I’ve been meaning to write this for quite awhile now, as Little Serow remains one of my very favorite restaurants in the area – remarkably, it has remained just as consistent and value-driven as it was when it first opened, years ago. Little Serow is Johnny Monis and Anne Marler’s gift to Washington, DC.
My apologies for the blurriness of thumbnail pictures #3 and #4 – #4 in particular deserves to be shown in all its splendor (you can click on all the pictures, and expand them; then, click the “back” button on your browser to return to the post).
The Basket of Sticky Rice (always served here – to be used as a palate cleanser):
Nam Prik Hét (Pork Rinds with a dipping sauce of mushroom, shallot, and finger chilies – brought as an amuse-bouche):
The Basket of Greens (always served here, to be used as wraps, palate cleansers, etc.):
Tom Kha (the well-known soup with fish dumplings, grachai (brined rhyzome), and lime leaf):
The importantly named Ma Hor (sour fruit, sweet pork, and dried shrimp (so says the menu; I’m pretty sure there are dried anchovies in here):
Laap Gai Chiang Mai (chicken, chicken offal, and lanna spices – This is the same dish that Eric raved about up above, and was the first indication that we were going to be really, *really* full when we left – this dish was extremely rich and filling, as well as absolutely delicious (but you must like offal, because it’s there in spades). See that little hunk of white on the right side of the plate? That’s cabbage, cut to extreme thinness with a mandolin, having the same type of layering as a thousand-layered baklava, each piece intended to be used either to pick up a piece of your dish as a wrap, or simply munched on as a palate cleanser (we did both)):
Tow Hu Thouk (tofu, ginger, and peanut – a merciful lightening in both texture and flavor, as two Laap Gai Chiang Mal-like dishes in a row would have been tough to stomach, so to speak. This dish came at the perfect time in the meal, and we were actually *less full* after finishing it, than we were before starting it – this type of presentation is typical of a master chef like Johnny Monis. Don’t get me wrong – this wasn’t a “light” dish; it was a lighter dish: You can see from the fried tofu alone that it wasn’t intended to be a trou Normand, but it still had the overall effect of making our lives easier for the next half hour):
Phat Phak (greens, garlic, and oyster sauce – Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But these three “common” items were combined and executed perfectly, and this dish was a great example of how much it matters to present well-prepared dishes in a logical order – they worked brilliantly at this point of the meal. Now, this *was* intended to begin winding things down, as the chicken offal course could have taken out an NFL Linebacker for the evening, and at some point, mercy needed to be displayed, if only for one course!):
Si Krong Muu (pork ribs, mekhong whiskey, dill – So, instead of “See Spot Run,” we have “Si Krong Muu.” I’ve had this at least twice now, and both times it has been fabulous, even if it was the dish that would make the toughest of competition eaters wave the white flag. Not particularly heavy (in fact, it’s very light and elegant), it was merely a back-breaking straw – I’ve never met anyone who has left Little Serow hungry; more importantly, I’ve never met anyone who has left Little Serow unhappy. This sauce has similar, heavenly qualities as a Frank Ruta consommé, and serves to lighten the dish (and overall meal) both aromatically, and also with a touch of acidity that serves as a melting agent – it’s just a wonderful place to finish your meal.
Citrus Mignardises (Soft, cool, pastry shells filled with a yuzu-type of citrus custard, the entire bite presenting itself with an almost-inexplicable, cool, rubbery, creamy, semi-sweet, acidic, refreshing magnificence that I’ve only had a few times in my life, with the very best of dessert bites). I’m not even quite sure what this was, but it was one of the greatest bites of food I’ve ever eaten, and it could not have arrived at a more opportune time – just when I thought I could eat no more, I craved an entire bucket full of these (and the always-delightful Sarah McCarty, our wonderful server, was kind enough to bring us two more with the check, for which we rest eternally grateful). Words cannot adequately describe how perfect these little bites were at this moment. Accompanied by a glass of Calvados, which also assisted as a melting agent, we left overjoyed, content beyond words, and ready to take on the world – and, incredibly, not all that much poorer, as Little Serow remains one of the greatest values in Washington, DC dining history.
I don’t care what Michelin’s criteria are for “Bib Gourmand” or “One-Star” awards – the fact that Little Serow doesn’t have one is just as absurd as Komi not having One Star until this year (Komi is closer to a Two-Star restaurant than it is to One-Star, but not having *any* stars was just ridiculous, and shows how little credence you should put in Michelin outside of its home turf.
If you haven’t yet been to Little Serow, it remains one of the most important restaurants in all of Washington, DC, given its regional emphasis, its almost-humorously low price-point, its impeccable service, and its consistently superior quality. I compare it to Tail-Up Goat or 2 Amys as much as I do any other restaurant, even though those three restaurants simply couldn’t be any more different.