Shanghai has so many French bistros that it’s almost a cliche, but none have claimed to be a guinguette, until Chez Jojo showed up.
The new restaurant on Yueyang Road is modeling themselves after the traditional French tavern where people can come for food and drinks, then sing and dance along to some guy usually playing the accordion. In France, guinguettes are typically located near the banks of rivers in the countryside, and they flourished pre-World War Two before suffering a decline in the subsequent years. But some still exist, like Chez Jojo in the Loire Valley, which has lent its name to its Shanghai counterpart.
While the Chez Jojo here isn’t close to any watering holes – unless you count its neighbor, The Camel – the ambience is just as casual. They took over the space where Greek Taverna used to be and gave it a more rural vibe, while remodeling the upstairs patio with fairy lights and wood pallets for furniture.
The food is similarly homey, like the escargot, dressed simply in a silky garlic butter sauce, and the steak tartare is hearty and rustic. The grilled vegetable platter is a sleeper hit: straightforward in its execution, yet sweet, juicy, and smoky. While I wanted to like the stewed rabbit leg, the meat was a little dry, but was rescued by the rich mustard sauce.
Most satisfying to see are the prices. The beef carpaccio comes in two portions for ¥138, the foie gras – 120 grams and done two ways – for ¥128, and a half-a-kilogram Australian Angus cote de boeuf for ¥288, which seems like a printing error. But it isn’t, said the owners of Chez Jojo, who want to the food affordable. Throw in a live accordionist, which they plan to bring in later, and you might mistake this sliver of Xuhui for the shores of the Loire.
1 Yueyang Road / 岳阳路1号
[Photos by Ye Shi 叶适]