First Look: Jaja, Opening at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12

The restaurant is billed as a shared-plate steakhouse with a free-spirited vibe

click to enlarge Jaja opens at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12 - Marina Goldi
Marina Goldi
Jaja opens at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12
Intro, the new nine-story apartment complex across the street from the West Side Market, already has unveiled Edda Coffee Roasters, the all-day café, Pioneer, the wood-fired sports bar, and Truss, the rooftop event space. Next up for the team at Harbor Bay Ventures is Jaja, which is described by president of hospitality Dan Whalen as a sexy shared-plate steakhouse with Latin American and Mediterranean influences.

When guests exit the elevator on the second level, they will be immersed in a drama-filled space that was designed to foster a fun, casual, free-spirited vibe.

“The idea was to create something that is sensory overload,” Whalen explains. “We want to transport people. We want people to walk out of that elevator and feel like they are somewhere else, in a place that doesn’t really belong in Cleveland.”

That vibe is achieved thanks to a combination of plush fabrics, natural stone, ornate decorative details, jaw-dropping views and lots of greenery. Above a light-trimmed lattice ceiling is a retractable glass roof that opens to the skies. With the push of a button, the airy second-floor space takes on the feel of a rooftop patio.

Unlike the spacious 175-seat Pioneer one floor down, Jaja is smaller by design, accommodating about 75 guests indoors.

“We wanted it to be intimate and to always feel full,” Whalen notes.

Executive chef Brian Whalen has devised a wide-ranging menu that is divided into categories for vegetables, meat, fish and seafood. A large majority of the foods will be coming off the massive live-fire cooking suite at Pioneer. The 20-foot wood-fired grill was designed to be large enough to support both restaurants.

Everything from the smallest snacks to the meatiest large-format steaks are built for sharing. The goal is to prepare and present high-end steakhouse fare while maintaining a relaxed, festive atmosphere.

“We want people to let their hair down and have a good time but while still serving upscale food,” adds Whalen. “We want to encourage a social, convivial dining experience."

In the vegetable department are plates like savory spinach flans, burrata with charred bread, "burnt' carrot with whipped goat cheese, and chanterelle pasta with Pernod cream sauce. Fish options include grouper crudo with candied blood orange, grilled head-on prawns with chili aioli, and whole split lobster with chimichurri butter. Meat eaters can start with braised and grilled pork belly and roasted marrow bones before moving on to a choice of eight different cuts of beef. They range from a small filet on up to 44-ounce dry-aged tomahawk, with prime hangars, picanhas and porterhouses in between.

The stars of the menu might just be the parilladas, large mixed platters devoted either to seafood or grilled meats. Each features a variety of items served with plenty of accompaniments and grilled bread.

An exceptional cocktail list will be joined by wines from around the globe, including less familiar gems plucked from South America, Argentina, Chile, Spain, Slovenia and Croatia.

When it opens on Wednesday, Oct. 12, Jaja will serve dinner every night but Monday and Sunday brunch.

To snag a spot on opening day, click here.

click to enlarge Jaja opens at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12 - Marina Goldi
Marina Goldi
Jaja opens at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12
click to enlarge Jaja opens at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12 - Marina Goldi
Marina Goldi
Jaja opens at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12
click to enlarge Jaja opens at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12 - Marina Goldi
Marina Goldi
Jaja opens at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12
click to enlarge Jaja opens at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12 - Marina Goldi
Marina Goldi
Jaja opens at Intro in Ohio City on Wednesday, Oct. 12

About The Author

Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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