Nestled away in a neighborhood in the shore town of Branford, Connecticut, in the former Augie’s Restaurant, is Jojoto, an authentic Venezuelan restaurant. Specially located at 130 Shore Drive Rd, Branford Connecticut. This small and quint Latin-infused location offers cuisine centered around the meaning of its name “corn on the cob”. Jojoto Restaurant is Modern Venezuelan Cuisine and the Home of Chef Neil Fuentes, The Singing Chef
Do not be surprised if you hear singing coming from the kitchen, as the chef here is none other than Chef Neil Fuentes, also known as the “Singing Chef”. Neil Fuentes is originally from Venezuela and has blended his passion for food and entertainment. He can be seen on Sensational Singing Chef, airing on Connecticut Style and his series on Food Channel’s Hot Spots.
Victor Figueroa, along with his wife Nichola, owners of Jojoto, take delight in bringing some of the flavors of his home country to Branford, Connecticut. Their passion for the restaurant and for each other are obvious when you meet them.
Victor and Nichola Figuero, owners of Jojoto
Jojoto offers both traditional and refined Venezuelan cuisine such as: Arepas stuffed with shredded beef; Reina Pepiada stuffed with potato chicken; Costillas de Res of sofrito and cabernet braised short ribs with polenta, gremolata and truffle essence; 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.
As we walked through the door, eagerly awaiting to start our sampling of their menu, we were greeted with a flute of prosecco and a look at the beautifully arranged bar.
After we were entertained by Chef Neil and his version of “Mack the Knife” and watched him prepare a dish for us, Cecelia prepared and presented to us two of their specialty drinks: Passion Fruit and Jalapeno cocktail and Tamarindo Martini. The passion fruit and jalapeno cocktail was a slightly spicy combination of passion fruit infused vodka and fresh jalapeno. Whereas the Tamarindo Martini was a blend of lime infused vodka, tamarindo, and simple syrup.
Oh, I almost forgot, while standing around chatting with the others and others with our group, Savannah, who by the way also entertained with a song later in the evening, offered us several appetizers, including: chicken stuffed empanadas, beef stuffed empanadas, rice and bean empanadas, beef arepa, reina pepiada arepa, and cheese arepas. It was hard to pick a favorite as each one tasty.
Jumping ahead, for the last entree, Chef Neil presented us with his version of Paella. Paella is a Valencian rice dish that originated in its modern form in the mid-nineteenth century near Albufera lagoon, a coastal lagoon in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. Wikipedia
Throughout the evening, we were served sample size offerings from the ‘starters” and “mains” menu. The list is bountiful and caulk full of flavorful items.
- Ensalada Mixta: potato, carrots, beets, tomato, quail egg, bacon, and orange honey vinaigrette
- The Venezuelan capresse: cheese, tomato, salt, pepper, and olive oil
- Venezuelan sandwich: La hamburguesa con todo: beef burger, lettuce, tomato, cheese, ham, coleslaw, potato chips, quail egg, and sauce.
- Pork sandwich: pork, homemade coleslaw, and Pernil
- Toston: shrimp, coleslaw, and cajun sauce
- Mejillones (mussels): mussel stuffed with ceviche style salad
- Gauacucos: clams with pasta con Guacucos
- El Pabellon Criollo: white rice, black beans, shredded beef, and sweet plantains
- Gallinita: citrus juices with shrimp fume, vegetables served over crispy chicken with leeks and sweet plantains
- Short rib: braied rib meat over polenta
The short rib was a big hit with all, in fact many asked for seconds, so Chef Neil came to the table with the pan and served up seconds.
For dessert we were treated to a trio: Tres leches, coconut custard cake, and churros. The coconut custard cake recipe came from Chef Neil’s mother and was excellent.
Not only will you get a true taste of Venezuelan food when you visit Jojoto, you will probably get entertained by the staff as well. The food was hearty and comfortening while layered with flavors.