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Restaurants & Bars 5

Jojo in Oakland – Country French Cooking

rworange | Mar 5, 200601:01 AM

There is an open kitchen in the center of the romantic, candle-lit restaurant where you watch Curt Clingman and Mary Jo Thoresen, the chef-owners at work.

Patricia Unterman said in a review linked on the Jojo website below:

“I got the impression, for once, that the customers were the focus of the restaurant, not profitability, concept or an ego-challenged chef.”

That seemed so true.

I had:

- trio of salads: shrimp and pink grapefruit on endive, mushroom, pear and celery root on grilled radicchio, and shredded carrot.

- Lamb on a bed of watercress, potatoes au gratin and house-made Portuguese sausage with mustard.

Dinner comes with warm, crusty sliced French baguette and butter.

I very much liked the house champagne Agrapart, Brut Blanc de Blancs, … I liked this VERY much.

The wine list is small but lovely. The server selected a red Collioure (no details) that was excellent with the lamb.

I really liked this restaurant, but I didn’t love it as I anticipated. Perhaps I ordered the wrong dishes.

It is small and intimate. The staff is wonderful. It was highly recommended to me by someone who shares my enthusiasm for the old Bizou, Chez Panisse and Lalaime’s.

A parking place opened up in front of the restaurant and at prime time on a Saturday night I walked in. I said I’d be willing to eat only one course if they had some time between reservations. I tried that once at Aqua and was turned down flat … and at Aqua the tables remained empty for the hour I was at the bar. The staff at Jojo had more class than that and found me a table.

All was delicious but didn’t jump to that level for me that Bizou did or even Chapeau does.

I’ll try Jojo again. Does anyone have suggestions for the best dishes here? An old Michael Bauer review mentioned the pate. I guess the flat iron steak and fries are the signature dish. Unterman’s review so captures the place I suggest reading it for an excellent glimpse of Jojo She ends by saying:

"Jojo is such an intimate statement by such dedicated, highly skilled restaurant people, that you feel lucky to be included … Clingman and Thoresen … knew exactly what they wanted and it wasn't glitz, or a large operation financed by investors, which they could have attracted in a minute, or a stab at haute cuisine. It was a small place they could decorate and run themselves that would demonstrate why they were drawn to cooking in the first place.”

This is going to sound so simple-minded, but out of everything, one thing that stood out was the piece of endive that held the shrimp/grapefruit salad. It was one of those Chez-Panisse moments when something as simple as a tomato can create flavor fireworks. I am not a fan of endive, but that was one nice piece of endive and made me pay attention. I have to think there is much more attention grabbing food like that at Jojo.

Suggestions for next time a place magically opens up so I’ll be prepared?

Link: http://www.jojorestaurant.com/

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