There are restaurant dishes that you remember for a long time. Then there are dishes that you remember forever. I'm talking about dishes that define a restaurant. The ones that people talk about. The ones that you must order, every time you go. Everyone has their own list, but if we've been to the same restaurants, we likely share the love of experiencing that dish. Like the soft boiled egg at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Or the Palak Chaat at Rasika. The salty oat cookies at Teaism. The lemon poppy seed donuts at Birch and Barley. I could go on. But what I really want to tell you about is the pork ribs with Mekong whisky and dill at Little Serow. The small plate of petite ribs offers a sublime combination: salty, fatty, tart, sweet, smoky. You close your eyes to savor each bite. This is the dish that defines Little Serow. Like the other dishes created by the celebrated chef, it offers the perfect flavor balance.
Those little ribs were my favorite dish, but, really, it was like choosing among your favorite children, each of the five dishes served as a part of the set menu were so good. My other favorites: fermented cabbage and chicken soup, crispy tofu, and cabio and lemongrass salad.
Many would say that Little Serow is a hipster's happy place. Waitresses in bright tights and Laura Ingalls dresses, upscale ethnic food from a little-known region, and Mumford and Sons-like music. Cool? Yes. Delicous? OMG, yes. But I think it's more. Someone poured their dreams into those pistachio walls. You can feel the love behind each detail, from the menu to the genuine joy each waitress brings when they drop off your fresh vegetable and herb basket with sticky rice.
It's no wonder why the City Paper named it DC's best new restaurant and it received a James Beard nomination as well.
Reviews like that mean only one thing: crowds of people vying for one of the 28 seats. If you are planning to dine on a Friday or Saturday night, the line starts forming late afternoon--usually around 4:30 to 5. I arrived on a Thursday night at 5:20, to find about 29 people waiting in front of me. At 5:30, just as they do every night, a friendly hostess opened the door and welcomed us in a few at a time. My name went on the list for the second seating so my dinner date and I grabbed a drink at the pizza joint next door.
The menu changes weekly. I asked the waitress if the ribs were always on the list. She said no. Recognizing the disappointment on my face, she added that it will be replaced with something even better. I believe her.