrills me about Little Serow.
It’s also one of the hottest restaurants in town. Bon Appétit recently named it one of the ten best new restaurants in America. On my second visit, we experience the hotness in more ways than one.
The menu at Little Serow changes weekly, so you never really know what to expect, although is posted on the website. Some favorites this time around are: ma hor with sour fruit, dried shrimp and palm sugar. Like almost every dish at Little Serow, it’s spicy, but this has a welcome sweetness to cut into the spice. Tom kha pla duk is soup with catfish, galangal, and kaffir lime. It’s a favorite of the night with its blend of savory and sour. Make sure to dine with people with whom you are comfortable, as you will all be diving into one bowl of soup. Last year’s menu featured nam tuk tow hu, which is tofu with mint, scallion, and rice powder. It’s here again, but none of us remember the dish being so explosive. It is searing to the tongue, with heat that increases long after you’ve taken your last bite. It takes us a while to recover. This slightly dampens my friends’ enthusiasm about the experience. I wouldn’t mind if the dish was taken down a notch on the heat-o-meter, but nothing can mar my enjoyment of this dinner. Pork ribs with mekhong whiskey and dill settle us all back into a happy place.
Little Serow is among my very favorite DC restaurants. So what if the food makes me cry. These are most definitely tears of joy.
December 29, 2011 “When I grow up, I want to be cool like you.” Oh yes, these are the words spoken to three friends and I by a server at Little Serow. Our gushing about the food created by Chef Johnny Monis at his exciting new restaurant is definitely entertaining the staff. Can we be the only people to be so enthralled with the place or at least to be so vocal about it? I doubt it. Can we be cool because we’re the oldest patrons to express such abject appreciation? Perhaps. We certainly increase the average age of the diners on this particular night. But I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear the age reference and dwell on the fact that someone thinks we are cool. If dining here makes us so, then we’ll take it.
Little Serow is the new sibling to DC’s #1-rated restaurant Komi. It is a seven-course prix fixe meal featuring dishes from Northern Thailand. There are quite a few no’s that go with this experience. No reservations, no sign on the door, no telephone, no ordering (it’s a set menu), and absolutely no substitutions. This isn’t a deterrent for me but it leaves out some of my frequent dining companions, including my husband. No flash photographs allowed means no photos to accompany my review. Although I’m allowed to take photos without a flash, it is far too dark to have anything usable.
Little Serow’s menu changes every Monday. If you don’t like something you see, wait a week. It may be replaced with something else to suit your fancy.
Here’s what we had:
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 4.8
Washingtonian‘s 100 Very Best Restaurants 2012, 3 stars (out of 4)