I’ve been to a number of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurants over the years, but never to JoJo, his first venture into the New York restaurant scene he would later dominate as lord and emperor.
Since it was restaurant week, Steven, Chrissy, Courtney and I decided to give it a whirl. Jojo first opened its doors in 1991 when my friends and I were nine years old. I was tempted to ask Steven to wear his fishnet shirt so that I could don my neon yellow biker shorts and we’d do the running man to Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations” all the way there.
Mercifully, JoJo, like Cindy Crawford, has aged fairly gracefully. Not exactly the fresh-faced hottie she once was, but still a striking beauty. The restaurant is in a townhouse in the East 60’s and attracts the expected old, crusty UES crowd. It’s very dark and there are candles glowing in niches on the walls. The upholstery is salmon-hued and the chairs are enormous.
The service was fine. Our waitress was very tall and pretty and charming, if not the most attentive or adept. (When we told her our fifth would not be joining us, she knocked over a wine glass while clearing the place setting and dropped a knife onto my foot, which was unfortunately exposed in a strappy stiletto. She didn’t apologize.)
I usually collect menus from restaurants I’ve visited, but I forgot to ask, so I’ll be doing this from memory. We had three courses:
Asparagus with mesclun salad, white button mushrooms and avocado
Salmon with cherry tomatoes and mashed sweet corn
Warm chocolate cake
The salad was quite remarkable. (Sorry I forgot to snap a picture!) Very generous portions and well-composed. The dressing was lovely. It was very creamy, but not as thick as the Hollandaise they put on the asparagus at Jean Georges, tasted slightly of truffle oil and is the kind of sauce so delectable, I like to say you could put it on a piece of poo and I’d eat it.
The salmon was also quite nice. I’m usually not that thrilled by salmon. I’ll have lox on bagels or sashimi fairly regularly, but it never really excites me. But the vinegary dressing on the onions and very tart tomatoes was a nice contrast with the creamy sweet corn and the salmon was not that dry, flaky thing you eat simply for the omega 3 fatty acids, but had a nice, tender texture when cooked medium-rare.
The warm chocolate cake was pleasant in a generic sort of way. It tasted about as good as any warm chocolate cake might at any other restaurant.
Chrissy had a chilled berry “soup” that was comprised of seasonal Greenmarket berries and lady fingers. I might have gotten it if I had known there would be so many whole berries. I imagined it was going to be some awful puree/juice passed off as a dessert course.
Overall, I’d say JoJo is pretty good. It didn’t blow my mind, but I didn’t really expect it to. It’s not the most exciting restaurant in the world, but it’s very satisfying. Oh, and try the homemade ginger soda.