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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.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. Thanks for the review. I've always wanted to try the new location of JoJo's since their move from 17th but have never gotten around to it. I am a sucker for great french food, especially escargots and so I'll definately be making a visit.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Hart50

            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.

            1. re: dknight

              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.

              1. re: Hart50

                Isn't that weird! I can't think of any either. Years ago we had nice French restaurants. Probably French style dining available in upscale hotel dining rooms.

                1. re: sarah galvin

                  The old one that just came to mind is the original Entre Nous on 4th Street near the original location of My Marvins. It sadly all went downhill when they moved to the bigger place further north on 4th Street.

                  1. re: Hart50

                    There was even an older one than that. It was in Kensington in the same old building that Starbucks occupies now. It was good. Can't remember the name. One of our first quaint restaurants. It has to be about 20 or more years ago.

                    1. re: sarah galvin

                      Of course, the long lamented Fernandos!

                  2. re: sarah galvin

                    Even older than that was a place in Bowness in the strip mall beside Safeway. They moved downtown (Gulf Canada I think) then went out of business. I'd love to know where that chef went because he was a great one.

                  3. re: Hart50

                    Red Door is French. I'm not saying it's perfect., but it's French.

                    1. re: John Manzo

                      Far from perfect and is it really 'that French'?

                        1. re: John Manzo

                          They call themselves whatever they like ;)

                  4. re: dknight

                    Both Rouge and Saint Germain are billed as french, though they are both more "continential" as well.

                    Bistro Provence in Okotoks is a better bet.

                2. 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.

                  1. We were at the CFM today and decided to have lunch at JoJo Bistro after having read this thread. I'm sorry to say that we'll never get to try what sounded like a wonderful restaurant. It was closed up, the windows are covered over, and there are signs on the windows saying an Indian restaurant will be opening in that location this summer.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: GaryR

                      Well I'll be damned- but ya know, Marda Loop can only benefit from more and more ethnic places- what used to be a wasteland now as two sushi places, a decent viet place and soon Indian... I'll take this as a wash.

                      1. re: John Manzo

                        We went to JoJo for dinner last Saturday and were surprised to find ourselves in the midst of the final night celebration. Apparently the chef and family are moving to Morocco where he has a position at a fancy resort. Sad to see them go.

                        The Indian place going in to the location was described as "upscale," so perhaps it won't be yet another unreconstructed 70s style Indian place.

                        1. re: ChrisA

                          I noted the sign for the Indian place today- it's a nice modern upscale script (like the typeface for blink) and it says "A [Hindic so-and-so name]-MOHAMMED GUELLI project." So if he's moving to Morocco, he's leaving his imprimatur on this place. I look forward to it! Maybe a Calgary version of Vij's?

                    2. So this place is officially closed down then? Can anyone confirm this?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: overseastar

                        I can confirm this. I had a gift certificate that unfortunately I did not use in time :(