Last week, the Juniper & Ivy invited JustLuxe to a media preview dinner to get a taste of Top Chef All Stars' winner Richard Blais’ new restaurant with partner Michael Rosen, before its official opening yesterday, March 3. Designed by The Johnson Studio, an award-winning international restaurant architecture firm based in Atlanta, GA., the restaurant took over a 90+-year-old warehouse space in Little Italy. In the midst of streets filled with vintage home décor shops and architectural salvage stores, Juniper & Ivy fits right in with its mix of raw, rustic elements and modern twists.
Directly inside the entrance, the elevated bar sits in front of the doorway with stained and sealed hickory wood countertops and 1” LED lights hang down from the ceiling in a dramatic showcase of the eatery’s liquors. Exposed existing sawtooth redwood ceilings with beams and trusses complement the dining area which features natural hickory-stained tabletops, elevated grey leather booth spaces, and white lacquered tables.
The restaurant will offer an expansive list of wines by the glass and bottle and will also offer signature cocktails. The Cloud 9, for example, features rye whiskey, Peychaud’s bitters, sugar and Absinthe cloud. Blais is also the Creative Director of DRY Soda Co., a carbonated beverage created to be less sweet and with only four ingredient, which we have already seen come into play at the bar. During the event, guests were able to try a Juniper berry-flavored cocktail based on the soda, which as it was invented to do, tasted light and less sugary than most soda-based cocktails.
Modern art work lines the walls and floor-to-ceiling curtains hang in between a few tables for a more private dining setting. The most notable element, however, is the open expo kitchen that places Blais’ and his culinary team center stage. There are also bar top seats lining the kitchen so guests can really get an up-close-and-personal experience.
Juniper & Ivy was conceived to be a type of “Left Coast Cookery” as they call it, a modern take on American cuisine with local San Diego ingredients and flavors. A successful restaurateur, author, chef and TV personality, Blais graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and trained at The French Laundry, Daniel, Chez Panisse, and el Bulli. Most known for his work with liquid nitrogen in the kitchen, is looking to create a place that is refined, California-casual, and serious yet playful.
During the event, Blais shared with us that once he visited Little Italy’s farmer’s market, he knew he had made a great choice for his new restaurant. Locals may even catch him there on a Saturday gathering up fresh produce and ingredients that could be served up as a part of a special brunch he is thinking about doing on Sundays.
During our visit, we were able to sample a few items off the the ever-changing menu that will be based on locally curated products. Among the bite-sized snacks were Coachella dates with lamb bacon, chèvre and coffee; mini carnitas tacos with seaweed salsa verde sauce; and Carne Cruda Asada toast with quail egg, cotija cheese and jalapeño. Blais mentioned that some dishes for the evening were created only hours before the event, which shows the kind of craftsman he is at delivering stellar bites in such a short time. Every item we tried was savory and had a great balance of flavors, we can't wait to try their full dinner choices.
On a sample menu, items such as Prime Strip Loin with porcini onion rings and kimchi ketchup and the Arctic Char with pumpernickel puree, Brussel spouts and passion fruit brown butter also stood out. Soon, Juniper & Ivy will be offering a four by four option (four small plates and four snacks), that will be chef’s choice, all for $65 per person or $96 with wine pairings
Outdoors, the patio space can seat 20 diners and 10 patrons in the lounge area. Underneath sparkling white lights, the romantic atmosphere is decorated with recycled granite countertops, floor lamps and plush couches.
From the menu concept to its architectural designs and décor, you can already tell that this place is going to quickly becoming a San Diego favorite. As luck would have it, the restaurant sits nearby the JustLuxe offices, which means Blais and team will most likely be seeing us there regularly. Welcome to the neighborhood, Juniper & Ivy.
Nicolle is an award-winning writer and Travel Editor using her expertise in the industry to write about luxury travel around the world. You can find her daily searching the web for the latest trends, best new hotels and most beautiful destinations to visit and share with her readers. She's been featured on The Huffington Post, Hard Assets, AMD Entertainment and Remy Martin. In 2014, she was vo...(Read More)