Crave for Latin Foods at Joyce and Gigi’s

Joyce and Gigi’s has been on my To-Eat list for some time now. After doing some recon, I was excited to check this place out. For over a year, I’ve driven past this place without giving it a second thought. To be honest, I thought it was some crappy Asian fast food restaurant because the red and yellow signage reminded me of Lover’s Eggrolls. Whoops! Anyway, the reviews and the menu sounded promising and I was in the mood for something different.

It’s been a while since I’ve been out on a double date, so I thought Joyce and Gigi’s would be a great spot to check out. So who better to invite then my own favorite Guatemalan, Esteban and my really good friend Claire. The restaurant is owned by a mother and daughter and it offers a mix of Argentinian, Bolivian and Peruvian inspired dishes so I hoped he could help me validate with his taste buds if this was a solid joint. (Not that Guatemalan is the same as all South American foods, but there are similarities).

Joyce and Gigi’s is located right next to the Method  coffee shop. It’s a very strange location hidden between a random neighborhood and “the hood” off Ross and Hall St. There isn’t much of parking lot, so we had to valet our cars and hope none of them would go missing later.

The restaurant is super cute on the inside. Very homey and the natural light that pours in makes it instantly likable. The bar area has this faux-kitchen feel to bring out the coziness of the dining room. It was like stepping into grandma’s home and something you wouldn’t expect at all. We were quickly seated and started perusing the menu over a few glasses of the Kaiken (Mendoza red blend wine)….

The menu is relatively small so between the four of us, we were able to try quite a few dishes. Here’s the recap:

The Appetizers:

Rice Croquettes
Rice Croquettes

These rice croquettes were part of the appetizer specials that evening and they were heavenly. The insides were cooked with a bit of chicken and had more of a fluffy potato-ey texture. Coupled with the red sauce, it was a party in my mouth. Loved this dish.

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Beef heart pâté with croutons.

IMG_4941Next, we had the beef heart pâté. I’m pretty used to liver pâté and love the creamy texture when you spread it on a small piece of bread, so I sort of expected the same for the beef heart. It was actually a little crumbly, but spread well enough. Eaten with the little croutons it was pretty good and the cooked onion gave it a little more sweetness. Alone, though, kind of salty. I wished they had provided a few more slivers of the croutons. Plenty of the pâté left over.

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Yuca and Plantains with a locoto aoili

The yuca and plantains came with a spicy aoili and it was actually quite nice. If a restaurant can’t, at the very least, serve up some decent fried plantains, run. Guatemalan approved.

The Entrees:

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Seared sea bass over a yuca root cake.

Here is the Pescado Sudado, which is seared sea bass perched over a bed of yuca root cake and topped with a chili broth. It was cooked perfectly, but a little salty for my taste. Portion size was kind of small (but that’s usually the case with sea bass), but we made up for that with all the sides. It didn’t have an overwhelming fishy taste to it. My friend Claire, who isn’t a fan of anything seafood, tried and really liked it. The spices and flavoring helped to muddle the taste of the sea and the texture of the fish wasn’t slimy.

Anticuchos - beef and veggie skewers cooked to a perfect medium rare.
Anticuchos – beef and veggie skewers cooked to a perfect medium rare.

My friends both got the Anticuchos, which are skewers of garlic marinated beef with peppers and onions over a puree of garbanzo beans. There was really great flavor from these succulent little chunks and it was cooked to a perfect medium rare. Any carnivore would love this dish. It paired well with the garbanzo puree. Although, the American in me kind of wished it was sweet potato, but I’m sure that would’ve desecrated this plate. I was hankering for some sweetness to cut the salty. Overall, the men really this digged this dish.

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Feijoada – pork shoulder, sirloin, and chorizo black bean stew.

I had the Feijoada. No matter how many times I try, I can never pronounce this correctly. Feee-hah-da? Foy–jaaa-dah? Feh-jaah-dah? Whatever. Either way, not entirely what I expected. The description sung of homemade chorizo, pork shoulder and pork sirloin in a black bean stew. I was kind of expecting more meat or at least a chunkier stew. Not just black soup. The flavors were there, but there were wayyy to many beans and I had a hard time finding the chunks of pork shoulder. Slightly salty and I couldn’t finish it. I was afraid for the gas I would have to pass later if I ate all those beans.

The Sides:

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Homemade chorizo

One of the sides we got was the homemade chorizo. They came out with the same spicy cream sauce as the yuca and plantain appetizer. It had that nice spicy kick to it. It was ok, I wasn’t wowed by it.

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Escabeche Eggplant

I ordered the Escabeche as my side and I was not a fan. I should’ve done a little more research on what this was because it is a dish served cold and usually made with chicken or fish. This escabeche was made just with eggplant and it had this balsamic tang that was overwhelming. Would’ve been great with some toast bread or croutons perhaps. The mixture of the oil and how the eggplant was prepared made them really slimy and hard to swallow. I am usually all about trying new things, but I was not a fan. After a few bites, I could not convince myself to like it.

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Corn Cake

One of the more likable sides would be the corn cake. Think Latin corn bread with a hint of sweetness. I would probably order this again.

Dessert:

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Chocolate G’s Cake

For dessert, we ended our night with chocolate cheese cake with a shaved spicy bitter chocolate on top and dried cherries. After trying a few adventurous things, we thought maybe play it safe with the cake and have a happy belly. Instead, the cheese cake was quite rich and a little hard. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as sweet as you would expect and the spicy bitter chocolate was a strange contrast. The sweets addict in our group wasn’t much of a fan and that’s saying something

The Verdict: Meh.

I walked in with such high hopes and my expectations weren’t quite met. Stupid hype. Overall, the meal was decent. I felt the main dishes were a little heavy on the salt and the sides we got weren’t all that impressive. My favorite would be those rice croquettes. My least favorite being the eggplant Escabeche but that was a fail on my part. I should’ve asked for more clarification, but I kind of wished the menu had stated that it was a cold dish.

For three appetizers, four entrees, three sides, a $40 bottle of wine, two specialty drinks and a dessert, the bill came out to be around $200. It wasn’t too bad considering how much we did order between the four of us.

We all did have a great time tasting the food and enjoying each other’s company. The ambience was great. It can get loud in the small space, but that night wasn’t super busy so it worked out. I would come back a second time perhaps for happy hour, but I’m not quite sold on checking out the menu again for a sit down dinner. I wonder if I had ordered different things, if my experience would’ve been better. If I had a chance to revise my choices, I would get the empanadas or the chicharrons instead of the beef heart pâté, or the churrasco with chimichurri sauce and maybe the gratin chilean potatoes for my main course. The bread pudding for dessert. Who knows. Maybe next time?

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