Restaurant Review - JaJaJa NYC
Updated: Sep 11, 2018
Hey, y'all! It's fashion week and that means that I'm in NYC. This is my first long-stay trip to New York as a vegan and I am super excited to eat as much vegan food as possible! My first stop was "JaJaJa" (pronounced Ha-Ha-Ha), a vegan Mexican restaurant downtown. I happened to be two blocks away at a casting and when I searched nearby vegan options, it popped up. Everyone loves Mexican food and since the Nashville airport offered nothing vegan this morning, I was pretty starving.
The restaurant is small, but it doesn't feel claustrophobic. The light, vintage colors and decor give it a laid back, vintage diner feel. There was a wait, so my bestie, Rob and I grabbed a seat at the bar and waited. The bartender suggested a Coconut Matcha cocktail and we obliged. It was delicious and very strong! She even garnished it with a matcha cactus on top! That makes it healthy, right?
When our table was ready, we ambled over to a corner spot with a beautiful mint and orchid infused vase of water on the table. The water didn't absorb any flavors, but it looked really beautiful, and as a restaurant owner, I know how much those damn orchid flowers cost. That is some expensive free water! Props to them.
As I previously mentioned, I was starving. I decided to order two appetizers, of course. I obviously got the vegan nachos because you can't go wrong there. I was also intrigued by the heart of palm ceviche.
As you can see, the nachos were layered with delicious vegan queso, sour cream, verde sauce, roasted corn, fresh greens, and lots of vegan chorizo! It was exceptionally decadent. My only thought to make the nachos better is that we could have used more chips. When we got down to the bottom, it was a soupy, cheesy, chorizo-y bowl and we could have used a few more chips to scoop up all the goodness. That's hardly a complaint, though!
I really enjoyed the ceviche. I haven't seen or tried anything as innovative as this before and flavor-wise, my expectations were kind of low. However, I thought that it was great and the two non-vegans dining with me loved it too! The plantain chips that accompanied the ceviche were not my favorite. I am not a huge plantain chip person, so that may just be my prerogative. In my experience, plantain chips are either so thick that they almost taste stale, or they're undercooked and greasy. They also lack flavor unless they're really well seasoned. I get that the chips are just a vessel for the ceviche, so I would still recommend the ceviche but maybe ask for tortilla chips instead of the plaintain chips.
All of the entrees were genuinely spectacular! Again, making Mexican food vegan is not the most difficult task in the world and I was kind of expecting to see some cut corners and basic flavors, but I was really blown away by the complexity of each dish.
The quesadilla was not a massive portion-size (or maybe I'm just used to seeing a ridiculously huge plate of food at Mexican restaurants in Tennessee), but the flavors with clean, simple, and sultry. Fresh cilantro and lime kept the dish light and easy to take bite after bite.
Before I was vegan, the chile relleno was my go-to at any Mexican restaurant. If you aren't familiar, a chile relleno is a poblano pepper, traditionally stuffed with cheese, battered, fried, and smothered with red sauce. This one had mushrooms, zuchinni, vegan cheese, jalapenos, and I swear I saw olives but maybe it was just mushrooms. regardless, there was something in the red sauce with a tangy kick and it was incredible. My friends dining with me had never had one and they both loved it. It was so rich that after eating two appetizers, I was not able to finish the whole thing.
I have never been a fan of mole. I have tried to like it at several, high end Mexican establishments and the sauce was always off. It gave me a bitter taste and after my third attempt, I gave up on mole. My friend, Cody ordered with Mole Enchiladas and they were insanely scrumptious! First of all, he was convinced that they were not vegan... and that's a win coming from a non-vegan. Haha I had a bite and had to have several more. The sauce was perfectly balanced with just enough chocolate and spice. It was flavorful, extremely well-crafted, and absolutely the best mole sauce that I have ever tasted. This is my favorite dish of the day, by far.
Overall, I highly recommend trying Jajaja while you're in NYC! Even if you are not vegan, you will absolutely love the mix of classic Mexican staples with Californian flare and gorgeous presentation. I may even go back while I'm in town, but I have to tackle a few more vegan staples first.
Have you tried Jajaja? What were your thoughts?
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