The front desk of Jo Jo Taipei, a Taiwanese eatery in Allston, is decorated in the casual way that makes it look comfortably haphazard—colorful flowers sit in a vase alongside a figurine of a monkey, toothpicks, and mints, with yellow lights dangling above the desk’s surface.
Not many people know the differences between the signature dishes of different Asian foods, but going to Jo Jo Taipei will certainly introduce a great variety of new foods, including three cups chicken, stinky tofu, beef noodle soup, or Taiwanese meatballs.
While these names might appear strange, these foods are not all that different from those with which people are generally more familiar. Three cups chicken, for example, is three cups of liquids—sesame oil, rice wine, and soy sauce—combined to give the chicken flavor. Stinky tofu, on the other hand, is tofu soaked in a fermented brine of vegetables, herbs, and meats. The tofu acquires the scent of the brine, which leads to its unusual name. Although they have unual names, the dishes taste better than one might expect.
Wanting to bring authentic Taiwanese cuisine to Boston, the owner, Sherry Liu, originally had owned a store in a different part of Boston, but opened up the new restaurant, Jo Jo Taipei—a name which literally translates to “long long Taipei”—in Allston.
“She loves to get to know the college kids here,” said long-time employee Liz Chen. “She sits down with the kids while they’re having food and always loves to chat, whether it’s speaking in Chinese or English. She gets ideas from the students and gets feedback about the different dishes as well. It’s why she opened the restaurant here as well. You have Boston College on one side, Boston University on another, and you have MIT and Harvard in the area as well.
“I started off working here when [Liu] just opened up around the area,” Chen said. “[Liu] is one of the best ladies there is, and she’s very hardworking as well.”
According to Chen, Liu has lived in Boston for some time, and, knowing what was around in the local food scene, wanted to put a new spin on cuisine in the area.
Due to the closeness of the employees, Chen said, they avoid using formal, designated titles for themselves around the eatery.
“We’re all very close to each other,” she said.
Jo Jo Taipei has been open for seven years and still stands strong, with a diverse clientele—one will not only hear Chinese spoken here. The restaurant has a cozy and intimate environment, with only about 14 tables that fit about six people per table. Aside from Liu sitting down to chat with customers, the staff always welcomes customers by the door, often striking up conversations about the local happenings. The location is convenient as well, about 15 minutes by car or 25 minutes by the B-line from BC.
Because of the smaller setting, everyone is seated closely to each other, which is similar to restaurants in Taiwan where dining is an intimate activity, and where family and friends usually share the same plates of food. College students can receive a five percent discount by showing a valid college ID, and a 10 percent discount if they pay in cash.
“[Liu] wants to try to help out the college students too,” Chen said of the discount.
With a strong community of not only college students eating at Jo Jo Taipei, the restaurant continues to serve authentic Taiwanese cuisine in an intimate atmosphere.
Featured Image by Eileen Kao / For the Heights