Ramen is king noodle in Denver right now, but chefs Johnny DePierro and Michael Nevarez are out to dethrone the popular Japanese dish with udon — which they're serving several different ways at MiJo inside Avanti Food & Beverage. The two have been mastering their Asian chops at Frank Bonanno's Bones, where they're exec and sous chef, respectively. MiJo — Spanish for "son" and the combination of the names Michael and Johnny — takes a slightly more street attitude toward noodle bowls and other kicked-up fare than Bonanno's corner shop, and the result is a lip-smacking tour of bold flavors and bright colors.
Customers choose a starch (udon, rice or rice noodles), a protein (pork chicken or tofu), and a sauce and veggie combo such as donburi, curry or yaki. There are also smaller bites like spicy, salty hot wings doused in a house-sauce that comes in somewhere between sriracha and nuoc mam, or fusion tots with Japanese miso and furikake and Mexican cotija cheese. Those wings are lightly dusted in potato starch and rice flour before being fried, and the glaze gets a boost of umami from Vietnamese fish sauce.
DePierro says the final push to open Monday was tough, since he's still heading the kitchen at Bones, but now he's just excited to see who shows up. Does he think Avanti will continue to be packed to the rafters? "Yeah, it's gonna be great," he states.
This week we're spotlighting the seven fast-casual food counters inside the brand-new Avanti Food & Beverage building, which just opened on Monday. Here are our other Avanti close-ups:
Poco Torteria from Pinche's Kevin Morrison
Farmer Girl from Chef Tim Payne
Brava Pizzeria from Dave Bravdica
Souk Shawarma from Jon Robbins of Bistro Barbes
Bixo Mexiterranean BItes from Marco Gonzales
Quiero Arepas from Igor and Beckie Panasewicz