Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dinner at Jojo

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, December 17, 2008—
IT'S BEEN WIDELY REPORTED: one of our favorite restaurants is closing at the end of this month. We're partial to Jojo for two very good reasons: it's a very fine restaurant, and the owners, chef and pastry chef, are friends of ours, friends and former neighbors and former colleagues. And in addition to this, Jojo is remarkable for two other reasons: its remarkable consistency and authenticity as a Parisian-style bistro in Oakland, California; and its grace and comfort as a pleasant home away from home.
The restaurant business is hard work, and while lots of regulars express their gratitude, every restaurateur knows also a share of disappointment. A good restaurant tends to be taken for granted, overlooked; this has been especially true in the last dozen years, when trends and tricks have elbowed consistency and authority aside. More recently, restaurants have been hit by suddenly higher prices — the purveyors have had to pass on increased energy and labor costs — while diners have been hit by suddenly decreased discretionary money. Caught in the middle, restaurants are going to face a historic moment of truth. Jojo is closing after New Year's Eve, and my sad prediction is that it will be by no means the last one to close.
All the more reason for us to book as early a table as we could make today. A glance at the menu was reassuring for its familiarity, but difficult to choose from: mussels steamed in rosé and shallots? Flatiron steak? I opted for the simplest, most heartwarming: green salad, delicately dressed with tarragon vinaigrette; flatiron steak, grilled rare, sliced, and served with anchovy butter. Pommes frites, bien sûr. And, for dessert, an amazing chocolate soufflée cake with crême anglaise. Life is good, while it lasts.
Rosé de Chinon; Brouilly.

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