Losing the love for JoJo Tai Pei
i must admit that i was a bit of a fan of JoJo the first couple of times i went. but the last two occasions The Kid and i dined at JoJo left us wishing we had gone to Taiwan Cafe.
on our last visit (6/27) we started with the pig ears which were loaded with garlic but a bit too hard and crunchy. the mini steamed buns were decent but the wrappers tore way too easily losing most of the soup.
moving on to the beef with longhorn peppers which we love at TC but JoJo's preparation lacked a depth of flavor and heat.
next we tried the three cups cuttlefish and while the cuttlefish was properly tender the sauce was not only muddy tasting but appeared to have actual mud in it, not good at all.
the only thing we really liked were the tofu skin rolls and even on those the wrappers fell off the filling too easily.
we'll probably give it another shot, but not any time soon
Bump for tonight's visit:
A few food nerds brought together by the internet for the first time feasted at JoJo this evening, and we had a rather nice meal. I've spent a ton of time in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, but I have basically zero experience with Taiwanese, so while this was all very familiar, of course, I'm by no means an authority.
Nab did the ordering for the evening. Panchan (for lack of whatever the Taiwanese term would be) was simple and tasty, thinly sliced pig's ear in sesame oil, spicy pickled bamboo and a dark, soy-based fish made almost meaty by smoke and drying.
Oyster pancake was my favorite of the night. Light and fresh, crisped on the edges, luscious, plump oysters within -- big winner for me.
XLB were solid. Plenty soupy to satisfy, decent flavor. Certainly not as artful or precise as I've had them elsewhere, and not as intensely flavored as my favorites, but quite worthy and will absolutely satisfy the craving.
Braised pork belly in steamed bun was a welcome surprise. Sweet, tender belly with cilantro, some manner of pickled green (mui choy? I dunno), sprinkled with what I swear must've been plain old granulated sugar, or perhaps some seasoned version thereof. Pork could have been a little more lush, but still quite lovely. The sugar was really odd, texturally, but I found myself digging it.
Three cup tofu and eggplant, mellow and comforting. A shredded pork dish with fermented black beans (A special, Nab? I don't see it on the menu.) had nice balance and a little zip. Pea shoots with garlic, not much to say -- fresh and tasty.
The only real disappointment, actually, was the much-lauded ginger and scallion twin lobsters. I felt a little funny ordering what struck me as a quintessential Cantonese dish (is this also common in Taiwan?), but it seems so beloved around these parts that I felt we'd be remiss not to give it a try. Unless we caught an off night, I have to be the voice of dissent on this one. Nice price, and fine I suppose, but I just found it lacking in the flavor department. Didn't sing like it should (though my calibration may be a little skewed by the fabulous version thereof I had down in Baltimore about a month ago). Disappointing.
But overall, a very nice meal. I look forward to returning and trying some more uniquely Taiwanese dishes.
Glad you had a nice meal there.
The "panchan" are typically called "liang2 cai4" or simply "cold dishes" and are the typical beginning of a formal Chinese meal. It's one of my favorite things about Jo Jo Taipei actually. Last time, the la4 ou3 (spicy lotus root) was out-of-this-world good.
Incidentally, the customary Korean style of serving panchan actually comes via China, probably from eating styles in the Song Dynasty. This style of eating has been documented as early as the fifth century --- there's a farming manual called the qi2 min2 yao4 shu4 from that time that describes several meals as taking place on little tables with each dish in a small bowl. Common people would eat from one table, noblemen from two, and empreror alone from three small tables, for a total of about 30 dishes. Of course, today the Korean adaptation of this style has evolved in its own different and dynamic way, just as also the Chinese liang2 cai4 are quite different.
Other restaurants in Boston, such as Fuloon, Wang's, and Zoe's have an array of liang2 cai4 with which to start the meal, but Jo Jo Taipei is the only one that brings them out together on a little tray. I really appreciate the historical resonance of serving them in this way . . . although I could without the saran wrap on top. =)
That's really interesting lipoff -- I wondered about the saran covered tray myself. Nice to understand a bit about the origins. However, the cold smoked sweetish fish panchan was the only item i didn't really enjoy at Jo Jo a few weeks ago.
The twin lobsters were a little gloopy to me -- cornstarch thick. I was impressed by how the bugs were dissected to make eating them so easy, but I wasn't wowed by this dish. I *was* wowed by the salt and pepper crabs that were a special that particular night.
Nice to add another food nerd to the mix. Welcome Dmnkly!
Welcome, Dom ! I look forward to your always insightful contributions to the boards.
While JJT didn't quite take me to the place I wanted to be, even on a slightly off-night, it was still a very enjoyable meal. Perhaps it's important to note that we dined there relatively late (arrived shortly after 9pm), and it seemed as though the Saturday night crush had already come and gone.
I'd originally planned for the three-cup tofu, which I finds takes to the magical sauce so well, but was talked into the tofu/eggplant combo by our waitress, and while the eggplant was a welcome addition, the balance of sauce to solids was just a little off, as I found myself digging around to find a full tablespoon in there. (side note: my takeout experiences are typically on the other end of the spectrum, where I find myself drinking straight sauce for breakfast once all the cuttlefish have disappeared).
Three-cup tofu & eggplant:
XLBs were as Dmnkly describes, flavorful, but lacking the delicate skin and "sag-factor" characteristic of the best versions.
XLBs (no "sag-shot"):
I thought I had ordered the "spicy minced pork with dried radish and hot peppers", but the dish we received was quite mild, and I didn't detect the presence of dried radishes either. Enjoyable, nevertheless.
Even off their game, Jo Jo Taipei is a fine place, and it will take me at least another dozen visits before I really feel like I've gotten the hang of their game.
PS. lipoff, thanks for the bit about the cold dishes, very informative & worthy of further reading !
I eat there pretty regularly and occasionally find one item is a tiny bit off. Sounds like you had some bad luck with several items off at once. Very sorry. Definitely worth keeping on the permanent rotation as is my experience, 9 out of 10 dishes are usually well executed.
re: Mr Bigglesworth
In part in aswer to ScubaSteve's comment below. I almost think they get some of those cold apps that they show off in the tray at the beginning of the meal in from elsewhere. I had some baby octo there that were very similar to something I've had at Japanese restaurants. Good, but not earth shattering. Though the tendon I had there was really good.
Dishes that rock there:
Asia Fusion Curry Noodle (more or less) which is basically the best rendition of Singapore noodle I've ever had.
Soup dumplings are 6 times out of 7 the best soup dumplings I have ever had anywhere.
The now infamous twin lobster with ginger and scallion $17 has been spot on every single time.
Can't remember any others, but have eaten so many, I would just surf the board for other recs.
I introduced the place to a friend from Taiwan who prefers Jo Jo to Shangri La, Taiwan Cafe, and Mulan. He swears it is as good as many of the places he likes at home. Sorry ScubaSteve had such a rough meal.
we probably will keep it in our Allston rotation as we have had some great dishes there but there's not been what i would call a great meal overall.
i forgot to add that the service was very good, quick and cheerful.
also, the pig ears were served to us in a plastic take-away container, which i thought was odd.
We've gotten the pig ears in a plastic container before, too (Actually, now I can't remember whether we've ever gotten them *not* in a plastic container-- can't remember)
I tend to agree that we usually end up with a couple disappointing dishes thrown in the mix on a typical visit, so nowadays we try to go with a group of people to increase the number of good ones and offset the clunkers.
Had a wonderful meal there on Friday. The scallion pancake with roast beef and the soup dumplings were excellent. The three cup chicken was very interestingly tasty as was the spicy shredded pork. It was the first time there for my friends. They really enjoyed it and are looking forward to taking their Chinese relatives there.