Saturday, March 21, 2015

JaJa Bistro

They're Saucy!

Although JaJa Bistro has been open for eight years, we just discovered it earlier this month. Spoiler Alert! It was AWESOME!!

Getting There

JaJa Bistro is fairly easy to find.  It is located in downtown Littleton just off Main St and Nevada.  There is a dedicated parking area next to the restaurant and a pay lot less than a block away.

The Atmosphere

Walking in the front door of JaJa Bistro is like going over to a friend's house for dinner.  The restaurant is a beautifully renovated house and contains quaint touches like the original woodwork and small, intimate spaces.  Wonderful French music plays in the background adding to the charming atmosphere.  They advertise JaJa as a "casual French eatery" which is spot on.  The décor is relaxed with a little bit of whimsy and fun.

The Eats

Oh, how we love Denver Restaurant Week!  We were surprised to find that JaJa Bistro had extended their Denver Restaurant Week menu.  This allowed us to sample more of their cuisine than we expected.  We just love it when a plan comes together.

We began our meal with fresh French bread served with butter that was sprinkled with paprika and sea salt.  It's amazing how something as subtle as paprika can add so much flavor to something so common as butter and salt. 

We started with the bacon wrapped apple stuffed dates appetizer.  This was a surprising dish.  Since none of us at the table could remember eating an actual date before, we were not sure what to expect.  They were amazing.  They had a creamy, sweet, and chewy texture and we liked how the flavors meshed.  In addition, the presentation was beautiful.

The marinated confit garlic and olives were excellent.  We found them to be mild and not overly garlicky.  They played off each other well by picking up flavors from each other.  Both the garlic and the olives spread easily on the bread served with the appetizer.  It was toasted with fennel, and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  The dish had a nice salty and sweet flavor that we really enjoyed.

We also ordered the flavoured fries with rouille sauce.  Given the choice between truffle or walnut oil, we chose the truffle oil.  The fries were crispy, salty, and in addition to being cooked with truffle oil, they were sprinkled with parsley.  These were incredible.  The truffle oil added a new dimension of flavor and the dipping sauce was very similar to mayonnaise.  This was a very large serving and was one of our favorite appetizers.

The soup de jour was a creamy potato leek soup.  For those unfamiliar with leeks, they have a mild onion flavor and they provided a milder flavor that would be lost if a strong onion would have been used.  It was finished with a sundried tomato olive oil drizzle which added an extra zing of flavor that we did not expect.

The house salad or salade maison was incredibly fresh consisting of crispy greens, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, red pickled onions, and drizzled with a vinaigrette dressing.

Our next choice was the Charcuterie plate.  This consisted of duck liver mousse terrine, dry cured meats, confit grapes, cornichons, olives, and onion marmalade.  These meats were served with the same toasted bread we had with the confit olives and garlic.  We enjoyed this dish, especially the onion marmalade. 

If there is one thing that sets JaJa apart from other restaurants we have tried, it is their amazing sauces. Although sauces are a staple in French cuisine, compared to other French establishments, JaJa Bistro is the master of sauciness.  No kidding, people.  They are amazing.

First ordered was a dish called Millefeuilles d'Aubergies.  There was much debate at the table as to whether we should try this dish at all because it contains eggplant.  Eggplant is just one of those vegetables you either love or hate.  However, since the main reason for starting this blog was to try new things, we reluctantly decided to give it a go.  It consisted of slices of breaded eggplant layered with roasted chicken and topped with a creamy parmesan sauce.  This was complimented by baby carrots and squash.  The chicken was shredded and well seasoned, no knives necessary to dig into this one. The parmesan sauce was truly the front and center of the dish.  Parmesan is a very strong cheese so it had a very deep and rich flavor that brought all the elements together.  The dish was a tasty revelation.  While we're not ready to say we love eggplant, we can say that we really liked this meal.

JaJa's Pork Porterhouse was a very large portion of a wonderful cut of pork.  This was hands down the favorite dish of the evening.  It was served with grattine potatoes which were cooked to perfection.  This sauce was astonishing.  Although some of us at the table were not fans of Dijon mustard, it was such a fantastic accompaniment to the pork that we could not get enough of it.

The unexpected find for the night was the Trout Almondine.  Nobody attending this dinner was a fan of fish, especially trout.  In fact, childhood traumas had kept one of us from eating trout for the last fifteen years.  That being said, everybody loved this dish.  The way this dish was cooked was a miracle.  It was not fishy but flaky and came off the bone clean.  Cooked with an almond butter, the trout was coated perfectly and tasted fantastic.  This dish was served with brussel sprouts, green beans, and kale.  Absolute perfection!

As you all know, we here at MenuManiacs live for steak so we just had to try the steak frites au poivre.  This was a petite shoulder tender served with a velvety peppercorn sauce, roasted potato, and butter poached portabello mushrooms.  No complaints here. The steak was a good portion, juicy, and delicious.  Peppercorns and steak go hand in hand so we knew this would be an excellent choice.

For dessert, we tried most of the menu as it is our way.

There are a few "go-to" desserts out there for us and Tiramisu is one of them.  We know tiramisu isn't a french dessert but JaJa's  presentation of it will have you thinking magnifique. Served in a cappuccino cup, this layered dessert was fresh and creamy and was adorned with an ample layer of cocoa.

Aside from tiramisu, we tend to order crème brulee whenever possible.  It is one of our favorites and although a fairly simple dish, we are surprised how many places get this one wrong.  Not JaJa.  We left dinner that night knowing we had found the best vanilla bean crème brulee to date.  This was a perfect custard with a thin layer of carmelized sugar, not burnt or too thick or hard to get through.  It was served with a beautiful twill cookie of spun sugar that was a tasty and fun garnish to this light and playful dish.

The berry tartlet was served on a flaky pastry alongside goat cheese and fresh whipped cream.  This was a nice dish.  Admittedly, we are not fans of goat cheese due to the strong flavor; however, this was a wonderful and light way to end a meal.

Next up was the chocolate mousse.  A decedent dark chocolate confection topped with fresh berries. The balance of dark chocolate and light airy cream made every spoonful resplendent.  Absolutely heavenly!

Our favorite dessert of the evening was a frozen honey mousse with homemade raspberry compote.  The mousse itself was delicate and light with a subtle honey sweetness.  Because it was frozen, it had the texture of gelatto.  The raspberry compote was the perfect companion to the mousse and at the bottom of the cup was a glorious reservoir of honey.  We loved this dessert so much that we ordered a second helping.  Not only because of it's originality but also because we were not expecting such a lovely, whimsical dessert.

The thing we enjoyed about all JaJa's desserts was the wonderful garnishes.  Fresh berries and fresh whipped cream were a part of each dish. 

Also, the coffee served at JaJa is our favorite restaurant coffee thus far.  It is served in a French press and is absolutely astounding!

The People 

We admit it.  Sometimes, we tend to be a server's nightmare.  We promise it is not intentional, but we do ask a lot of questions regarding the menu.  As a group, we ask about ingredients, the history of the restaurant, add-ons, substitutions, food allergies, information about the owners, the chef, and the staff.  Also, we were so disorganized for this dinner.  Since all of us were arriving separately and not in a group,  it took us an entire hour to assemble our party.  Our server, Patrick was patient and courteous throughout the evening.  He checked on us at regular intervals as our party wandered in.  Although we did manage to stump him a couple times, he admitted to not knowing the answers and  returned with the information rather than making something up.  Integrity goes along way with us.
We also had the pleasure of meeting Janelle who is half of the Poullier husband/wife team that own JaJa Bistro.  She was delightful, energetic, and upbeat with a relaxed happy smile.  She came by to check on us and to take away some of our empty plates.  She was gracious and took the time to really talk to us.  Once again, a highly valued trait in an owner or manager.  Before we left, Janelle came by again with her husband, Chef Stephan.  He was kind, down to earth, and engaging.  Not many chefs come out to chat, so it was such a special treat for us.  Janelle, Chef Stephan, Patrick and the whole staff of JaJa Bistro were so welcoming and kind that they have made us patrons for life.  We love you guys!

Summing Up

 Chef Stephan serves dishes from his childhood in the south of France.  They change their menu as the season's change so there are plenty of good dishes to try.

Of course, we gave JaJa Bistro the coveted golden spoon because of the excellent menu, staff, atmosphere, and experience.

Once again, we thank Janelle, Stephan and the entire staff of JaJa Bistro for a wonderful and unforgettable dining experience.

JaJa Bistro on Urbanspoon
The Officially Unofficial Voting Legend
Take it with a grain of salt, we're not professionals.
Awesome place, we’ll shovel more food in our face!
It was okay. Not our favorite, but we’ll take another stab at it.
Didn’t make the cut.