Note: This restaurant has closed. Another restaurant, Commis has opened in its space.
After a failed bid for an anniversary dinner in San Francisco, we still wanted to go somewhere and Jojo, a French restaurant on Piedmont Ave., came to mind. It was relatively close by, and they will seat people on weeknights until 9:30 pm. It proved to be a good choice. We didn't get the fancy meal we were expecting from the fancy restaurant in the city, but we had a nice meal in quite relaxed surroundings.
Jojo is located right next to Bay Wolf and looks quite modest next to its imposing neighbor. The inside is also quite unassuming. The walls are painted in muted yellows and greens and they are decorated with occasional paintings that Mike characterized as "boring." The restaurant has two rooms: a very small one in front near the open kitchen and a larger one in the back. We were seated at the back and we liked it better. In all, eating at Jojo's felt like eating in the parlor of some old house, a feeling which I actually liked.
Jojo claims it offers French country cooking but its menu doesn't really seem very different from the many area restaurants offering upscale Italian, Mediterranean or Californian cuisine. Indeed, the chef-owners have previously cooked at Oliveto, Zuni Cafe and Chez Panisse. The menu is brief with eight appetizers, five entrees and six desserts (including a cheese course), but it's not hard to find something to order. We started with the House Made Pate de Campagne ($7) and the Crab & Goat Cheese Tart ($8) and followed with the Pork Loin ($19) and the Halibut.
Mike was a bit concerned when he got the tart as it looked like a flat piece of pizza. One bite and any thoughts of similarity went away. The tart was simply delicious; the goat cheese flavor was intense and the crab added a welcome sweetness. It was served with some curled vegetables - the lettuce and cabbage weren't particularly remarkable, but the dried and salty orange vegetable (carrot? Sweet potato? Something else) was also delicious. If they sold such chips at the store, you wouldn't have a problem getting your kids to eat their veggies. In other words, you have to order this appetizer when you go there.
The pate was also good, though not as memorable. It had a very fresh taste and went well with the warm bread. There were two large slices and we managed to eat them both up.
Mike's Halibut had a very pleasant orange glace. Mike really liked it and even I, not usually a fish person, quite enjoyed it. The accompanying rissotto (or rice pilaf) was also quite good, I particularly enjoyed the pieces of caramelized oranges (I think that's what they were).
I wasn't as happy with my pork loin. I probably should have asked what exactly they meant by pork loin (apparently there are several sections), I was envisioning some melt-in-your-mouth tender pork like the dish we had at A16 recently, but what I got were two grilled pork loin chops. They were quite tasty, though a little bit hard to cut with the knife provided. They were a little bit tough but not in the least chewy. I'm not a big pork fan, though, so I didn't enjoy them as much as someone else might. The accompanying mashed potatoes were to-die for, however. Creamy, light, delicious - I'd eat a whole dish of them.
Mike decided to skip dessert (he was being good) but I ordered the Pear Sorbet with Raspberries and Strawberries ($7). It was quite good. The sorbet was somewhat gritty, which I liked, and had a very intense pear flavor. It was perhaps a tad too sweet but all in all very, very good.
Service was very good. The host and the waitresses were very nice and helpful and we had a great time. Dinner came to about $85 (we also had two glasses of house champagne). We'd definitely go back.
3859 Piedmont Avenue