This is the former Jojo's spot on Piedmont Avenue and it opened just last week. I went last Friday night because I knew if I wait any longer, it'll be much harder to grab a reservation in this tiny spot.
I never been to the old Jojo, but my guess is this is more contemporary in look and less cozy. It looks like a fancy hotel restaurant, but the size is still small. Still, Chef James Syhabout is front and center in an open kitchen right in the middle of the restaurant surrounded by the counter seating. It's very much like a French restaurant in service and appearance, except it doesn't have white table cloth (which I actually think they should add because I didn't like the cheap look of the tabletop).
Chef Syhabout formerly cooked at Manresa and then Plumpjack Cafe. He's offering only a three-course prix-fixe menu at $49. Dinner is served from 5:30 p.m. from Wednesday through Sunday. No plans for lunch. The menu offers three to four options per course, and they all seemed really creative, focused on sustainable and seasonal ingredients. Right now the menu will stay the same as they get their groove, but the server says the chef plans to change the menu daily down the road.
I also got the wine pairing for $29. Everything I was served matched well with what I ordered.
My dinner started with an amuse bouche made of a peach puree in a shot glass that was beautiful and refreshing. It was topped with a green foam using a native plant that I didn't know, but it was a creative combination of flavors, perfect for summer!
The first course offered options of a braised little gem salad, smoked mackeral, a soup and farm egg with pork jowl. I got the farm egg with pork jowl that was this beautifully plated dish of cubed pork jowl and golden potatoes with the soft farm egg on top. On the side was a smear of black garlic with allium blossoms. Such fancy plating. The pork jowl was slightly crispy but creamy tender. I really liked the potatoes too that had a flavor I couldn't recognized, but liked the mixture of flavors on the plate.
Second course was an offering of a roasted chicken, aged beef loin or Morro Bay cod. I got the cod and it was perfectly cooked with the skin still on and crispy. The fish was partly seared but still slightly rear inside, which was a nice texture and presentation. It came with an English pea porridge that was so bright and sweet. I really liked it. What was weird was the menu also said delta crayfish but I didn't get a crayfish on the dish. I wonder if it was just the foam on the plate because the foam did taste like shellfish.
The third course was dessert with just two options, a chilled strawberry-watermelon soup and a frozen creme fraiche. The second sound like fancy ice cream so I opted for the soup, which was beautiful again but very tasty and refreshing on a hot night. It was served with a scoop of black pepper ice cream which was nice but not super peppery. Overall, I liked it although I hope in the future the pastry chef would be more diverse in his offerings. (Both pretty much seemed to highlight ice cream.)
Even though they were opened just two days, the service was very attentive and friendly. they knew a lot about the restaurant and dishes.
With Chef Syhbout cooking right in the center (he was also very friendly when he wasn't focused on cooking) it really reminded me of Dennis Leary at Canteen. The same concept of a chef behind the stove cooking everything although Commis seems to have more advantages in help and space. But the intimacy is there because of the small space and the pre-fixe dinner which really is more like a chef's tasting menu with choices.
Even though the restaurant wasn't crowded when I ate (I walked in early at 5:30 p.m.), they were turning people away because the tables were mostly reserved that night. So not sure how easy it will be to walk in because with Syhbout's reputation, I'm thinking this place will be pretty busy for awhile.
You can see my photos of the restaurant and food here:
3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611