A Lovely Afternoon at Juni
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 think Chef Hergatt has found a home at Juni.