So I had dinner at Jo Jo last night on the spur of the moment... and realized I hadn't seen it mentioned on these boards in a long while. Any particular reason? Bad experiences or something?
I was in a party of 3 and we had no problem snagging a table at 8pm... the place was practically deserted. There were 4 other tables with people - the rest of the place was empty. The restaurant is pretty small and cave-like; it's in the subterranean level of a townhouse (64th & Lex). Atmosphere almost seems like it belongs in a Morroccan restaurant - lots of tapestry/curtains, pillows on the banquests, very low lights, candles, etc.
Staff was pleasant when we came in but aside from her opening visit to the table to discuss the specials and take our order, we had to flag down the waitress every time we needed something. It was never a serious problem, but given the emptiness of the restaurant we would have preferred that she be SLIGHTLY more attentive.
On to the food...
A) General comments.
First perusal of the menu makes it seem fairly dull... but typical of Jean Georges, the flavors really come thru and presentation is superb. I feel like every dish on the menu would have been a pleasant surprise, even if the descriptions seemed standard (think upscale bistro fare).
1) Appetizers - about 8 choices
I started with the "Goat Cheese Fondu" - a small pot of melted, creamy goat cheese with some sort of creaminess-enhancing additive.. surrounded by chunks of roasted beets and endive leaves filled with marinated grapes and walnuts. Superb. When I finished dipping the beets/walnuts into the cheese, my friends and I finished off the cheese with the warm french bread they brought to the table. I was impressed. $11
Friend A had the "Foie Gras Brulee" on toasted brioche with fig jelly. She ate the whole thing in a matter of seconds and said it was the best foie gras she's ever had. See #3 to confirm that. $18
Friend B had the "Peeky Toe Crabmeat with Mango and cumin crackers." 4 little piles of fresh crabmeat topped with housemade crackers; bits of fresh mango scattered around the plate. The crackers were pure magic - how they managed to get the essence of cumin in there without overpowering it was amazing. Again, plate was cleaned before I could try anything other than the cracker. $12?
Then Friend A and B helped me finish off my ramekin of goat cheese.
2) Entrees - about 10 choices
Among those we did not get were a Venison dish, Sirloin, Chicken, Bass, a Lamb special, a Salmon dish, and perhaps something else.
I chose the Duck: sliced duck breast grilled medium rare, served on a sweet & sour braised vegetable (cabbage?) along with shredded duckleg confit and a pastry "brique" stuffed with more confit and foie gras. Duck was not too fatty, brique was tougher to break thru than I would have liked (actually needed a knife to cut thru the phyllo dough) but overall it was a fantastic dish and a large amount of food. $26.
Friend A chose a second appetizer for her meal: the Shitake Mushroom tarte... looked like 4 small slices of pizza topped with mushrooms, served with a salad. Quite a large portion for an appetizer and she ate it all, again, before I could get to it. I've got to learn to be quicker with Friend A. $18
Friend B got the special: Skate, pan fried, served on sauteed spinach in some sort of lemon? sauce and topped with fried shredded ginger. AWESOME. Best skate I have EVER had. The fried ginger really added an interesting kick to the dish - looked like fried onions are normally served on steak dishes - but with bite. Not sure of the price.
In any case, the entrees were great and there was a lot of food on the plate. I've eaten at Jean-Georges before and the portions here were MUCH bigger.
3) Dessert - 6 choices?
Here the options were molten chocolate cake, warm apple crumble, banana brioche flan, passion fruit pavlova, creme fraiche cheesecake, and sorbet.
I had the flan because I'm a sucker for brioche - it was served warm - the brioche was sort of mixed in with the flan and it was topped with carmelized banana and served with maple ice cream. Fabulous. $9
Friend B had the passion fruit pavlova and the passion fruit was some of the best fruit puree I've ever had. Tart. Delicious. $9
Friend A ordered more foie gras. Not a joke. She was that much in love. I crawled under the table when she placed her order. The incredible disappearing waitress didn't really know what to say.
But, to each his own.
Total bill came to $200 plus tip.. that includes a few glasses ($11) of an excellent New Zealand sauvingnon blanc, a cocktail and coffees.
Everyone raved about the food and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the place - but did I miss something? Has it just been overlooked with the glut of JG restaurants everywhere?