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About a week ago, I was invited to try JoJo Eating House & Bar, the new French-Mediterranean, well, eating house and bar, on Howell Street near the Quadrangle. Since I work right over there, I was already planning on heading over to try it myself just as soon as my schedule allowed, but I have to admit the invitation gave me a little push. So I grabbed a friend and we headed over for lunch.

JoJo’s menu is all over the place, but it goes to places I’m totally cool with.

It’s like chef Laurent Poupart is your crazed tour guide, leading you from Japan to Italy to Greece and everywhere in between. Looking over the menu I’ll admit we had to send our slightly overzealous waiter away several times before making any sort of decisions. We finally agreed to start with gazpacho, a small salad and this thing of beauty:

Far East Tuna Tartare, $16

As soon as I saw the “Far East Tuna Tartare” on the list of appetizers I knew I must have it. And it was by far my favorite dish we tried.

The high-quality tuna, creamy avocado, pops of fish roe, tart grapefruit and ponzu sauce with just the right amount of sour vinegar reminded me – even if just for a brief moment – of one of my favorite dishes of all time: Chef Jean Georges’ tuna ribbons from his namesake restaurant in New York’s Columbus Circle. I wouldn’t again taste tuna like that until a couple weeks later at John Tesar’s Spoon Bar & Kitchen. More on that later.

The rest of the meal at JoJo was tasty and absurdly plentiful, but it paled in comparison to the tuna. Here’s what we tried next:

Gazpacho Andalusian, $5/7

A cool gazpacho, which would be perfect for a warm Dallas day…

And a better-than-respectable Caesar with shaved parmesan, chives and a crisped rectangle of crouton.

Chicken Pizza, $14

By the time our chicken pesto pizza came out, we were already becoming full. We were already talking of afternoon naps, so we each vowed to have just a slice and take the rest back to the office. The pizza itself was as good as any, but I found myself wondering why the menu wastes so much real estate on pizza when there’s already so much damn pizza available within a half mile of the place. I’m not mad at it though.

Lamb Sandwich, $12

Our last savory dish was the one listed as “Moroccan Roasted Vegetables, Lamb Leg, Harissa on Flat Bread.” It came with frites-style French fries served in a cone, but over all was a bit of a disappointment. I didn’t taste any vegetables, Moroccan-roasted or otherwise, besides onion, lettuce and tomato, and there wasn’t much Harissa spice to speak of. The tzatziki sauce and pita were both great, and I’m a big fan of the use of mint throughout, but the lamb meat itself was cut too thick and proved extremely difficult to eat. I would have preferred a more shaved version of the lamb leg. This was the one and only miss for me.

Now that we were extremely full, the waiter let us know the chef was preparing a special souffle for us. We tried to look excited more than scared our “afternoon naps” would turn into some very real food comas.

Almond & Cherry Nougat Glacé Bergamot, $8

Then the first dessert came out. I have to say, this was a delightful surprise. The “Almond & Cherry Nougat Glacé Bergamot” was a mouthful on the menu, but what arrived at our table was light, not too sweet and a perfect mix of cream and crunch. It would make for the perfect ending to any meal.

40 Minute Soufflé, $8

Then the “40 Minute Soufflé” came to put us out of our not-very-miserable-at-all misery. At just $8, this is quite the treat, and all you have to do is remember to order it when you arrive. I’m pretty sure I’ve had better soufflés, but then again I’m not sure I’ve ever had one while I was quite as full, so I’m not totally certain I judged this one fairly against the others.

All in all I think JoJo Eating House and Bar ranks quite highly among the options available in the immediate area in Uptown. I’d recommend it for a birthday lunch, client dinner, or any meal that requires a little something special. Don’t skip the tartare, and don’t forget to save room for dessert. JoJo is slated to start brunch service on January 13th, and the menu, which ranges from $8 for an omelet to $22 for Salmon a la Plancha looks pretty damn solid.

NYEPSA: JoJo is doing a New Year’s Eve 4-course menu for $65, with seatings at 5:30 and 8:30. Call to reserve: 214-754-4949.

JoJo Eating House & Bar  |  2626 Howell Street  |  jojodallas.com

NOTE: While this meal was comped, as I’ve mentioned time and time again, free food does not guarantee kind words. 

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