Locals who dine out were familiar with Jolene Mannina long before she operated her Sloppi Jo’s food truck. The charming, ebullient New Orleans native has worked as a server at N8Ne Steakhouse, and even today can be found at STK at the Cosmo in a similar capacity.
But today, she’s branching out, having formed a new company called Dinefine, which specializes in catering. She’s running the business on a shoestring at present, with her partner, Chef Joshua Clark, who has cooked all over town.
The two are looking for a brick and mortar location in which to produce a radical new restaurant concept, which she wouldn’t tell me about in detail. “If I tell you, I’ll have to kill you”, she told me, while on my lap. If you’ve ever seen Jolene, you’ll know that’s a fair trade for an old geezer like yours truly.
Recently, Mannina and Clark hosted a pop-up dinner that they named Chowdowntown, held at Le Thai, the hippest place downtown. And all the luminaries were there, including the two that run Insert Coins, the bar across the street from Le Thai, Zappo’s Tony Hsieh, and others.
We weren’t disappointed. The dinner was terrific, so much so that I’m looking forward to former Wazuzu chef Jet Tila’s dinner on the 30th this month, to be held at Public House at the Venetian. (Tila is currently at The Charleston, a Santa Monica nightclub, where he is wowing them.)
The kitchen at Le Thai is tiny, the crowd was an overflow. I had to fight just to get a seat, and felt guilty that I was depriving someone of his. But the dinner was memorable, even if it took nearly four hours to get all the food out. By 11:30, when the dessert course was served, an unusual number of guests had already departed.
Here’s what we ate:
Course One: cured salmon, grapefruit, avocado, smoked paprika. It was served in a tiny spoon, a true amuse, and the flavors worked well.
Course Two: asparagus, lemon, olive, chili. Again, a delicious concept, though some complained about too much chili. Not me.
Course Three: beef tartare, pho flavors, rice crackers. Intense, unusual and concentrated, this dish used aspic to convey its Vietnamese cast.
Course Four: octopus “Bolognese”, pasta, furikake crunch. This was, for many, the hit of the evening, the octopus substituting credibly for a meat sauce, and the furikake adding texture.
Course Five: pork tenderloin & confit, spring vegetables, fennel jus. An unqualified success, the portion was surprisingly hearty.
Course Six: rhubarb, meringue, lime, rosemary. The dessert added a surprise, with the meringue stuck to a buttery shortbread cookie.
The cost for this meal, which was BYOB, was a reasonable $50. All the guests paid by an honor system, stuffing the money into a paper box.
I hope Mannina gets a location soon; if she ever plans another pop-up, count me in. In the meantime, you can contact her for a private dinner by calling 326-3766, or emailing here at Jolene@sloppijos.com.
Unicahome.com was founded in 1998 by Hugh and Bonnie Fogel. Featuring over 65,000 products, Unicahome.com is a complete lifestyle store for home, office and contract use featuring Bridal Registry, Furniture, Lighting, Accessories, Barware, Food and Great Gifts from noted designers and top brands sourced worldwide. Our 18,000 square foot store is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, just minutes away from the world famous Las Vegas Strip. We hope you enjoyed your visit to Unicaworld!