Manuel Iguina, a veteran hospitality pro, showcases his Puerto Rican and Latin heritage at his welcoming McLean bistro, Pikoteo.
Pikoteo’s secluded patio and contemporary dining room abound in colorful floral touches. There’s an inviting bar and a long banquette circling the room that’s made comfy with Mexican craft cushions. Settle in for a feast because there are many tempting choices.
Well-made Latin American classics like arepitas, mofongo and calamari lead the parade of starters. A silky ceviche featuring fresh cut rockfish and a subtle, fresh tasting “tigers’ milk” is a notable nod to the chef’s Peruvian roots. Pork chicharrón that has been smoked before being fried to crispy succulence is a preview of the restaurant’s smokehouse specialties.
Latin street foods – arroz con pollo, ropa vieja (shredded steak), a seafood stew, and a vegetable dish layering ripe plantains, eggplant, and squash – are menu highlights. Hefty sandwiches feature house-smoked meats and seafood. Sides like smoky (vegan) black beans and rice and slaw spiked with jicama and green mango are as satisfying as the entrées. Wedges of the slightly sweet corn bread are hard to put down.
Smokehouse specialties, served as custom platters with sides and salsas, are a primary focus of the restaurant. Following Puerto Rican mountainside traditions, Iguina roasts whole chickens and pigs, briskets, ribs, sausages, and more in his large smoker. The “little beast” (as he calls it) adds its pastoral magic to a wide range of preparations. One delicious example is the chicken meat – succulent, tender and deeply flavorful – that literally falls from the bone.
An extensive wine list features South American and Spanish choices that pair well with BBQ and fish. Should diners find room for dessert, Iguina offers an indulgent tres leches cake as well as a decadent chocolate creation. Or, simply sip a richly satisfying Cuban coffee.
Brunch is coming soon, says Iguina, and it will feature dishes inspired by his wife’s Mexican roots. 6811 Elm St., McLean
Feature image courtesy Pikoteo
For more local reviews, subscribe to Northern Virginia Magazine’s Food newsletter.