The singing Chef Neil Fuentes showcases the food he grew up with along with Mango Martinis and a Little Bom-bom Shakin’ at Jojoto, located at 130 Shore Drive Road in Branford CT. There’s some added heat coming to the Branford, CT coastline, in mid-August, in the form of Jojoto, Venezuelan Restaurant + Bar. Owner Victor Figueroa has teamed up with culinary / entertainment powerhouse Neil Fuentes, a.k.a. The Singing Chef, in creating a restaurant and bar that features the cuisine both Victor and Neil grew up with in their home country of Venezuela.
Located in the beachy shoreline community on Shore Drive in Branford, CT, the petit restaurant and bar, formerly Augie’s Restaurant, has been transformed into a vibrant, high-energy, Latin infused locale for authentic Venezuelan dishes. Jojoto, which means “corn on the cob”, gets its cues from its namesake, with many of its food preparations utilizing this versatile grain (when harvested past maturity) and vegetable (when harvested before maturity). The dining room, which seats 40, is framed by large glass windows and bright sun kissed walls, enlarged by an oversized mirror. The sleek bar boasts a large screen TV and striking cityscape prints of Caracas, Venezuela.
Address: 130 Shore Drive Rd, Branford CT 06405
In addition to the sound of singing coming out of Neil’s kitchen, there are plenty of bold flavors and from-scratch recipes at play. The “traditional” side of the menu highlights more rustic, peasant style dishes including; Arepas stuffed with shredded beef and Reina Pepiada stuffed with potato chicken salad; Empanada Tasting; Toston, garlic seasoned, deep fried unripe plantain with slaw and spicy shrimp; Cachapa, fresh sweet corn pancake with cheese; Mejillones a la Vinagretta, chilled stuffed mussels; and Guacucos, clams with lime, shallots, shrimp fume and homemade linguini.
More refined dishes highlight land and sea preparations such as; Costillas de Res of sofrito and cabernet braised short ribs with polenta, gremolata and truffle essence; Venezuelan BBQ with beef tenderloin, chicken, pork, choice of chorizo or blood sausage, yuca, guasacaca and crema fresca; Hamburguesa Venezolana piled high with lettuce, tomato, ham, queso, avocado, bacon, crushed potato chips, slaw, ketchup, mustard, garlic sauce, topped with a duck egg and served with truffle fries; Pabellon Criollo with rice, black beans, shredded beef and sweet plantains; and Gallinita Rellena, deboned, crispy skin Cornish hen stuffed with leeks and sweet plantain with an orange, lemon grass and honey reduction . Seasonal paella preparations and market fresh fish dishes change daily.
The beverage program stays true to Jojoto’s Venezuelan roots. Martinis and specialty cocktails are made with mango, passion fruit and fresh citrus juices and purees. Top shelf spirits, house made infusions, craft beers and a select wine list of varietals from Spain and Argentina round out the beverage menu. Look for a mid-August opening.
Chef Neil Fuentes: Neil Fuentes was raised on a farm in Venezuela and upon graduating from performing arts school, his combined passion for food and entertainment led to his popular persona, “The Singing Chef”. The Sensational Singing Chef, airing on Connecticut Style on WTNH Television in New Haven, CT since 2009, continues to be a highly rated show for the network, garnering numerous awards and a cult-like following. National appearances include The Food Network’s hit show Chopped, Sabra Humus’ Recipe Makeovers, as well as Neil’s on-going series on Food Channel’s Hot Spots, where Neil takes viewers on culinary tours throughout New England.
Victor Figueroa was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and one of six children to a single mother, Victor learned what hard work meant early on. In addition to a strong education, Victor was very passionate about anything that flew, which led him to the Venezuelan air force at the age of 17 and paragliding off mountains while he pursued an accounting career. In 1996 he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Universidad Catolica Andres Bello.
After working as an auditor in Venezuela for many years, due to political unrest Victor decided to pursue a master’s degree in the United States and in 2006 he completed his MBA. The lessons he learned from his mother about hard work had paid off when his employers paid his tuition and sponsored his green card. Victor’s dreams continue to come true as he and his wife Nichola raise two beautiful girls in Branford. And now another dream has now become a reality – bringing a taste of Venezuela to his home, to his family and to this country in the form of Jojoto.