My friend Alyssa (who used to write for this blog!) recently came back to San Diego to visit with her husband, J, and her two adorable little ones. She made plans to go to Juniper & Ivy and invited me along! I’ve been interested in trying out Juniper & Ivy for so long and was glad to get the chance to hang out with my best good friend and to eat tasty delicious things.
Juniper and Ivy is one of chef Richard Blais’ restaurants, in case you have no idea (though I bet you do). I’ve never watched Top Chef (I know, that’s probably weird for a food blogger, but oh well) but I know there was a lot of excitement around the opening of this restaurant. The restaurant has a fun, open space and an open kitchen if you’d like to have a show with your meal. We had kiddies with us so we sat in a little corner. We got there quite early (about 5:30PM) and beat the crowds that evening.
Instead of fancy white napkins, you get a kitchen towel. I wanted to steal it and take it home with me.
[juniper & ivy menu]
I poured over the menu trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to order. Minion had been here a few months ago and told me about a disappointing dish he tried, which was a pork chop. I scolded him and told him to not order pork chops in the future. Most restaurants can’t seem to get pork chops right! There were no pork chops on the menu this evening. The menu changes so often though that it could be back in a completely different form in the future. But I still wouldn’t order pork chops, my friends.
Also – do you spy the dessert menu on here? I didn’t at first!
[amuse-bouche – cheese puffs]
After we all placed our orders for foodie goodness, our waitress brought by this plate of little gougères. Gougères is just a fancy way to say “cheese puffs” if you want to be real about it. I thought these were delicious. They were light and airy and served warm. There was bits of scallion in them for a touch of onion flavor that I liked.
[buttermilk biscuit with smoked butter / $5]
J and I ordered the same appetizer – the buttermilk biscuit. It comes in this adorable little cast iron pot with a good sized chunk of smoked butter with flaky sea salt. Is it weird that the flaky sea salt made me excited more than the rest of the dish? Obviously I am a salt fiend.
This biscuit was so good! And really, normally, who wants to pay $5 for one biscuit but I’m telling you this, this sucker is worth it. The biscuit was flaky and buttery with a wonderful crunchy crust on top. The butter had maybe a hint of smoke on it, not enough for me to really notice it, but it made the whole thing creamy and a little more rich. I couldn’t even finish eating it. It’s plenty big enough to share with friends.
[chelsea gem oysters / $21]
Alyssa was quite excited to see these oysters & pearls on the menu. She first read about the oysters & pearls dish on A Life Worth Eating when he visited the French Laundry. Considering Blais has studied under Chef Thomas Keller, it’s not a huge surprise to see something similar served at Blais’ restaurant. These are Chelsea Gem Oysters with red wine mignonette and kimchi cocktail pearls. When the dish was served, there was a little smoke emanating from under the rock, giving the dish a very high visual appeal. I don’t eat raw things so I didn’t try this, but Alyssa adored this. She said she would have loved to eat twenty more of these oysters.
[duck breast / $28]
I kept looking at the menu over and over again and my eyes kept drifting back to one thing: the Duck Breast. When I go out to eat at new restaurants, I always want to either try a new take on a dish or to order something I don’t cook at home. Duck breast is definitely something I’ve never tried to cook at home and when it’s done right, I adore it. I’m happy to report that I absolutely adored this dish. I might have even had a religious experience eating this succulent, sweet, well balanced plate. I loved just about everything on this dish… except for those pink turnips, but I could easily ignore those. The other things you see on the plate are blood orange buerre rogue (the purplish sauce you see in the background), purple snap pea, and charred yam. Well, the menu said charred yam but I think the yam is that buttery golden spread you see in the front which is what I used to eat with my amazingly delicious duck instead of the buerre rogue sauce (which was more acidic than I would have liked it to be). The crispy duck skin took me to food nirvana and I was such a happy girl. I’d order this again in a heartbeat.
[sea bass / $29]
Alyssa, my seafood loving friend, ordered the Sea Bass for her main entree. It was an Ensenada Sea Bass with green posole, mussels, and fava bean. Alyssa remarked that the dish was just okay and she didn’t quite see the point of the mussels being in the dish.
[short rib / $30]
Alyssa said that J’s go to order was Short Rib and sure enough that’s what he ordered here. It has this twirl of asparagus on top with puffed farro. I’ve no idea what that green stuff is on the bottom – maybe another asparagus concoction? I forgot to ask J. As J began to eat his dish though, he noticed that a fairly good amount of the short rib was fat and gristle. He showed it to Alyssa and I who both made faces at his dish. Our waitress immediately took the dish back and a new one was brought out a few minutes later. The staff member who brought it over stayed to ensured that the meat looked good and proper this time which was a nice gesture. He wanted to ensure it was acceptable which I thought showed excellent customer service to make everything right.
The dessert menu is actually displayed on the regular menu, upside down, in the bottom right corner. Clever.
[brown butter ice cream / $11]
After some soul searching (dessert is very serious, you know), Alyssa decided to try the Brown Butter Ice Cream. The crazy description of it intrugied both of us. Popcorn mousse, torn croissant and lime curd, you say? Well, all right.
I tried this dish and I have to say that the ice cream was delightful. It has a nice nutty flavor to it that I enjoyed. The other bits and pieces of the dish were kind of oddball to me though. The “popcorn mousse” was interesting to say the least. It did have that popcorn-corn-flavor with tiny bits of those kernels that get stuck in your teeth without the kernels. The lime curd was weird and didn’t really pair with the rest of the dish in terms of flavor. Why are there torn bits of croissant all over the place? For texture and interest, I suppose. It was a pretty little mess, though, I’ll give you that.
[yodel / $12]
As for me, I knew what I wanted for dessert before I even looked at the menu. The Yodel! I’ve read about the yodel on several reviews and couldn’t help but order it. It’s got Devil’s cake (mmm, chocolate), white chocolate, hazelnut brittle, and a hot chocolate sauce that gets poured over the top. Once the hot chocolate hits the top, the whole thing starts to melt and disintegrate, revealing the hidden gems inside. There’s so many different textures and crunchy bits to keep your interest while stuffing your face with this chocolate delight. Man, I loved this thing. I would order it every time.
Not everything was perfect here for my cohorts and I, though I pretty much loved all of my items. I’d come back to check out a few other small bites and other tastes as long as I can always have that Yodel dessert at the end of my meal.
Kirbie’s visit to Juniper & Ivy last year.
In Love with San Diego visited earlier this year and made me quite aware of often the menu changes.
Another blogger at eat.drink.give.go also wrote about Juniper & Ivy.
Faye also visited last year, further making me realize how long it’s taken me to finally visit the restaurant.
And also here’s a link to Jinxi’s review on this oh-so-famous restaurant.
I actually found a bunch more links to reviews, but now I’m tired of posting them all. This is a popular place, in case you didn’t realize it.
Juniper & Ivy
2228 Kettner Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101