Friend and I went here before the new Sushi Nakazawa - again, unfortunately still in office so limited time for a review - but wanted to get a few thoughts out.
Truthfully, the main issues with JUNI involve its "packaging". Being touted as vegetable-forward is deceiving at best, and to be candid, this new fine dining establishment doesn't reinvent the wheel entirely - but all that said, its still really freaking good.
Amuse started a bit strange when me and my buddy were asked to split three amuse bouche - with one on each of our plates and one in the middle to "fight" over
(Cold) Foie Gras with Frog Hollow Peach Tartare, Pistachio Dust and Housemade Brioche - 4/5 - delicious and perfectly done, although nothing we have never seen before. I'm a sucker for peach and the beautiful foie made it all the better
Haas avocado – peekytoe crab – californian caviar – coriander
A reiteration of flavor combinations I've seen before, the addition of perfectly cooked quail eggs on the edge of the plate, and the perfect execution of an albeit tired theme, still worked for me and was thoroughly enjoyable 4/5
summer squash – langoustine – naval orange reduction – marigold
Langoustine was great, and addition of squash blossoms (I believe?) inventive, but I found the reduction and squash combination a bit sweet.
anise hyssop – grimaud duck – chef’s garden candy beets – hibiscus jus
I will say, outright, that for traditional "fine dining", especially with appetizers, that despite delicious, seemed to stay within the lines a bit too much for my liking - the entrées were spectacular.
This is a great duck dish - super flavorful, and unfortunately, I don't remember quite enough about it, as however it good it was, it was overshadowed by the venison to follow
quinoa – veal tenderloin – burdock – mizuna – hon shimejis
I will go out and say it. After being served the duck, we had resolved that this was a talented kitchen (plating as beautiful as the best in NYC) that needed to just think a bit more outside the box. I'm okay with traditional, especially when it tastes this good, but it wouldn't hurt to show us something, within the premise of restaurant, that exemplifies a willingness to take a little risk - or do something a bit different.
This venison dish did just that. Pickled hon shimejis, black truffle emulsion, perfectly cooked veal tenderloin, I have to put it out there - this is one of the best entrees I've had in awhile (even though the veal could have used a tiny bit more salt for my liking) - The earthiness, and umami in this dish is crazy - and fitting as a perfect cap to the meal, I would come back just for this dish
I think, with a few more risks taken, this can join the ranks of the top echelon of the better, refined, fine dining in the city
Crab Salad with Avocado and Quail Eggs
My partner and I went there last Thursday (8/22/13). Here's my review:
I never made it to SHO, so when I read that Shaun Hergatt was opening a new place, I was excited. My partner and I went last Thursday, 8/22. Yes, it's a splurge: 4 courses for $90, 6 for $120, and the tasting menu for $180, but well worth it. The space is quiet, elegant and restrained. The decor is not perfect, but it is very nice. I very much like the menu format: with the 4 and 6 course meals, you can create your own meal: there are 5 categories: cold apps, hot apps, fish, meat and dessert - with 3 choices each, and you can chose any of the 15 for each course - great flexibility.
(I use a 3 star rating system for each course, based on the Michelin restaurant rating system)
They served 3 amuses: a carrot tulle with goat cheese - **, a corn chowder custard - ***, and a wild mushroom ragout (or something) - **/***, all excellent - and they gave us 2 of each, so fortunately, ghw912's experience was not repeated here.
summer squash – langoustine – naval orange reduction – marigold: ** (out of ***)
Three well-sized Langoustine in a squash puree. The meat and sauce were very delicate and lively. I think the citrus notes were a little strong, and some of the meat was just slightly soft - overcooked I think. Still, quite wonderful.
satur farms toy box tomatoes – bush basil – tomato gelée – blue basil flowers - *
My partner's dish - I only had a taste. We are both familiar with Satur Farms' produce, and we both felt that this was tasty, but not at the level it should be - the tomatoes ARE the dish, and they were good, but not overwhelming with flavor like great heirlooms or Satur at their best.
potato fondant – black bass – flourless gnocchi – curls – truffle sabayon: ***
Just fabulous. This was laid out like a village with the Bass at the center. Each element was great, and the combination of flavors when I took bites together was sublime. The bass was done perfectly - light but rich in flavor with succulent skin. The gnocchi were airy with explosive chive flavor, and the sabayon was transcendent. My only issue was that there were fennel buds on top of some components, and I hate fennel, but I easily took them off and put them to the side. I think their flavor was too strong for the dish anyway.
purple artichokes – ravioli – sylvetta arugula – pinenuts: **
My partner's dish. I have a food aversion to artichokes, but I can eat them occasionally if they are done exceptionally well, as they were here. Substantial artichoke ravioli. My Partner was thrilled with these and rightly so - great texture and flavor - light with a nice chewiness in the filling and a great juxtaposition between the dough and the inside.
anise hyssop – grimaud duck – chef’s garden candy beets – hibiscus jus: ***
When I took a bite of the duck, it was so rich and flavorful (and I eat A LOT of duck) that I actually said 'WOW' out loud. Juicy and rich, but firm. I was worried about the anise hyssop, but it was delicious and spicy, adding some rough texture to the creamy duck and an earthiness/vegetal/spiciness. The Beets were ok, and the jus was like a sweet, super-concentrated gravy - divine. Overall, one of the best duck dishes I have ever had.
peaches and cream – cucumber – basil: **
This was my dessert. It was a dollop of peach ice cream on a layer of basil ice, I think - with cucumber yogurt mixed with peaches underneath. To be honest, this wasn't my exact style of dessert, with the yogurt and vegetal aspects, but it was so complex and tasty that it won me over. So many different textures and flavors combining.
Frozen meringue – lemon – blueberry – sage: ***
My partner's dessert. Wow, just wow. Now THIS is my type of dessert. After a few bites, I told K that she better take it back or I would finish it. The richness and sweetness of the light meringue were offset by the crisp and tart of the fruit, and the herbal essence of the sage. K referred to it as a 'deconstructed pavlova' and I think that is right on.
The petite fours were black mission fig beignets - ***, beet tulle - */**, anise leaves in chocolate - *, and nougat with celery salt - ***. The beignets were some of the best things we have eaten in the last year, and the nougat with celery salt was a crazy but brilliant combination that worked perfectly.
Overall, the food was delicate, complex, focused, somewhat innovative, and delicious. As you can see from my ratings, there were a number of high notes, and the mean was consistent enough to categorize it as great.
The service was very good, still finding its groove in places, but our primary server (Jason, I believe) was so good, spectacular actually, that I give the service the highest marks. The wine list is small, seasonal, and focused on solid boutique producers. I had a glass each of Riesling, Morgon VV, and Moscato D'Asti which were very good and reasonably priced. Overall, I would say that Juni is a welcome addition to the top tier restaurants in NYC, and I look forward to going back.
First visit (of many, I hope) to Juni last evening. Previously, had been to SHO several times and enjoyed Hergatt's take on modern French-Asian cuisine.
Juni is in the lobby of a boutique hotel, with a bar on one side and a dining area on the opposite side (this creates some initial confusion, as you need to enter the bar to "check in" and then walk across to the dining room to be seated). Decorated in muted colors with soft lighting and vegetable-themed prints, this is a grown-up restaurant with a relatively low noise level.
The floor is staffed with a big team of hosts/hostesses, waitpersons, busboys and others. You are never more than a nod away from assistance.
We chose to order the four-course prix-fixe ($90), which, with amuses and breads, was adequately filling.
The menu consists of a list of approximately 12 vegetable-centric dishes, three seafood dishes and three meat dishes, plus desserts. You can pick from any category: we chose two vegetable selections and one fish selection each.
As both other reviewers have noted, the amuse was actually three amuses and we received the same three (carrot tuile with goat cheese, corn chowder and mushroom ragout with pickled vegetables). Excellent start to the meal.
Since our choices mirrored those of the other reviewers, I'll only say that the highlights included the purple artichoke ravioli (which I would take to a desert island), the black bass with potato fondant and flourless gnocchi and, the peach dessert. Petits-fours are offered at the conclusion of the meal and the fig beignet would be my last wish on death row. A server saw my enjoyment of the beinget and offered me a second.
The wine list is thoughtful and has very fairly priced bottles from the US, France and elsewhere. The sommelier, who was a familiar face from SHO, was extremely helpful and recommended a viognier from Santa Barbara County that was crisp, minerally and only slightly fruity, pairing well with everything we ordered.
Overall, Juni offered us a flawless evening with a pleasant variety of flavors, a good value for the money and smiles on everyone's faces. A winner.
I just checked out Juni Monday and thought it was fabulous so I thought I would throw in my review.
Juni opened just two weeks ago in the Chandler Hotel and as I pushed open the big, shiny door I could still smell the fresh paint. As I walked along the bar and into the main dining room I couldn't help but notice how quiet it was. There were only two other tables enjoying a Labor Day lunch so the restaurant was quite empty. The dining room is small and a bit sterile with a large table in the center that serves as a station for the wait staff and the focal point of the room. I was a bit startled when I opened the wine list and noticed the cheapest white priced at $16 a glass. It proved to be a lovely Pinot Blanc so I pushed off my wallet worries (and convinced myself the extra money was for the lovely stool my purse was given) with excitement for the the three course meal. To begin Cherry Tomato,Tomato Gelee and Liquid Burrata.
My server suggested this appetizer and it certainly didn't disappoint. The heirloom tomatoes took shape in three different forms- solid, gelee and puree. I enjoyed the different textures of each, alternating between bites of tomato and "not quite" liquid burrata. I have to admit I always get a little confused when flowers are on the plate though. I ate a Poinsettia leaf back in college on a dare and my face turned bright red for a few hours. Luckily there was no allergic reaction here just a mild, minty taste that went quite well with the tart cherry tomatoes.
Bread arrived before the appetizer, nice and warm, with a choice of regular french baguette and black olive. I chose the latter and slathered it with the rich, salty butter before trying out the olive tampanade. I'm a sucker for salt and brine so this little silver pot was an excellent addition to the regular bread service. Then it was onto the main course Crispy Skin Branzino with Tri-Colored Carrots and Lemon Essence.
Wow- this fish was absolutely amazing! It was cooked perfect with an extra crispy outside and a delicate, soft interior. The roasted carrots gave a gentle sweetness to the dish while the saffron emulsion and fresh dill broth completely blew my mind. I was so in love I declared it "best fish dish I've ever had" when Chef Hergatt himself came out later to say hello to the lunch diners.
For dessert a Frozen Chocolate Cake with black plum sorbet, arugula pistachio puree and fluffy chunks of brownie. It was playful and exciting...the sorbet being one of the most amazing components of the dish. My only small quibble would be the cake, which could have used a few more minutes at room temp. I was terrified it was going to shoot across the room a few times I tried to take a bite but luckily I still had my fork to keep it nailed down.
Lunch ended with a gift from the chef...a delicate beet cookie dusted with coconut and a nougat of pistachio and celery seed that literally melted in my mouth. Juni is still brand new but I'm already planning a return trip. I loved the comfortable feel of the room and low, relaxing music. I felt a bit like I was at a spa at some points but the hoovering servers snapped me right back to reality. Luckily I don't think this will be a problem in the future...service will smooth out and a restaurant of this caliber should have no problem filling the room.
I wish my recent meal at Juni had lived up to some of the raves here. It was a (mostly) very good meal. But not a fabulous meal. My appetizer was thin slices of grilled scallop, each crowned with a comically tiny shred of arugula and arranged atop a lemony squiggle. It was very nice, because the ingredients were excellent and the plating pretty: a triumph of sourcing and hand-eye coordination rather than creativity or culinary skill. I felt the same way about my main course, uni with broccolini stems, rock shrimp and (unlisted on the menu) calamari. Maybe I just inadvertently ordered the most salad-y things on the menu, although I'm always happy to have such a generous portion of quality uni. Dessert - black walnut and pomegranate in a soupy yogurt - was the most impressive course, a combination that tasted like more than the sum of its parts. And an amuse of beet paper with a little disk of goat cheese was adorable and very tasty, as were the sesame crunch and beet macaroon offered at meal's end.
The staff - bread guy, water guy, drinks guy, amuse bouche guy - was great, with one exception: our server. He seemed none too familiar with the menu (although he kept offering to "explain" it) and, perhaps as a result, brought one of my companions the wrong appetizer. He also wasn't particularly attentive (I had to ask bread guy for the cocktail list).
Finally, two picky things: I asked for meat-free amuses. And got them, although two of the three were made of squash. I'm okay with squash, but couldn't the kitchen come up with something non-squash? It's hard to continue to be amused by squash. I'd also like the restaurant's management to stop forcing the staff to say "enjoy" when they mean "eat." I've (almost) gotten used to "Are you finished enjoying your food?" But I have to draw the line at "The raw barley is only for presentation. I don't suggest that you enjoy the raw barley."
re: small h
Chiming in as the dining companion who received the wrong dish: I ordered the cauliflower-sweet cream ravioli, and was given the kale soup. I don't know how the waiter confused the words "cauliflower" and "kale soup," but somehow I ended up with a bowl of soup. When I pointed this out upon receiving the soup, he left it with us to eat, and then brought the cauliflower ravioli a few minutes later. In the event, the soup was actually the much better dish. The cauliflower ravioli was unpleasantly sweet, in a weird way that did not gel at all with the chicken-skin crumbles atop it. Note to future visitors: take the soup. Leave the ravioli.
My entree, the squab, was excellent (although comically miniscule for a $40 dish). It had been effusively praised by our waiter in his stumbling recital of recommendations, and with some trepidation, I ordered it. For once he was right: I just wish the kitchen were a bit more generous, particularly with the accompanying vegetables.
Loved my second dinner at Juni last night! Food is creative and delicious! Had the 6 course tasting menu ($120) and had a tough time limiting myself to only 6 courses: cold foie gras with hibiscus and ginger spice bread; trumpet royal mushrooms with crispy chicken skin and a mushroom reduction; salmon with roe, lemon yogurt cotta and spicy crunch; venison with salsify, parsnip and dry currant jus; citrus with praline and vanilla balsamic; and squash, cream cheese, honeycomb, pecan and raisin.
Ordered a half bottle of a lovely 2011 Selbach Oster Spatlese for $45 which was extremely well priced and paired beautifully with each course.
There was a trio of amuses and a platter of mignardises. Two choices for mini baguettes: plain and olive. Soft butter and a green olive tapenade were excellent (and I don't even like olives).
Service was excellent: friendly and very attentive. Chef Hergatt came out to chat with me. Really sorry that I had never dined at SHO.
Juni may be the best restaurant that everyone is missing. It's located on a very quiet street (31st St. between Fifth and Madison). Definitely plan to dine more often at Juni!