Eating at Mio is a trip — to San Juan. Lift off with green plantains mashed in a wooden mortar with pork rinds, garlic oil, chicken broth and chives while you watch. Guacamole, move over. You’ve got stiff competition in starchy mofongo. The July arrival of a new chef, Roberto Hernandez, means there are fresh reasons to explore this fizzy downtown dining room: tender grilled octopus with diced potatoes crisped in duck fat, pomegranate-glazed duck splayed on gnocchi made with the tropical root vegetable malanga, one of the city’s best steaks under $30. (The juicy rib-eye is drenched in butter, green with the herb cilantro.) “Lechon Friday” lets a diner pig out on a roast suckling beast flanked by brittle mahogany skin and yellow rice flecked with pigeon peas — “like lentils, but better,” says a server as bubbly as any fountain. Cheesy arepas plated with a bright slaw and tasty black beans throw out a welcome mat for vegetarians. The kitchen’s energy can flag at dessert, but dense flan and dull ice cream are excuses to finish the way you began — in my case, with a bueno house margarita, blushing with blood orange.
2012 Fall Dining Guide
2012 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Magazine
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012
Mofongo is in short supply in Washington. But the chance to dig into garlicky mashed plantains is far from the only reason to seek out the always-sunny Mio, best known for its Friday night Puerto Rican feast, in which a whole suckling pig is roasted to a mouth-watering mahogany hue, brittle skin clinging to succulent flesh. A yellow scoop of rice and pigeon peas, spiky plantain balls and hot pepper-and-garlic sauce turn the porcine pleasure into a last-meal request. There's more like that from the open kitchen of San Juan native Giovanna Huyke: cheesy arepas, smoky octopus, an island spin on lasagna that pairs ground veal with plantains. (Skip the lime-drenched seviche, however.) On a budget? Go at lunch, where a three-course spread -- maybe crisp pork with shocking slaw, winy salmon and a goblet of guava mousse -- goes for $20. Not bad for a vacation from the office cafeteria.
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