JoJo ~ Orderinny

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Ruoying was in New York again, this time in transit for a few days before she starts her internship in Atlanta. To celebrate the end of another school year for her, a nice dinner was in the order. Ruoying loves beautiful interior design, atmospheric spaces (she goes to disneyland to bask in corporate happiness) and is our family's final arbiter of all things stylish. And after struggling between the "tres paris" brasserie Balthazar and the jewelbox JoJo, I went for the latter.
The food at JoJo is very enjoyable, and similar to what Ruoying and I had at Nougatine, another Jean Georges Vongerichten's restaurant. Ruoying's duck entree married two concepts Jean Georges is particularly known for, light modern french cooking with an Asian accent. Her dish paired gamey tasting, perfectly medium rare slices of duck breast with a spring roll of duck, golden brown and redolent of chinese five spice and shitake mushroom. Given the chef's french roots, certain dishes had a decidedly french flair. The fries for one were fresh, crispy and well salted. My roasted chicken with its crispy skin and wonderfully moist meat sat in a gentle ginger broth, but was more Provencal than Asian with the addition of green olives and preserved lemon rind. The chickpea fries (tastes like hummus, shaped like french toast strips and textured like fried polenta) indicated an homage to the Mediterranean, was a tasty side but a little dense. Jean Georges has been credited with the creation and popularization of the now ubiquitous molten chocolate cake. Paired with a scoop of vanilla bean icecream, this is one most mundane dessert. However, JoJo's version is swoon worthy, a small concentrated disk of high quality chocolate, with the velvet softness of the cake in contrast with the warm ooze of molten chocolate playing at the tip of one's tongue.

After hearing all about the intimate boudoir-ish decor and superior atmosphere, we were a little let down to find JoJo's interior, with its mini chandeliers, deep velvet banquettes and heavy brocade drapings a little too precious, a little too dated. A great date place for couples it with have been, with flattering dim lighting and a mostly soothing atmosphere, if not for the cramped seating and awkward positioning of all the two tops in the restaurant. I tried and did not find a table for two that offered enough privacy for a romantic tete-a-tete. I had requested for a table for two on the charming and slightly brighter upstairs dining room, but was given a makeshift table (possibly a picnic table moved upstairs just to accomodate by request) placed along the staircase, with Ruoying knocking on the potted plants behind her everytime she moved her seat. We quickly requested a change of tables and were then seated on the banquette downstairs. They were comfortable if not still very cramp and served our purposes, but the placing is set so strangely that we were not seated across each other but next to each other in a right angle. I ended up staring at the diner on the next table everytime I lifted my head from the dishes. Fine by me, but I bet he was hoping to be looking at his wife instead of an stranger for a good 2 hours.
The seating arrangements however made it easy for us to conduct a conversation with the couple next to us, and the lady who was celebrating her birthday with her husband sidled next to us, to say somewhat conspiratorially that we were the two youngest tables in the room. We concurred despite the fact that she must have been at least 10 years older than the both of us, because the rest of the diners were slightly older, and we spotted a table of sprightly octagenarians celebrating their friendship in a table nearby. But in no way did I feel mistreated for being too young, and for the price, which is very reasonable (entrees ~ $20-30) for new york standards and on par with hipper downtown joints, the food was certainly a notch better.
Will I be back? Probably for the cake, and certainly before I turn 65.
160 E64th St (Park & Lexington Ave)
(212) 223-5656

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