Tag Archives: anniversary

Sheldon Says: Juniper has buzz…

My wife and I love to go out for dinner.  Our “go to” place is the Wellington Gastropub.  The food is outstanding, the service top-notch and the atmosphere is extremely casual.  A former colleague of mine who was very knowledgeable about all things restaurants once told me you need three things to make it:  great food, great service and buzz.  The term “buzz” was his way of combining decor, atmosphere and experience into one intangible quality.  In our humble opinions, the Welly has buzz to spare.
Unfortunately, business has been slow lately.  Really slow.  So slow in fact that we’ve had to limit where and when we’ve gone out to eat.  Our anniversary was last weekend, so we were really excited to have a night out.  Rather than opt for a usual suspect, we decided to try a place we’ve never been before.  Our choice:  Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar.
First impressions:  Juniper has buzz.  You enter into a large dining room, featuring rich shades of brown, and soft lighting augmented by table candles.  The floor to ceiling windows (the location used to be a BMW dealership) are impressive, giving guests a wonderful view of a renewed Wellington Village.  (Not completely – the low budget motel and gas station across the road are a bit of an eyesore, but you can’t fault the restaurant for their neighbours.)  The dining room was full, adding to the atmosphere and the sense that we were in for a great experience.
Unfortunately,  the rest of the trifecta – great food and great service, was a little hit and miss on this night.  It was our anniversary, so we opted for a pre-dinner cocktail.  Our server ordered our drinks, and then returned to see if we had any questions on the menu.  A few minutes later, he returned to say that our drinks were on their way, and take orders for our food.  The kitchen then sent our amuse bouche (a plantain, ricotta and cashew fritter drizzled with balsamic reduction – delish), and then our drinks arrived.  Our appetizers appeared almost immediately after.  We would have preferred to relax with our cocktails for a few minutes, enjoying our time out and soaking in the atmosphere.
I was having trouble deciding whether to have the Quebec pork loin main and the beef tartar appetizer, or the pork belly appetizer and the Alberta beef tenderloin main.  The decision was made for me – pork belly wasn’t available that night.  My wife chose the apple cucumber curried salad with house made feta, along with Indian buttered chicken breast.  Both of my wife’s selections were absolutely delicious – with the perfect amount of curry.  The tartar was some of the best that I’ve ever had – topped with an olive tapenade to give the beef some additional flavour.  The maple pork loin tasted good, if a little dry.  The highlight of the plate was the sweet potato fritters – perfectly puréed on the inside and golden crispy on the outside.
Sommelier Eric Belchamber was extremely helpful navigating the extensive wine list and choosing an option that would suit both the curried butter chicken, and the sweeter maple pork.  After offering his advice and a taste of two options, we settled on a 2009 Domaine St Roch chardonnay.
Dessert consisted of a banana fritter in a sesame coconut batter served with homemade peanut ice cream (to quote my wife, “heaven on a plate”) and the lemon orange crème brulé (less than satisfying).
Overall, it was a good but not great experience.  Given the buzz that Juniper gets from numerous people whose opinions I value, I suspect that we caught the staff on an off night.  Will we be back?  Probably, after we knock a few more “must try’s” of our list.~SS

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Goin’ to town

On Saturday evening Kelly and I celebrated our four-year wedding anniversary at town on Elgin Street.  We’d heard many good things, so it had been on our radar for sometime, and we were really looking forward to our reservation. The restaurant is sophistically and minimalistically decorated, including bare bulb lights, a large painting of a woman’s hand holding octopus, unique touches such as the clipboard menu and the file folder receipt holder, all set it apart from other stock restaurants. 

town’s clipboard menu

Additionally our server, Kerri, was friendly and knowledgeable about our all our menu choices (describing in detail the short rib cooking process), which really enhanced our experience.  
We started off by sharing a couple of small plates, the ricotta stuffed meatballs and the chicken liver crostini with rhubarb and bacon. We each had our own main, Kelly had a half order of the tagliatelle with chicken meatballs, salt cured foie gras (pretty sure that’s why she ordered it) and pecorino romano; I had the cavatelli short rib ragu with pine nuts. We enjoyed each dish, but nothing seemed to stand out, the “wow” factor described to us by others seems to be missing.  We weren’t left hungry though, no room for dessert!
All in all, our experience was pleasant; we enjoyed the atmosphere and appreciated  the nuisances that give town character.  Perhaps we’ll wait until a summer menu comes out before we return. ~gL