How do you energize an already good restaurant?
- Change the décor.
- Change the menu.
- Change the chef.
Manuel and Karla Iguina chose the last option when they invited Chef Giovanna Huyke to head up the kitchen at Washington DC’s Mio. A burst of energy –new dishes, new focus, and more enthusiasm (on top of a healthy amount already at the restaurant) is palpable.
Mio is the remedy of a long day of holiday shopping,
Super Chef first tried Puerto Rico’s island cuisine at Chef Wilo Benet‘s Pikayo in San Juan along with Roberto Trevino‘s Aguaviva. Giovanna is one of the island’s TV chefs, having hosted La Cocina de Giovanna and En Casa con Giovanna. Manuel’s (and Giovanna’s) good friend Wilo recommended Mio to Super Chef – it’s a very small island!
Mio is decorated with wood – resembling a loose basket weave – with a canoe-like basket in the main dining room’s ceiling, and woven walls that suggest a market. The room dividers give it both an open feel, while remaining intimate. The basket design underscored the menu –farmer’s market fresh ingredients, just as you might find them in San Juan. The front is dominated by a lounge with terrific flavored Mojito – the mint, lime, and rum drink famous on Puerto Rico (of Cuban origin), here made in various concoctions with tropical fruits like mango and passion fruit. Even the non-alcoholic Mojito – really lime-and- mint-ade is refreshing and delicious.
In the open kitchen in the back of the room, the place of honor goes to a roast pig, Lechon, wearing sunglasses, bronzed skin, and succulent pork beneath. The pig is garlicky, with a vibrant green cilantro sauce and one of vinegary onions that cuts through the fat – just enough.
Start with Mini Mofongo Semi—Dulce de Camarones (Sweet Plaintain Mash, Citrus Glazed Shrimp) – the shrimp are huge and meaty, sitting on top of shrimp-studded mashed plantains. Giovanna also brought plates of fritters – Chinese inspired wontons with blood pudding inside were like morsels of a French Christmas Eve where boudin are served after midnight Mass. They shell is crunchy and inside is smooth sausage.
Giovanna makes a fine chicken, Pollo a la Braza Mio con Yuquitas (Roasted Free Range Chicken with Yucca and Spinach/Chayotte). It is slightly smoky, tender and very juicy. The Chilo Frito con Puree de Batata Dunce y Mojito Isleno (Fried Whole Red Snapper, Sweet Potato Island Mojitos, Avocado-Papaya Crudo) is a huge fish – standing on the plate in a lovely curve – crispy, light, flavorful flesh – it is, perhaps, Giovanna’s best dish. The white sweet potatoes are nestled in the crook of the fish along with a sweet onion-caper foil.