The Palm Springs Valley is extremely fortunate to have the culinarily inclined entrepreneurial spirit of Tara Lazar and Marco Rossetti. This charming (and it must be said, quite easy-on-the-eyes) married couple have come up with yet another eatery to feed the hungry masses who live in and visit the communities of the Greater Palm Springs Oasis. With the opening of their newest brainchild—the Asian concept restaurant Jiao—they have officially scored a “three-peat” in the eating Olympics. And it’s again, gold medals all the way! Their first venture, Cheeky’s (which serves some of the coolest breakfast and lunch dishes in town), was soon followed by dinner and late-night Italian-themed hangout, Birba. And all three eateries are now a rousing success within two blocks of each other on North Palm Canyon in Palm Springs.
“Jiao” has a number of different translations from the original Chinese, including “female dragon,” “beautiful,” and “corner.” And not coincidentally, the restaurant, located in The Corridor in the Uptown Design District, is on a corner, and the space very simple and beautiful. With a bit of an urban flair, the interior is small, with a stainless steel counter and low turquoise stools. The rest of the seating is all outdoors under umbrellas on two sides of the building’s corner. It’s perfect for people watching.
My buddy Gusto (whom you may remember introduced me to Birba) was hired as the manager of Jiao, and on my first visit he and Rasa (one of the most warm, charming, talented, and knowledgeable servers I’ve ever encountered—and I have eaten out a lot all around the world) helped my friends and I pick a wonderful assortment of dishes to tantalize our every taste bud. With a Chinese background, Tara recalled her maternal grandmother’s cooking techniques and tastes to come up with a collection of eclectic dishes that span the Asian continent. The menu is kept comfortably usable, with four to eight each of soups, salads, shared plates, main dishes, and sides. I have been so many times that it would be impossible to list all of my favorites, but a few stand out as “must-haves,” especially for first time diners.
Refreshing Imperial Rolls (daikon and glass noodles in a lettuce wrap) and Grilled Shisito Peppers with sea salt and black sesame are the perfect appetizers to nibble on while relaxing with one of the many available Asian beers or carefully selected wines. The Avocado, Mizuna (a Japanese lettuce), and Yuzu (Asian citrus) Salad is truly one of the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten. Amazing shared plates and main courses include Shaking Beef, Wok Fried Shrimp, and the Spicy Spicy Spicy Mapo Tofu Clay Pot (just order it and don’t look back). Naturally, my meal wouldn’t be complete without an order of Chinese Broccoli with Slow Braised Char Sui Pork Belly! By the way, main courses range from $11-15, so in addition to amazing food, you won’t break the bank at this place.
Each and every one of the interesting desserts are fun and—as my mother would say—“different!” The Mango Sticky Rice and the Chocolate Passion Fruit Mousse are particularly appealing.
I can’t say enough good things about Jiao, or about Tara and Marco, or about their other two restaurants. They are three of the most innovative, fun, popular, and just plain old delicious places to eat and drink and hang out while in the desert. And thankfully, they’re all just a quick drive from my place in Rancho Mirage!