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Juniper and Ivy / First visit impressions

mcgrath | Mar 5, 201407:50 AM

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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