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Komi, 1509 17th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. (202) 332-9200

Halfway through dinner at Komi, someone at our table observed that the restaurant’s walls are completely, startlingly blank. Not a single piece of artwork. Not a single splash of color. Nothing. The only visual stimulation to be found in the intimate dining room is the view of 17th Street from the front window and a brick oven leftover from Komi’s pizza-cooking predecessors, Il Radicchio and Vivo.

But while Komi’s décor is spartan, its cuisine is just the opposite. Elaborate entrees — such as peppery pork with huckleberry sauce, brussel sprouts, bacon, turnips, and apples — explode with flavor. Sometimes a meal at Komi, named for the Greek isle of Chios, tastes as though Chef Johnny Monis is determined to cram a grocery aisle’s worth of ingredients into every dish. Not every inventive combination hits the mark, but most do — with delectable results.

Dinner begins graciously with a basket of homemade breads and a shot-glass-sized taste of soup — lush carrot spiked with cumin and lime on one visit, a chilled cucumber-buttermilk blend the next.

While many restaurants seem to exhaust their inspiration on the appetizer menu only to follow up with rather unmemorable main courses, Komi’s entrees, which range from $17 to $23, are even more ambitious than its starters — with mixed success. A single dish brings together grilled lamb loin, chickpea french fries, and a savory mixture of black lentils and collard greens with Japanese mustard and a sweet cherry reduction. On the lighter side, a mélange of snow peas and fingerling potatoes spritzed with cucumber-yogurt sauce spills out from under sauteed barramundi, a meaty white fish from Australia. Other dishes, though interesting, seem just a touch out of joint. In one, three enormous dayboat scallops perch atop a bed of sunflower seeds, figs, and quinoa, a light grain just finding its way into American cuisine. While the fusion of sweet and salty flavors is sublime, the quinoa literally oozes butter, and our taste buds were saturated after a few bites.

For dessert, a plate of doughnuts and hot chocolate is a sure crowd-pleaser. The sleeper hit is an inspired berry shortcake — three miniature biscuits sandwiching sticky jam and black pepper cream. Tart lemon syrup and fresh coconut ice cream liven up a simple angel food cake for an elegant finish. A chocolate banana tart is just average, but we’d take an entire plate of the homemade cashew brittle that comes alongside.

Komi’s capable employees match its hip feel. Apparently plucked from “Logan’s Run,” the entire staff seems devoid of anyone over 30; even Monis is just 24 years old. Unusual piercings are apparently not an issue. And they are not an issue for us either, at least not when our server can rattle off helpful descriptions of five cheese selections complete with instructions for how to eat each one for maximum enjoyment.

Since opening in late 2003, Komi has already made several changes. The restaurant no longer serves wood-fired pizzas or, for that matter, lunch. The small dining room fills up quickly, so it’s best to make reservations for dinner.

Vanessa Blum is a senior reporter at Legal Times. Phillip Dubé is an attorney at D.C.’s Covington & Burling.

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