Thursday, July 3, 2014

Restaurant of the Month: Mio

One of the first restaurants I visited upon my move to DC was Mio, a Puerto Rican and Latin American restaurant on Vermont Ave.  The problem I encounter with finding authentic Puerto Rican restaurants in the mainland is that the food may be delicious but the ambiance is undesirable or vice versa. Mio is the first place I've found where you can find all the authentic Puerto Rican favorites: pastelón, mallorcas, chillo frito in a beautifully decorated restaurant in downtown DC. 
Grilled Octopus at Mio
The restaurant has a warm decor with shades of brown, lots of wood, and a colorful lounge area filled with Latino bureaucrats at happy hour.  I enjoy going there for happy hour and sampling on mini alcapurrias (fritters made with banana and filled with meat). I wash it down with guava mojitos or a machu pisco, a cocktail of passion fruit, pisco, and a touch of aji amarillo that gives it the perfect balance of spicy and sweet.
Como en el Viejo San Juan: Mojitos y Mallorcas
Photo by Carlis of SpicyCandyDC
During my last visit to Mio, I had the opportunity to meet chef Wilo Benet, author of my go-to book when mom can't answer my cooking questions, Puerto Rico: True Flavors.  He spent the month of June at Mio as a consultant and added some new items to its menu. The Dutchman was out of town and my friend cancelled last minute, making it a solo brunch at the patio of Mio. I believe everyone should have a solo meal from time to time: be alone with your thoughts, savor every bite, and take in your environment. Although I was alone, I did not feel lonely: live jazz was playing, waiters took the time to tell me which menu items I should try, and had mimosas with the owner, Manuel and his family as they celebrated Father's Day.
Chef Wilo Benet at Mio
I began my brunch with a bloody Mary with sofrito, (a cooking base with onions, peppers, garlic, and cilantro) giving it the perfect touch of spice. One of my favorite ingredients is octopus. Mio has a delicious grilled octopus starter on the regular menu. However, Wilo changed it up with a octopus carpaccio with julienne apples. Sounds like a random combination but it worked beautifully. For the main course, I had an equally delicious omelet with big lumps of fresh lobster. I finished my meal with a bread pudding with coconut and pineapple, a sweet ending to a lovely brunch at Mio.
Caldero y Mofongo at the Mio Kitchen
Mio is one of my favorite places to eat in DC because it gives me a feeling of Puerto Rico with its lechón (roasted pig) fridays, comfort food such as patitas de cerdo (stew of pig ears), and mini mofongo with shrimp in a modern and warm environment.  When I step in, I truly feel that I have stepped into somewhere in Viejo San Juan.  I enjoy the open kitchen concept as you see the chefs preparing the dishes and how the owner Manuel personally greets its guests. It gives a modern spin to the Puerto Rican classics. 
Lobster Omelet for Brunch
Mio Restaurant: 1110 Vermont Ave NW, Washington, DC 
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