How hot is Joey? Hot enough to blow a fuse, I deduce, when I show up for lunch to find the sizzling new Fashion Island venue plunged into darkness by a power outage. All systems are down, from check-in to ordering to the massive kitchen. A crew member offers flutes of bubbly as we ponder Plan B on the patio.
Given reservations here are tricky to nab, even weeks in advance, we hold tight and are rewarded with a table when the power returns 40 minutes later. The reboot is gradual. Our waitress laughs about the now-quaint act of scribbling our order on a paper pad.
Joey’s sole menu is a tightly curated lineup served all day, every day—no specials. With eight locations in the U.S., Canada-born Joey says menus vary according to locale and audience, though there is negligible difference between offerings at older siblings in Downtown L.A., Manhattan Beach, and Woodland Hills. The eclectic fare might seem rambling—sliders, ravioli, Korean-spiced tofu, sushi rolls, and steak frites all from one kitchen? But the disparate dishes are notably consistent, vetted, and distilled to a menu of A-team performers. This is cuisine with an eye toward scaling and expansion as opposed to an indie chef-owner’s whims.
Numerous snacky shareable plates lead the way and happen to include the dishes discounted during early and late happy hour. Straightforward steamed pork gyoza—the menu’s sole pork dish—delivers bright flavors and tender dumpling texture. Don’t let the unadorned plate fool you; the spice-rubbed Mary’s chicken wings explode with meaty flavor augmented by that twee cup of creamy Parmesan dip. Definitely go for the hummus platter; it’s one of the kitchen’s best moves—silky hummus and minty tzatziki with an olive oil moat for dragging with golden warm pita crisps. Choose tofu, chicken, or shrimp for Sichuan lettuce wraps with a sauce so vivid it dominates no matter what the chopped protein.
Crab lovers take note—the jumbo lump crab cake is stretched with shrimp and corn, then sauced to death with tartar and pesto. Instead, spend that $24 on four tempura prawn sushi cones or two Baja fish tacos curiously paired with worthy piping-hot fries. Billed as a “decadent” divvy plate, carved sirloin atop delicate ravioli plus portly shrimp in butter sauce reappears as one of six steak entrees. The most clever steak play is sirloin tataki with ponzu and sushi for an affordable surf-and-turf order. All steaks except the Prime bone-in ribeye and Prime New York strip have optional size or quality upgrades for another $25 or so.
Chicken is the menu’s MVP, appearing in nine dishes, from a grilled club sandwich to the upside-down katsu chicken salad—a tower of colorful julienned veggies glossed with miso-ginger dressing, concealing a hefty dredged chicken breast. Butter chicken lacks the spicy depth of classic Indian cooking—the chicken nubs don’t integrate with the loose curry, the rice is cold and too bland. Choose the chicken Parmesan instead—it’s unexpectedly sublime with terrific spaghetti pomodoro, mini peppers, and shaved Parmesan for a classic on par with your favorite trattoria. The juicy chicken with savory breading, bright tomato sauce, and al dente pasta come together like a minor miracle. Then I learn Joey was born in 1992 as the Italian concept Joey Tomato’s. Three decades and 31 restaurants later, you can trust this dish.
Signature cocktails are vital to the Joey formula, so look for booze with an exclusive slant such as the Super Nova Vodka Soda and Super Sonic Gin + Tonic featuring a lemon-lime slush. They’re $4 off during both happy hours alongside modest discounts on beer, wine, and a dozen appetizers. It will be interesting to see if Joey’s 9 p.m. happy hour revives a local late-night scene that’s been sleepy for years.
All traces of the long-gone Roy’s are erased by a sweeping retool that embraces the outdoors via skylights above the heated 109-seat patio with firepit seating. Inside, dim lighting and low booths lend a clubby feel day or night. Look for the stylized take on a 1938 mug shot of young Frank Sinatra on a gallery wall featuring art by local artists. Marvelous sound blocking allows easy conversation in a 205-seat room that rarely has a vacancy. Servers are well trained on the menu and its myriad options, lending polish to the high-energy hospitality. Service ranges from lovely to pushy to sketchy, but to be fair, a payroll this size needs months to find its best self.
Expect Joey to remain white-hot for this season and beyond. Fashion Island is starving for fresh dining options and dapper Joey delivers on a grand scale just in time for summer socializing.
453 Newport Center Drive
5 Best Dishes
Steak and sushi
Peach bourbon tea cocktail
Share plates and sushi, $6.50 to $32.50
Burgers and salads, $19 to $30
Entrees, $23 to $89
FYI: $10 valet or free parking in various lots.