Reservations required? Probably a good idea, although if you show up and have some time to kill while you wait for a table, the Keefer Bar is right next store, and a great place to grab a pre-dinner cocktail.
Atmosphere (4.5/5)- The room at Keefer is refreshing and casual, with simple light wood decor, accented with nice blue banquets. The space is divided into a bar level, with a dining space and the bar with a few high top tables. A few steps down to a lower dining level where we sat. On the night of our visit (around 8:30) the space was only around half full but was actually much busier when we left at around 10:30. The space lends itself well to the early and late night crowd alike, with its great bar and welcoming vibe.
Service (4.5/5)- Our main server for the evening was extremely personable and engaging. We received a great rundown of the menu and all of our questions were answered. Our dishes were delivered in good time, and our water glasses constantly refilled. I noted that all of our servers seemed to be very passionate about their work and the restaurant in general, which added to the overall experience.
Food and drink (8.5/10)- There is a handful of cocktails on the menu (plus a few specials), and a small but well thought out selection of wines by the glass and by the bottle, including a good selection of local wines). Few beers on tap (all local) as well.
The menu is divided into "the cellar" (bar snacks), "wood board" (charcuterie/cheese), "fields and forage" (veggies/fish) and "puddle and pond" (meat). There were also a few feature dishes on the night of our visit, which incorporated ingredients available that particular day/week. Dishes are meant to share, and choosing a few dishes from each section of the menu (depending on the number in your party) is recommended. The menu is constantly evolving based on seasonality, and we were told that about 30% of the menu turns over within any given month. I particularly enjoyed the generous portion of seasonal veggies (cabbage, sprouts, radish) on every dish, which added freshness and contributed to that local flair. At the end of the night, our bill was $170 (including a bottle of wine) which we thought was reasonable for the quantity and quality of food.
As it was only Hubby and I, we decided to skip the snacks and move right into the wood boards. We opted for the fish charcuterie which was a genius play on the typical meat charcuterie (and perfect for pescatarians like me!). The combination of fish changes regularly, and on the night of our visit consisted of a "pot of octopus" (grilled and chopped in a mason jar, covered in black sesame seeds- my favourite!), smoked tuna and anchovies. On the side was a nice selection of flatbread, crostini, pickled veg and sprouts. A great sharing plate and the perfect start to the meal.
Grilled beets and burrata- This was my favourite dish, which is not surprising since I am such a sucker for beets. This was a perfectly composed dish, with grilled beet, grilled baby carrot and a bit of raw beet and a carrot puree for contrasting textures. Add some creamy burrata cheese and you have a winner!
Juniper is a place that I can see myself going back to again and again. With its constantly changing, local menu, its welcoming atmosphere and heartfelt service, I hope that I am right in predicting a long and successful life for this Chinatown newbie. Until the next time Juniper!