Story by Anni Caporuscio
Photos by Steve Meredith
Picture this. You walk from the parking lot of a tiny Kapa‘a shopping center into a completely different world, where the ambiance and the food make you feel like you’re in a sensory-loaded dream.
Chef Jean-Marie Josselin’s Asian-Pacific fusion cuisine already had a legendary reputation. But with JO2, his newest enterprise, he has topped anything he has done.
JO2 is cozy, intimate and comprised of eccentric bits of luxury décor: art deco fixtures, textured wall panels, warm lighting. Contemporary with a subtle presence, everything is cream and with beige gradients, like an empty canvas waiting for the color.
And the color is the food.
In every dish, vibrant colors and flavors balance each other, like in an artist’s palette.
The artist here, Josselin, refers to his menu as “Natural Cuisine.”
“How else would you do it?” he said, with a shrug.
Josselin spends an immense amount of time with farmers, planning his menu. And he adjusts it frequently, based on what is available each season.
For example, JO2 usually stocks eight types of tomatoes. But now, during hot and slow growing months, there are only two, which reflects on the menu. On the flipside, oxcart carrots, which take up to six months to grow (wow!), are in season — and on the menu.
Josselin and server VanNghi proposed our menu. As our dishes were being served, I marveled at the craft of producing beautiful food.
The dishes are served family-style, and meant to be shared, so you can taste a few dishes No ka mala ‘ai mai (from the garden), I’a no uka a me kai (from the mountain to ocean), and Pupu.
In between sighs and mouthfuls, I played a game with myself to identify the complementary elements.
Traditionally French vegetables (nantais carrots, oxcart carrots, eggplant, local pumpkin) + creamy coconut curry (nice and spicy with thick slices of coconut meat) = Dashi Braised Nantai Carrot. Crème fraiche + sweet chili sauce = the sauces served with the Korean Style Short Rib (with a Vietnamese crepe).
VanNghi and Kelly, our servers, were professional, knowledgeable and kind enough that I didn’t feel shy about asking what is “pistou,” “romesco sauce,” or “bibimbap.”
Visit www.jotwo.com or call 212-1627 for information or reservations. Also, check their Instagram and Facebook accounts for holiday specials and events.
JO2 is at 4-971 Kuhio Hwy in Kapa‘a.
- Anni Caporuscio is a food lover and can be found daily at her Kapa‘a business, Small Town Coffee.