Preparing for the late-April unveiling of Mio (1110 Vermont Ave., NW), a “globally-influenced” lunch and dinner spot in the budding Thomas Circle neighborhood, chef and business partner JohnPaul Damato made time to chat with Best Bites.
Damato, who spent three years as executive chef of the DC, Bethesda, and Crystal City branches of Jaleo, left the Jose Andres small plates empire to team with Manuel Iguina, the restaurateur who helped open Georgetown's Mate and Silver Spring's Ceviche. And though Mio has a fair number of nibbles such as terrines, cheese assortments, cured meats and sweet breads on its menu , Damato is looking forward to showing off some "main dishes," such as real-big pork roasts and whole sea bass. One Jaleo tradition that Damato is definitely continuing--a commitment to sustainable products: Most of Mio's menu items tout local organic purveyors and boutique farms.
So where will you find the busy chef off-hours? And what will he be filling up on? Read on for a few of his Kitchen Favorites.
Favorite regional cheese: Willow Hill Farm's Fernwood from Vermont. It’s a soft sheep’s milk cheese with a nice creamy texture, much like La Serena from Extremadura, Spain.
Favorite fresh-picked fruit: Apples in the fall – no contest. I love both Mushu and Fuji apples.
Pancakes or waffles?: I’m actually not a big fan of either one. I prefer a little carrot juice with some housemade potato hash cakes in the morning.
Jaleo dish you miss the most: Making buñuelos de bacalao-- warm cod fritters with honey aioli--alongside my friend Ruben.
Mio dish you’re most excited about: The first dish I put out to my first customer—whoever it is—I cannot wait to see the smile cross his or her face.
Favorite local bar: Not much of a barfly anymore, but I still find the back bar at Old Ebbitt to be the best place for some oysters and beers.
Any fast food guilty pleasures?: Crisp & Juicy. Now that’s my kind of fast food. You get two roasted rotisserie chickens that are cooked over a wood charcoal fire, with black beans and rice, coleslaw and potato salad. It’s the best!
Best way to work off the meals: Walking. I walk everywhere. It gives me a chance to think.
Any cookbooks sitting in your home kitchen?: I have at least a hundred cookbooks, and I keep them in every room of my house but my kitchen. I really like The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert, All About Braising by Molly Stevens, and Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.
Budweiser or Coors?: Not to be difficult, but can I have a Brooklyn Lager instead?