As we didn’t have lunch at Coffee & Chocolate until late, dinner was subsequently pushed back to a later than usual time as well. Being our first day in Brisbane and not having booked anywhere, we needed somewhere where we could just walk in and pretty much be guaranteed a table. That’s how we came to be at Jo-Jo’s, with its rainbow logo and located up a white granite staircase from Queen Street Mall.
The interior is just as white and we find ourselves a table near the balcony section which overlooks both paved malls. It is a balmy evening and we don’t mind the gentle breeze. I wonder about where I’ve seen the rainbow logo before, and when I spot a poster of Stefan the hairdresser it all makes sense – I later read that it is his restaurant.
A friendly waitress brings us menus and a table number and explains how Jo-Jo’s works: you order from any of the counters positioned around the perimeter of the restaurant, pay and cite your table number, and wait for the food to arrive. That’s when I look around the place and realise that Jo-Jo’s is a miniature food court unto itself with three ‘kitchens’ providing grill, Mediterranean and Oriental ‘cuisines’. The menu is broken into corresponding sections to reflect the split kitchens.
Intrigued by this concept, I go for a look-see around the restaurant to check out what’s available at each counter. The only things on display are salads with everything else being prepared to order behind the scenes. My wander also opens my eyes to the kitschy ornaments dotting the place – there is a chef statuette, a statue of a dog perched on its hind legs and leaning up on one of the kitchen counters, a large eagle and a Buddha statue amongst others. It’s like Gianni Versace’s style gone wrong.
We order drinks from the waitress and pay her directly when she reappears with them. Two large glasses of soft-drink comes only to $7. Monsieur Poisson and I decide what we want and he goes off to the appropriate counters to order.
Our food arrives fairly quickly so we’re grateful we’ve chosen a larger table to accommodate the three large plates. First up is ‘Jo-Jo’s Garlic Pizza’ on a crisp base which is seriously, intensely garlicky. There is crushed garlic underneath a golden layer of cheese as well as what appears to be pureed garlic oil drizzled near the edge of the crust. It is quite bitey and just a tad oily where the cut pieces meet in the centre.
On my rounds I noticed Greek salad being offered by two different kitchens so I specified to Monsieur Poisson which I thought looked better and for him to order it from the corresponding counter. Our resultant salad, however, seems to have been served from the other, less-desired kitchen and presents with a mysterious brown dressing. There are generous cubes of creamy fetta, wedges of tomatoes, plump Kalamata olives and slices of cucumber arranged with salad greens, which really could be done away with if in a ‘true’ Greek salad. And the brown dressing? It tastes like nothing in particular – not creamy, not tangy, not salty and pretty much devoid of having any flavour at all.
The serves are quite generous but, not knowing this, we have also ordered the ‘Moreton Bay Bug Fettucine’. This proves to be our favourite of the evening with fresh, not dried, pasta tossed with small pieces of bug meat, caponata and salsa verde. Monsieur Poisson doesn’t like the peppery watercress garnishing the pasta but I quite like the contrast it brings and how it cuts through some of the expected oiliness of the caponata. The caponata is spiked with chopped olives which are not overly salty and a bug tail laid on top of the pasta finishes off the dish.
Jo-Jo’s provides decent food of ample size at value prices. The dessert counter doesn’t look too promising but we’re too full to want dessert anyway. We leave virtually clutching our stomachs and go for a short stroll through the city to work off some of our meal before heading back to the hotel.
Level 1, cnr Queen Street Mall & Albert Street Mall, Brisbane QLD
Tel: (07) 3221 2113
Opening Hours: 7 days 9:30am-11:30pm