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The Florida Times-Union

Japanese meatballs, beef cheeks and scallop ravioli top menu of new St. Johns restaurant

By Teresa Stepzinski, Jacksonville Florida Times-Union,


A French-born chef known for regional Hawaiian cooking is bringing his unique fusion of global flavors such as Japanese-style chicken meatball skewers, braised beef cheeks and poached scallop ravioli to St. Johns County.

Chef Jean Marie Josselin is preparing to open Rustica at Saint Johns at 70 Silver Forest Drive, Suite 115, in SilverLeaf Commons near St. Augustine. Josselin is considered among the pioneers of regional Hawaiian cuisine and is the author of "A Taste of Hawaii: New Cooking from the Crossroads of the Pacific."

Rustica will join the growing St. Johns County upscale and fine dining scene that includes year's openings of 1912 Ocean Bar & Rooftop at the Cabana Beach Club of Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa as well as Argyle at The Yards in Ponte Vedra Beach.

After more than 30 years of cooking and leading kitchens in Hawaii and elsewhere, Josselin, who recently moved to St. Johns County with his family, is almost ready to launch his first Northeast Florida restaurant.

Rustica will offer flavors from around the globe inspired by his experiences in Hawaii and travels, Josselin told the Times-Union.

"What we're going to do is mostly fusion. We're going to have a little bit of Indian, a little bit of Chinese, a little bit of Japanese and a little bit of French. All of it combined into a nice package, inventive and creative," he said.

Simply put, Rustica will showcase food Josselin likes to eat and enjoys creating.

"Our goal is to create a restaurant that has a neighborhood feel but with regional and national stature. We want to be recognized as a top Florida establishment with a unique view on fine dining, with a service that is comfortable, friendly and knowledgeable," Josselin said. They also want Rustica's cocktail and wine program to be "modern, interesting and evolving," he said.

Josselin hopes to open the 150-seat restaurant soon but no date has been finalized.

On the menu at Rustica

Local, seasonal and sustainably sourced farm-to-table ingredients will be a priority at Rustica. Josselin believes in "community-based partnerships with our farmers, ranchers and other vendors to help create a viable local economy."

Josselin said their menu of fusion dishes is unique.

"I think if you are going to open a restaurant you may as well try to bring something to the scene. There are a lot of good restaurants but you know you have to bring something that is different as well. Copying is not really what I like to do," he said.

Some of his signature dishes:

  • Chicken Tsukone: Japanese-style chicken meatball skewers brushed with tare and served with sunchoke hummus and chicken truffle jus
  • Tandoori Prawns with local rice risotto and herb chutney
  • Yuba Cannelloni with an avocado mousse and curry leaf kohlrabi pea-shoot salad
  • Braised beef cheeks with polenta and braising jus

Other featured offerings include poached scallops ravioli with Yuzu butter sauce and Tobiko, brisket pie with buttermilk barbecue sauce, whole grain mustard and creme fraiche, and seared cobia with artichoke, cannellini beans, Minestra bouillon and pancetta, the menu shows.

Rustica also will have a seafood bar with a selection of fresh oysters, sushi, sashimi and Tataki. Desserts such as a creme puff of the day, as well as white chocolate mousse Millefeuille, are on the menu.

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Culinary journey

Josselin, a native of Chamonix, France, inherited his love of cooking from his grandmother whom he helped in the kitchen during his childhood.

"My grandma inspired me 100 percent. My grandma was an incredible cook. That lady was whipping up meals like nothing and I can still taste them after all these years. … Fish, rabbit, pork. She was always cooking something and it was always delicious," Josselin said.

As a teenager, Josselin became an apprentice at a Chamonix bistro and then attended Lychee Hotelier de Paris culinary school. When he graduated, Josselin became a line cook in Paris, launching his lifelong culinary career that brought him to the United States in 1982.

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Josselin worked his way up the culinary ranks to lead resort hotel kitchens nationwide. He's opened seven restaurants in Hawaii and Las Vegas since Hawaii became his home base in 1984.

In 1995, he was featured in a segment of the Great Chefs of Hawaii television series. His cookbook, "A Taste of Hawaii: New Cooking from the Crossroads of the Pacific," which celebrated the fusion of culinary cultures, was originally published in 1992.

Josselin, 60, relocated his family to St. Augustine about 1½ years ago. The move, he said, was prompted in part by his 12-year-old daughter's goal of pursuing a career in NASA's space program. They chose St. Johns County for the quality of its school system and proximity to NASA, he said.

The move also afforded him an opportunity to open Rustica and introduce his fusion cooking to Northeast Florida.

"Rustica is something that all my years of experience and all my traveling and the food that I like to cook and things I wanted to try," he said.

Josselin said Rustica initially will be open only for dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and closed on Monday. Weekend brunch will be added as Rustica settles in, he said.

Teresa Stepzinski is the dining reporter for the Times-Union. Follow her on Twitter @TeresaStepz or reach her via email at

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