Jollity’s food will elevate your mood this season

Jollity

Credit: Alexis Larsen

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Jollity

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Restaurant opened in Dayton’s Fire Blocks District in May.

In this season of giving thanks, it’s a time for me to reflect on some of the best meals that I’ve had this year.

There have been lots of them for sure, but one new restaurant has consistently delivered best meals time and time again without fail.

Jollity, a swanky spot in the Fire Blocks District downtown that opened at the end of May has delivered the vision, flavor and food experience that co-owners Brendon Miller (executive chef), Zackary Weiner (chef) and Nathan Heil (front of house manager) promised.

The menu changes weekly with Chefs Miller and Weiner coordinating with local farmers and testing dishes one to two weeks in advance.

The menu is split into two sections — “for the table” features a variety of small plates and salads that can be shared or enjoyed solo. The of the moment: are a rotating selection of entrees.

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Brussel Sprouts at Jollity

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Brussel Sprouts at Jollity

Credit: Alexis Larsen

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Brussel Sprouts at Jollity

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

“We introduce new menu items as frequently as possible. We want to keep our staff and customers engaged in the food that we create, cocktails we craft, or wine we source. Constant education has always been at the top of the list of priorities so we try to learn and teach as much as we can,” Weiner said. “We specialize in midwestern food with international flavor and influence. A lot of those flavors and techniques are borrowed from parts of Japan and Korea but you can find influence from multiple different countries at any given point.”

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The food is interesting, dramatic and layered with flavor on top of flavor that surprises and delights. It’s playful, captivating, and, most importantly, really, really good.

They do not offer modifications or substitutions on any of their menu items, but the menu offers plenty of gluten free, vegan and vegetarian menu options at any given time.

“Our most popular dishes right now are our short ribs served with sweet potato puree, pickled apple, and SO sauce. The second most popular is our Koji aged New York strip served with confit pebble potatoes, miso roasted cippolini onions, and house fermented steak sauce. Risotto is also a dish we can’t make enough of right now,” said Weiner.

The restaurant is offering a special eight-course tasting menu with optional wine pairing for New Year’s Eve that has sold out. Although you can’t be there, the menu gives you a sense of the kind of culinary creativity that is on display every time you step inside the restaurant.

The decadent meal begins with a Koji vegetable charcuterie with locally grown veggies that are slow aged with koji — a starch that has been inoculated with mold that is safe for human consumption. It’s a fermenting agent that is an integral part in making soy sauce, miso and sake. It is used often in Japanese cooking and is commonly used to age meat.

Next is a mushroom kushikatsu, a street food specialty of Osaka, Japan. These fried mushrooms will be served with kushikatsu sauce, red brussel leaves and green shiso. A savory lotus root soup topped with seven different herb oils and a crispy root vegetable chip is the third course.

Sake and mirin steamed rock shrimp served with a yuzu emulsion and house made furikake is the firth course, followed by a thinly sliced hamachi served with buttermilk vinaigrette, waabi, orange and herbs. A pork belly cabbage roll lightly cooked in dashi and mounted with kimchi butter is course six. Next is the course which ingredients hail a crowning achivement — an A5 Japanese cut of premium Wagyu beef. This is a very special cut of meat that is beautifully marbled and unequaled in flavor. Seared until rare, Jollity will serve it crusted in local juniper from Little Miami Farms and serve it with a reduced coffee demi made from Kurasu Cafe in Kyoto and sherry scented cippolini onions.

Dessert is the chefs take on their childhood favorite candied apples.

Sound interesting? There’s no question it is. And based on every meal I’ve eaten at Jollity so far, it’s also going to be incredibly satisfying and delicious.

“We try to innovate however we can. A lot of inspiration comes from our years of travel and work experience in vastly different parts of the country or world. The other inspiration comes from meals we may have recently shared together where we discovered a flavor or ingredient we were unfamiliar with, books, farmers, or just trying something completely on a whim because it sounds good to us,” said Weiner. “I think our drive to offer a full experience is what makes us a special destination. Between the ambiance, the food, the service, and the bar program we truly believe no aspect is more important than the other and they all have to be in constant sync to provide the best possible experience. Our staff does an amazing job at working as a team and delivering an experience to our guests.”

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The co-owners come to the table with an impressive restaurant resume to draw on — they have worked at C’est Tout, Olive: An Urban Dive, Rue Dumaine, Roost and Meadowlark to name a few. They have learned from some of the best chefs that Dayton has seen in the last decade and it shows in the cooking. A look at just a few of the signature dishes they have become known for tell the story ...

“Our New York strip is rubbed down with a mixture of Koji and salt and is sits for a minimum of 48 hours. Koji is the ingredient that makes all fermented japanese food taste amazing such as soy sauce, miso, sake,” said Weiner. “The Koji repicates a 30-day dry aging process in 48-96 hours. The longer it sits the better the steak gets. We served the steak with slow cooked pebble potatoes, cippolini onions rubbed in white miso sourced from Kyoto that get steamed before a high temperture roast, and our house fermented hot sauce which is a mixture of guchijang, dried fruit, garlic, shallot, soy, and sugars.”

“Our Risotto is made with Tamanishiki Rice which is two kinds of short grain rice from California that are selected for their texture and flavor. After sweating ginger and onion we add the rice and sake. Then we slowly add our mushroom dashi like you would stock in a traditional risotto. This gets topped with a trinity of roasted mushrooms provided by Guided By Mushrooms, Mizuna from Greentable Gardens, and crispy garlic chips. We keep it completely vegan, relying on the flavors of dashi to mimic the cheese and the starch content of the rice to replace the cream,” said Weiner.

It’s this kind of attention to ingredients, cooking methods and dish creation that impresses regardless of what’s on the menu that day. And the bar program is every bit as impressive and tasty as what’s coming out of the kitchen.

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Drinks being poured at the bar at Jollity

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Drinks being poured at the bar at Jollity

Credit: Alexis Larsen

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Drinks being poured at the bar at Jollity

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Since opening they have added additional seating to accommodate more guests, added a brunch service which paused at the beginning of the month and will resume in spring of 2022, grown the wine list and expanded the menu. They’ve also continued to attract attention from new customers who delight in exploring a creative menu that’s well executed and unlike any menu in town.

“We hope that by opening Jollity we are able to help elevate the dining scene in Dayton by doing something just different enough. We love this city so much and if we can help introduce new foods or wines that people in this area may or may not be familiar with and everyone has fun doing it, then we consider it a successful impact,” said Weiner. “Jollity is simple ... Good Food, Good Mood. That’s simply all it’s ever been about.”

Jollity is a restaurant that has unquestionably elevated dining in Dayton as far as I’m concerned, and in this season of giving thanks, this is a restaurant that’s at the top of my list.

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Share info about your menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and culinary adventures. Do you know of exciting outdoor spaces, new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com with the information and we will work to include it in future coverage.

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