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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Next Magazine Review - Juni

Easily one of my top ten picks for the year! Do enjoy!
Juni, 12 E 31st St (btwn Fifth/Madison Aves)

SHORT ORDER: A spectacular seasonal menu in a soothing, intimate setting.
PETER’S PICKS: foie gras with warm brioche; kale soup; salsify agnolotti; sumptuous duck
PETER’S PANS: Where was the bed in which we might stay and continue to sup overnight?

Even though we were only in the East 30s when we went to Juni, we could have sworn the cab driver took a wrong turn and dropped us off somewhere else. Juni is an immediately soothing, refined, palely considered salon, perhaps not as hip as the neighboring Breslin or as gorgeously grandiose as the NoMad Hotel, but we felt like we’d been transported to the intimate social atmospheres that were once found at Lutèce or La Côte Basque in days past. Executive chef Shaun Hergatt hails from Australia and his revolving seasonal menu is unassuming, elegant and precise, displaying a keen sense of culinary artistry—and the place has only been open for a little over two months! My two companions and I eagerly launched into the personally customized six-course menu (and we shared each other’s orders too).

A black tea and lavender cocktail seemed such a bizarre conglomeration at first that I had to try it. Somehow, splashes of rye, artichoke liqueur, scotch, a black-tea-infused aperitivo and lavender syrup worked together marvelously. My fella readily rode the Sidecar with cognac, juice from McIntosh apples and a fine lace of honey.

The fragrant amuse-bouche trio was a delight, featuring a petite carrot tuile with a dot of goat cheese, root vegetable tapioca with parsley oil, and thinly sliced mushrooms with summer truffle vinaigrette. Even the crusty, warm table bread was fantastic, served with an herbed green olive oil tapenade.
“Pearls” of rooty kohlrabi and butternut squash served with kingfish were quickly outdone by Hudson Valley foie gras over a Granny Smith apple purée, apple gel and a sassy apple relish. The accompanying miniature pot filled with steaming brioche was charming and perfect to swab the plate with. Tuscan kale soup was rich and earthy, outfitted with sprouted lentils and simmered pork neck. Creamy black salsify stuffed into gentle blankets of agnolotti made us weep delicious tears.

Moving toward mains, we picked a perfect pairing with a Pouilly-Fuissé that had touches of apples and honey and even traces of lemon. Black bass, featuring a fascinating latticework on the grilled skin, was graced by leaves of purslane, little leaning towers of flourless gnocchi and a truffle sabayon sauce. Atlantic salmon was enlivened by sharp fennel, a lemon yogurt cotta and watermelon radish chips. Duck lightly bathed in an anise-hyssop emulsion, flattered by small “cannons” of candy beets. Veal tenderloin was delicately flavored but found balanced depth with accompanying quinoa, burdock root, hon shimeji mushrooms and a trickle of mushroom sauce, poured at the table.

By dessert, we went for a few batches of nosey, satisfying Hudson Baby bourbon. Between sips, we tried homey, roasted Fuji apples with a touch of maple syrup and smoked mascarpone. Spongy chocolate prepared with a sweet potato purée and a bit of bay leaves left a nice touch, and taste. Sweet corn was tied up with a ribbon of tarragon lime gel and salty cheddar crisps.

Prices: Four course: $90; six course: $120; 10 course: $180; Alcohol: wine, beer, full bar, specialty cocktails

First published in part in Next magazine

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