I was conflicted with the news that Jennifer Coco would be leaving the The Flat Iron Cafe to start her own restaurant, J. Coco. At first I was excited to try the new dining experience and enjoy her cuisine, however then I became nervous – what if it wasn’t up to the culinary level of The Flat Iron? What if she couldn’t execute her new dishes in the same way she used to do? We recently dined at The Flat Iron and it still is one of my favorite upscale restaurants in Omaha. How would J. Coco compare?

Well, Jennifer Coco, you can rest assured that you are living up to your reputation. You alleviated my fears not once, but twice now and I’m excited to add you to my list of favorite dining places in town. The first time I dined, I took my in-laws and husband (all foodies, like myself) to experience the new restaurant. It was the second week of opening , on a Wednesday evening, and the place was absolutely packed. After waiting over an hour and half for a seat, we were eager to try some food and see if the wait was worth it. Luckily, it was. After enjoying the sweet and savory caramelized dates with bacon at the bar, we were excited to sample the pork belly and calamari appetizers. The pork belly is not for those who don’t like fatty meats – the crispy outside and smooth inside had a bit of a fatty taste for me, but the others in my group devoured it like the carnivores we all are. The rich flavor of the sauce, balanced out the slightly-flavorless grits. Opposite to the fattiness of the pork belly, the calamari was served with a fresh tomato relish that worked perfectly with the light tempura batter of the squid. This is a perfect summer appetizer for sharing.

For our entrees, we divided and conquered. The Wagyu Burger for me, as the others tried the Petite Tender Beef Medallions, Iowa Lamb and the Fish of the Day, Snapper. The Wagyu Burger was cooked perfectly and with the choices of cheeses and additions, I happily chose gouda and bacon for my add-ons. Served on a pretzel bun, it provided a slight hint of salt that complimented well with the beef and the amazing French fries. The Beef Medallions were a beautiful presentation on the plate and tasted just as good as they looked. Served with lobster, creamed spinach and wild mushrooms – it was the taste of a classic steakhouse dish, but better. One of the surprising dishes of popularity at our table was the Iowa Lamb cooked two ways. I’m typically not a lamb fan, but I couldn’t stop sneaking bites off my husband’s plate. With two sauces that enhance the flavor of the meat, you will find yourself surprised as how fast you eat this dish. Lastly, the fish. Well, three out of four ain’t bad- right? The snapper was served with a cous cous that lacked a significant flavor and the fish was slightly overcooked. The dish lacked a certain memorable experience that is important when eating a menu item that is the special of the day.

For my second trip to J.Coco, my husband and I decided to go for a different experience and dine on the outside patio for an early Saturday night dinner. Perfectly situated on the side of the building, the ambience is wonderful, and this time we were seated immediately. For an appetizer we ordered the Mussels with Frites and were delighted with our choice. The mussels were cooked perfectly and the light sauce and white wine provided a delicious flavor for the dish. Additionally, when ordering this dish, it is required to dip the French fries in the sauce for a full flavor experience. For our main dishes, we continued our carnivorous journey from our last visit and ordered the Braised Short Ribs as well as the Wagyu Flatiron Steak & Frites. The tenderness of the ribs made them truly fall off the bone, and the Asian-inspired sweet sauce went perfectly with the cold slaw on top of the meat. The steak and frites were also a huge success with its light béarnaise sauce and perfectly cooked meat. The meat and potatoes dish continued J. Coco’s reputation of making solid dishes that not only taste good but are fresh, light and classic.

Additionally, our server Scott recommended the Mac and cheese side dish and we would personally like to thank him for this. A four cheese pasta dish with crunched potato chips on top, you feel like a kid again, except this is not Velveeta’s mac and cheese. With a gourmet taste that makes the pasta melt in your mouth, you can’t stop eating it, even after you are full.

A great start for a great restaurant, J.Coco’s is bringing a modern flair to traditional dishes, all while tasting good and creating a relaxing place to eat, drink and eat some more.

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