One of my most pleasurable New York discoveries of 2019 was the revisiting of an already well-established restaurant. Named “Jo Jo”, after his childhood nickname, it is Celebrity Chef Jean George Vongerichten’s first New York restaurant, opened in 1991. I had first been years ago, and found it good, but not the most attractive restaurant, and I was a little disappointed that I had to have a heavy tasting menu at lunch.
Now, after a much-needed facelift, the townhouse at 160 East 64th Street has a fresh and contemporary new look, along with a new more modern menu.
The decor on each floor is much lighter, with parquet floors, tables and chairs done in blond woods, whitewashed brick walls, white sheer curtains against natural wood walls, and brown leather banquets. There is lots of natural light coming from the windows and the feel is relaxed and cozy, yet elegant. We felt the renovation was clean, understated, and lovely.
The menu is a mix of farm to table dishes with a few Jo Jo classics. They use mostly organic and local ingredients. I love the new menu and had trouble making my selections as everything sounded so good. As you order, homemade sourdough bread is served with an intense tasting olive oil that was wonderful.
The aromatic broccoli soup with coconut and lime is bright, vibrant and fragrant. The warm seafood salad, with avocado, and citrus shallot dressing was a touch overcooked. However, the seared Faroe Island salmon, with seasonal corn pudding and a cherry tomato salad we had was outstanding. We also enjoyed an organic frittata with delicata squash, shiitake mushrooms, and goat cheese.
The menu has other desirable choices like the peekytoe crab dumplings, flatbreads, sashimi and tartare. There was a nice array of salads and sandwiches and entrées offered as well. The restaurant offers cold-pressed juices and house-made sodas, as well as cocktails and wines.
The French know how to execute a dessert and we were wowed with a spectacular carrot layer cake that was out of this world. But, the lemon meringue pie may have even been better.
The prices are not outrageous considering you are dining on the Upper East Side.
This is a gem worth rediscovering.