After 30 years running Mexican restaurants around the state, Rafael and Olga Mora wanted to do something new. Most of their restaurants specialize in Mexican standards — enchiladas, burritos — but for their first Portland restaurant, they wanted to delve into inventive Latin American seafood: ceviches with tropical fruit, black mussels with chorizo and chipotle beurre blanc, shrimp aguachiles made with everything from squid ink to passionfruit. So, they enlisted the help of Ezequiel Gutierrez — Olga’s cousin and a former manager at the Moras first restaurant — to open their next.
Mi Cava & Cocina, coming to SE Washington Street later this year, will serve all of the aforementioned dishes, as well as Oregon salmon, halibut in achiote, and pan-seared scallops with orange and mezcal. However, it’s more than just a marisquería: Mi Cava will also behave like a steakhouse, with cuts of sirloin, rib-eye, and skirt steak for carne asada.
Mi Cava’s menu is generally split into three categories: seafood, steak, and traditional Latin American fare. On the more traditional Mexican side of things, Portlanders will find various moles, enfrijoladas, and enchiladas verdes; the restaurant also explores a number of classic Mexican seafood dishes, like Veracruz’s arroz a la tumbada, a tomato-rice dish with langoustine and clams, or Nayarit’s pescado zarandeado, marinated fish grilled over an open flame.
However, much of the menu uses Latin American ingredients and flavors as a jumping off point. The restaurant will have three different varieties of aguachile — a passionfruit version with mango and cucumber, a habanero-pineapple aguachile, and an aguachile that blends lime juice and squid ink with rotating seasonal vegetables. Oysters on the half-shell come with dots of finger lime jewels and nutty salsa macha. And the restaurant’s version of pulpo a la brasa arrives in adobo with a fennel salad.
The carne asada menu at Mi Cava is also extensive, featuring a variety of cuts — sirloin, New York, rib-eye — served with either sauteed vegetables and roasted potatoes, or with guacamole, tortillas, and rice and beans. Much of the menu sources seafood and vegetables from the Pacific Northwest, as well as flowers for food and drink garnishes.
Mi Cava will have a full bar, though the drink menu is still in development; expect a full list of both mocktails and cocktails. It should open at 9722 SE Washington Street by late January or early February, depending on construction and permits.
• Mi Cava [Official]
Correction January 12, 2022, 3:52 p.m.: This story was corrected to show that Rafael and Olga Mora own the other Oregon Mexican restaurants, not third owner Ezequiel Gutierrez.