Last Updated on Friday, 05 November 2010 16:38
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Among the best Creole kitchens on the North Shore, Juniper is not what it seems at first glance. It looks like the kind of place you'd go for a poor boy or a seafood platter--and in its past it was such a place. But the talents and reach of chef/owner Peter Kusiw bring much more ambitious food than the rustic surroundings would suggest.
WHY IT'S GOOD
Kusiw has a traditional Creole palate (and pallette), and he's sufficiently adept to make even familiar dishes exciting. The goodness of the raw materials is unimpeachable. Portions seem to have been made for country boys turned gourmets. At these prices, the food that comes out constitutes a bargain.
Chef Peter Kusiw operated a coffeehouse on the Mandeville Lakefront for years before he expanded his operations into nearby bistro in 2004. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed both places. He moved soon after the storms to Juniper's present building. For most of the last century, it was an old-style bakery, complete with stone ovens. They're always talking about firing them back up again, but that would be a business unto itself.
Both dining rooms feature tall ceilings, big windows of hand-blown glass, wood-plank floors, and other evidence of its antiquity. There's also a small courtyard outside for alfresco dining. Sometimes his kids set up a lemonade booth outside the front door, adding another charming touch of small-town life.
ESSENTIAL MENU [*=Recommended]
Seared sea scallops
Louisiana wontons with shrimp, crawfish and coconut curry
Brie with shrimp, blackened beef tenderloin and peppercorn demi-glace
Spinach and crab ravigote
Blue wrap salad (iceberg rolled with Stilton cheese and bacon)
Sapphire salad (tomatoes, onion, almonds, fig and mandarin vinaigrette)
Creole tomato mozzarella Caprese
Blueberry salad with eggplant croutons
Gumbo ya ya
Jo Jo’s snapper soup
Artisan soup of the day
Confit de canard with pecan orzo and black cherry demi glace
Filet mignon with lump crabmeat and Creole hollandaise
Tasso encrusted Gulf fish
Panneed veal and gnocchi, crabmeat and Creole bearnaise
Eggplant napoleon with shrimp, crabmeat, crawfish and garlic cream lobster sauce
Pork osso bucco.
Grilled wasabi tuna
Veal T-bone with saffron polenta and wild mushroom demi
Aegean lamb chops with feta, spinach, and chili demi glace
Grillades and grits (brunch)
Corned beef hash with eggs (brunch)
FOR BEST RESULTS
Make a reservation, especially on weekends; the restaurant is small and popular. Sunday brunch, during which parking is at a premium because of the church across the street, is a wonderful sleeper.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The entree plates would improve if at least two items were removed from them. The chef really loads the food on.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +2
- Service +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Small private room
- Open Sunday lunch
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations recommended
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