JoJo Bistro in Calgary - just go.
We went to Chez JoJo (or JoJo Bistro de Parisien if you want to be technical) in Marda Loop for now the 4th time on Saturday night, and my review follows. The most notable thing really - it was way too quiet for a Saturday night, but we've seen it quiet there before and I imagine this was due to the big hockey game that night that kept people away from restaurants.
- I have always loved the cozy and simple ambience of this place and wonder why more people don't frequent this place all the time. But I'm kind of glad they don't - it's nice to be able to stroll in on a Saturday night with no reso and get a cozy romantic table :)
- We split a 1/2 litre of the house red as always - not sure what they pick for their house red, but it's solid and compliments many of the dishes well. Hints of berry and soft flavours, nothing overpowering.
- The bread at JoJo's is AWESOME - we seriously ask for 3 or 4 orders each time we go. Classic French bread - nice crust, soft and smooth insides. And a dip of balsamic and olive oil to go with it, but really the best part is dipping it into any of the sauces of the appetizers or entrees - French food is all about the sauce!
- For the starters, we've had the following before: spinach salad with goat cheese and pancetta, veal sweetbreads, and escargot. We had the latter two this past Saturday, and they were incredible. My s/o said that the escargot was some of the best she's ever had - lots of garlic and a nice butter sauce. My sweetbreads were incredible as usual - smooth texture with a nice mild flavour, great mushrooms, and an amazing sauce that I sopped up using the all-important bread.
- We try to venture outside of the norm for our entrees, but always end up ordering the same - bouillabaisse for her, cassoulet for me. SO good. She loves the bouilabaisse with its super generous portions of mussels, 3 different kinds of fish in a fennel-tomato broth piping hot out of the oven. I adore my cassoulet with perfect white beans, 3 lamb chops, delicious spicy sausage, and large chunks of duck meat. Amazingly good stuff. I've also had the duck breast, but it's not quite as good as other places I've had it.
- Dessert: The chocolate profiteroles are to die for. Seriously. Melted Bernard Callebaut dark chocolate, vanilla-scented light whipped cream, and fresh pastry. The mousse is similarly amazing - Callebaut chocolate again with syrup at the bottom and a dollop of the heavenly whipped cream. Even their sherbet is awesome - especially the mango.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing price point of JoJo's, and why I hope it prospers and flourishes. My cassoulet was $27, and the bouillabaisse was $28. Both with incredibly generous portions of meat and seafood respectively.
JoJo himself is an incredibly nice and humble guy - with it being a bit slow, he packed away his chef's jacket at about 9:30 to relax and enjoy some wine and dinner himself. We chatted briefly and he was very appreciative of my praise. FYI, it was only himself and a substitute waiter working that night (the usual waitress called in at the last minute). It's amazing that he can put out this kind of product manning the kitchen entirely on his own.
In short, just go. I like Fleur de Sel on 4th Street, but it honestly doesn't compare to JoJo in my view, and it's just too busy usually so that you have to make a reservation ahead of time. JoJo's deserves your attention.
What a nice review! Thanks! I've only been to JoJo once and it when it was in the now-demolished bldg on 17th, and had the cassoulet- it was indeed great but as I recall also tiny. Another thing- we were agog (this was 2001 I think) that this place was non-smoking! How times have changed.
funny, i was at the marda loop location about 1.5yrs ago, and i had the cassoulet also...
it was delicious, and i did like the low key atmosphere also. i don't really recall any apps or what my date had though... haven't been back since, unfortunately. In my mind it seems to occupy a weird space between a cheap dinner and a top notch dinner experience, so i seem to overlook it. I should try and make my way back there.
The mention of profiteroles, is enough to get me in the door. I want to support the neighbourhood restaurants but San Remo is so bad and busy that the quiet JoJo's made us a bit nervous - we will be sure to give it a try.
Glad you guys are willing to give JoJo's a shot, let me know your thoughts and I hope you have as good of an experience there as I have.
On that note, and not to cheat on JoJo or anything, but does anyone have any other rec's for French food in Calgary outside of Fleur de Sel? It doesn't seem like there's a ton of places, but I'd like to try out anything and everything at some point.
I'm drawing a blank on any other fully dedicated French restos in town. La Chaumiere despite its name is more "Continental" than purely French. Although I haven't been a big fan since they moved venues some years ago it recently got a pretty good review on these pages. Sorry, not much help.
I was just coming to the board to give a little review of JoJo's. I've been surprised that it's never mentioned because it is so very good. Everything dknight says is exactly what I'd say if I could write that well! I too love the cassoulet and the sweetbreads are wonderful. Don't everyone go at once though - I'd like to keep it a small secret too.
Just enough people so they can stay open. It's the best in Marda Loop for sure.