Our affable server explained that dishes are meant to be shared in order to experience the variety of options the menu offers. One plate easily feeds two people, but with a vegetarian diner, a gluten-free diner and two very hungry carnivores in our party, we made a few adjustments. In the end, the server helped us make sure we had enough dishes to satisfy the group. I started with a cocktail from the bar menu. Showtime! contains gin, dry curaçao, maraschino, grapefruit and mint. It was so balanced and smooth, I had to order a second. My husband opted for a white wine. Poderi Nespoli Pagadebit Bombino Biancho, Tuscany, Italy 2013, which seemed to please him since he also ordered a second. Our food came out of the kitchen fluidly at just the right pace. We started with a smaller plate of fried Puffy Potatoes (reminding me a bit of upscale tater tots, visually speaking) served with Parmesan cheese and whipped Dijon. This was warm and comforting and disappeared quickly. Next up was the Warmed Winter Greens with Parmesan cheese, black pepper and fluffy eggs. This warm salad was exceptional and was an early favorite of the table. The Cannelini Beans with grapefruit, sweet potato and red onion came next. It was an inventive combination that we enjoyed, but I am not sure I would order it again. Next came the Stuffed Pasta with roasted cauliflower, dried cherry and brown butter. My gluten-free diet made this dish one I had to skip, but it was greatly enjoyed by the rest of the group. King Trumpet Mushroom with roasted garlic, Meyer lemon and mint was another standout. A series of larger plates came out and we were impressed by all of them. The Duck with persimmon, pickled onion, and jus was a marvel and the persimmon was a hit with our vegetarian. The Risotto with grated beets, hen of the woods mushrooms and mascarpone had just the right texture and wonderful umami flavor. The Pork Belly with roasted pumpkin, fennel and marsala onions was another hit with those that tried it. We were very pleased with the tenderness of the pork and the fact that there was not an over abundance of fat. The pumpkin and fennel were delightful accompaniments to this dish. Then came the Ribeye with tomato emulsion, chunky chimichurri and reggiano cheese, with much debate about whether this dish was better than the pork belly. The meat was beautifully cooked and the other ingredients added an even higher level of interest.
The inviting outdoor patio at the front of the restaurant seems like the perfect spot for happy hour (Tuesday-Saturday, 4:00-6:00 p.m.) when weather cooperates. Walk-ins are welcome, but if you want to be assured a table, a reservation is the way to go. Valet service is available, though there was plenty of street parking on the weeknight we went. I can't wait to return to try their weekend brunch. My experience at Juniper was definitely a dining highlight of the year.