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Dec 30, 1999 06:23 AM


  • m

I've been slow to post this, but I think I owe the board some responsibility to qualify remarks I made about Jojo previously, as my opinions are on record. For a number of years, Jojo had been my favorite restaurant in New York. I went there again for my mother's birthday in late October. The food was still quite good, but the service was disturbingly slow, starting with our initial request to be given glasses of water while we waited for the 3rd member of our party to arrive. We waited a long time for all courses including our dessert, which was refrigerated and required neither to be cooked to order nor heated. I like to have a relaxed meal, but I do not like to wait for ages, especially when the restaurant was not filled to capacity. My father's guess is that Vongerichten may be neglecting the supervision of service at Jojo now that he has Jean-Georges. Jojo has had a great run, but may be going downhill.

As my birthday is upcoming on February 2 (and it's a "big one" for those who care about numbers, 35), I am wondering where else I might go. My family had dinner at Grand Sichuan, 24 St. and 9th Av. for my father's birthday Dec. 26 at my suggestion (great meal, but a word to the wise: Make sure to reserve on weekend nights).

Here's my situation: I live in the East Village, and I regularly have a wide variety of good food in $25-and-under restaurants in the East Village, Chinatown, and sometimes other parts of Manhattan (I normally go to the outer boroughs only for work, and my folks wouldn't make such an excursion for a birthday dinner, probably). Cuisines I often eat include Chinese, Thai, Malaysian, Italian, Polish/Ukranian, Indian, Turkish/Arab, and sometimes Latin American, Korean, and Jewish food (Katz's!). But I also appreciate haute cuisine (French, Continental, Nouvelle American) when I have it. I promise to re-read threads on subjects like "Which is best," but if any of you can suggest places that serve delicious, memorable food with unusually imaginative flavors - maybe something like Jojo used to be even more like, with the fruit and vegetable essences in the sauces - but not a "fusion" like Vong, which I consider to be watered-down Thai - and no supercilious attitude from the wait staff! - please mention them.

Thank you all and best wishes for the new year,


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  1. i HIGHLY recommend MAYA. it's an upscale mexican restaurant on the upper east side. the red snapper is to die for--as is the ceviche, guacamole, mole...the waitstaff is extremely attentive (if you want them to be).

    16 Replies
    1. re: gj

      i agree that maya is excellent. pricey mexican, but the rice and beans there are wholesome, heartwarming and delicious. i'd go back for those alone.


      1. re: gj

        Thanks for your suggestion of Maya, gj. But I have a follow up: What makes it worth the money to go to such an "upscale" Mexican place instead of, say, Azteca (which I have yet to go to). And just how much money are we talking?

        1. re: Michael

          michael, i'm not familiar w/ azteca, so i cannot compare--do you mean el azteca on 9th ave? maya is NOT tex mex, you won't get tacos, burritos,'s one of the finest meals i've had in the city. check out their website:

          let me know if you try it!

          1. re: gj

            "i'm not familiar w/ azteca, so i cannot compare--do you mean el azteca on 9th ave?"

            Yes, that's the one I meant.

            I'll consider upscale Mexican for some future meal, but I'm thinking more in terms of something European/American-based with imaginative flavors, like Jojo was. I don't like "fusion," but I do like the work of chefs who are able to integrate interesting ingredients imaginatively into their Nouvelle French/Continental/American cuisine.

            1. re: Michael

              What about Jean Georges? I thought the tasting menu was the best food I have had anywhere in Manhattan.

              1. re: judith

                "What about Jean-Georges?"

                That thought has indeed crossed my mind. How expensive is the tasting menu?

                1. re: Michael

                  Very Expensive - it was some months ago and my husband and I both had the tasting menu - I believe it came to a total of about $300 - I can double check when I get home - if it was very different than what I recall here, I will get back to you.

                  1. re: Judith

                    Please do get back to me if it was much less. I could never live with myself if I were somehow able to persuade my parents to take me out for a dinner that ended up costing $150/person. My upper limit is around $60/person, maybe $70 absolute max for fantastic food.

                    1. re: Michael

                      Michael - Bad news - I checked last night and it was more like $320 for both of us - of course, we had tasting menus which are probably more expensive. Let me think about your price line and see what I come up with -

                      1. re: Michael

                        Michael - How about Grifone? it is an Italian restaurant on E. 48 St. - we ate there quite a while ago and it was lovely - food, service, atmosphere. Unfortunately, I haven't eaten there recently so you probably should check it out with other chowhounds to see if anyone else has. Let us know what you finally select and how it is. - Judith

                        1. re: judith

                          Thanks for your suggestion, Judith. So, folks, anyone else have any comments on Grifone?

                          My birthday's Feb. 2, so there is a little time yet.

                          My girlfriend suggested L'ecole (the restaurant of the Ecole Culinaire de New York), by the way. Any opinions about the place? I've been wanting to go there for their prix-fixe lunch, but haven't gotten around to it yet.


                          1. re: Michael

                            I've been to l'Ecole 3 times for dinner. This place is in a sort of "big bang for moderate bucks" category. While I didn't find the food QUITE as good as the top places, and given that the menu is VERY limited (I'd suggest calling ahead to see if they're serving something you like, unless your taste buds like a lot of stuff), the price is (at a guess) a little less than half that of a place like Grammercy Tavern. And the service is excellent, given that the wait staff is also "in school" and needs to make a good impression.

                            1. re: Peter

                              I really loved l'Ecole when I was there this summer. They are online (through the French Culinary Intitute's page) so you may check their menu (lunch, dinner, reg. and prix fixe - I think). It won't win any awards for outrageously inventive food but it is a chowhound find because the deliciousness factor and attention to the quality and preparation food is quite high. The service is great and not at all pretentious. The wine list was really nice with a lot of very reasonable selections. The atmosphere is really nice, casual but elegant, not stuffy and formal. Also, there is a parking lot across the street ($) which is nice because my mom can't walk very much anymore and she loved this place.

                              This summer I had an incredibly crisp potato pancake with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and capers which was really divine and memorable.

                              I've been to the CIA's Escoffier Restaurant (in Hyde Park, just north of Poughkeepsie) several times and while I love it there, l'Ecole is much closer, much cheaper and way easier to get a reservation for dinner at! L'Ecole is not quite the restaurant Escoffier is but I really like it.

                              1. re: Jill

                                Thanks for the feedback on l'Ecole. I will investigate to see if their meal for Feb. 2 works with my father's various dietary restrictions. If it does, this sounds like it might be my best bet.

          2. re: gj

            May I respectfully dissent. I have eaten twice at Maya, and been cruelly disappointed each time--it's like the worst hotel restaurant in, say, Puerto Vallarta, everything contemptuously doctored with extra sugar, and I have never had a single dish, not to say meal, I would care to eat again. JoJo, on the other hand, is swell.

            1. re: Al Pastor

              Thanks so much for your post, Al. I need to avoid restaurants that use sugar like there's no tomorrow, as my father's diabetic and controls his condition with diet and not insulin injections.

              And have a happy new year!