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Mar 5, 2014 07:50 AM

Juniper and Ivy / First visit impressions

Went on their second night open to the public after 3 soft openings on successive nights last week.

Impressive, attractive building from the outside at night. $5 valet parking, which is a real convenience in that area of Kettner. You drive into a driveway at the restaurant to leave car with valet, and are right at the front door.

Immediately greeted. We were 10 minutes early and asked to sit in spacious waiting area until table ready. Not a cocktail area, strictly waiting. No more than 3-4 minutes later the hostess told us our table was ready. We also got a text at the same time telling us table ready, which was a nice touch.

Dining room very crowded, but each table, including ours, looked to have plenty of space. Seating comfortable. Greeted within a minute or two by our server and water guy. Water choice is the usual still or sparkling, but it's not for sale--all on the house, and refilled throughout the meal as if it was for sale, which is to say constantly.

Strongly suggest reviewing the menu online before arrival, as there are so many delicious sounding items to choose from. We ordered in three stages: starters/bites first, then once those started arriving, ordered small and large plates, then finally dessert. Server made sure she knew what we wanted and when, and followed through.

Wine list: very well thought out; lots of small producers I'd never heard of; some interesting varietals like Gamay; prices seemed fair. All selections printed on the back side of the food menu. Anytime I see Gruner Veltliner on a list, I know the person who built it has some skill. A little off-putting was the detective work I had to employ to find champagne. All wines are listed grapes first, and under the heading "Fizzes" or some such was a "chardonnay/pinot noir LaSalle". This sounded like it might be champagne, but I had to ask to be sure. How about just telling me it's champagne on the list?

I won't go into great detail on the food, as it was only one visit and the 2nd night at that. The 3 of us, one of whom is a Chef, ordered the bag of olives, tuna tartare (excellent), carne asada crudo, charred grapes on cheese toast, shaved asparagus salad (creative, yummy, a keeper), grilled spot prawns (tasty but smallish), San Diego chicken (cleverly named after the old Padres mascot I'm sure), Pork "shorty", vegetable and grains plate, and a rhubarb tart, which the chef in our party felt was the best plate of the evening. Everything was at least good and the noted dishes were well beyond good.. The pork was a little under seasoned; the veggie dish came out with cold, room temp and hot portions, which was unintended. Overall quite good; nothing looked or tasted weird in a nuclear gastronomy kind of way. (I'm sure that may generate some agitation…sorry.)

One humorous moment; the first dish to arrive was a hermetically sealed bag of green olives placed before us in a small bowl by the young runner. He left, I picked up and pondered what to do with the sealed bag when the server noted this and called him back to release the olives into the bowl. Maybe the first bag of olives he'd served, who knows:)

Chef Blais came by to chat and was friendly and unaffected. We chatted for a good 3-4 minutes. Same with the GM, who dropped by towards the end of the meal.

The room was very noisy. Packed with diners at each table and people dining at each seat at the bar. Can't wait to dine in the outside patio during warmer weather. All in all, they've got their stuff together quite well at such an early stage, and it would seem hard not to have a positive experience.

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  1. Thanks for the encouraging report. Sounds like it's going to be a winner :-)

    1. When you say the room was very noisy, was it something that would give you great pause, next time for dinner?

      Sounds like you had a great time and aren't you the rock star lately..BOS, Kauai this week..have fun and dining in trendy new resto's in SD..


      5 Replies
      1. re: Beach Chick

        To me, it was very noisy, yet one could still converse without shouting, but barely. To my 30-ish son, the noise wasn't a problem at all. It wouldn't keep me away.

        1. re: mcgrath

          I don't believe there are any restaurants in Little Italy that isn't noisy, or at a minimum "rather lively".

          1. re: mcgrath

            Went today. It is good, not great. Shared about 8 appetizers/small dishes. The winner was the cornbread and the lemon parfait.

            The Carlsbad oysters were OK, not enough seawater to let them slide, so I had to give them a fork help.

            Kale salad was fine, but the seeweed was a bit much for me. The homemade dressing was delicious.

            Chicken oysters were very moist, but having them on a bed of strong smelling seeweed was just strange.

            The Jamon Iberico is first class quality, but you will not get much.

            The dessert was fantastic. Inexpensive and plentiful, butso yummy.

            Shared 3 cocktails and 1 glass of wine. The Keenan Merlot was very good, the cocktails just fine.

            Happy that we have new chefs coming to San Diego.

            1. re: 4wino

              "strong-smelling seaweed..."
              Wow, I wonder what variety. There are so many kinds of seaweed here in Japan, and none of them have any sort of strong smell. I wonder if the strong smell was the chicken oysters?

          2. re: Beach Chick

            For my wife and I, is was noisy enough to make conversation slightly more difficult than normal. If the food was so-so it would be enough of a bother to question returning, but for us the food was well worth it.

            Tangent: what's with san diego restaurants not caring about noise level at all?? I get the open rafters and reclaimed barnwood and all that, but throw some foam in those rafters or something.

          3. sounds good...thanks for the encouraging and thorough report....I am shooting for a visit Thursday, without reservations, for the bar area and/or community table.... a friend, owner of the largest wine bar in SD, attended opening night and suggests the biscuit, chicken oysters, and steak (he also sat besides Javier Plascencia who talked about his grand (re)opening of Finca Altozano in Guadalupe Valley).

            1. Thanks for posting the great report. Looking forward to trying it.

              1. Thank you!! On our list as well