2228 Kettner Boulevard, Little Italy
Even before its opening, Juniper And Ivy was one of the biggest news stories in the San Diego food scene.
Having a winner of Top Chef Masters like Richard Blais as your main chef will do that for you.
I checked the spot out recently to see how the food was, and I was pretty damn impressed with the small plates I tried.
The Carlsbad oysters with horseradish pearls and charred tomatillo were meaty, juicy, and tasted as if they had just been fished out of the sea.
Horseradish is often used as an element in raw seafood. The pearls were made by cooling the sauce in liquid nitrogen. They looked beautiful, but tomatillo was the star of the sauce, complementing the brininess of the oysters very nicely. I never thought of this before, but I think tomatillo may be my preferred accompaniment in the future.
The summer squash salad with burrata cheese, pine nut crumble, and chili was also a great treat. The squash tastes fresh while the cheese and pine nut crumble added a slight pesto flavor without it actually being pesto-y.
Even better was the donut peach. It’s a peeled peach with the pit carved out of the center, flavored with ice wine, bits of blood walnut, and smoked burrata cheese.
Although I had burrata with the summer squash, this version tasted different because it seemed smoked. The peach alone by itself was tasty, as was the smoked burrata, but the two items together were sublime.
For me, the head cheese made from suckling pig was the best of all. Served with a poached hen egg and carrot on top, it was incredible.
My friend Bobby had to look up “head cheese” on Wikipedia because I didn’t want to tell him how it’s made: it’s basically meat jelly made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig.
Juniper And Ivy’s version has a texture more like pork belly and it is soft, tender, slightly salty, and meaty. It’s worth a return visit just for that.
The two of us also split two toast items.
The first one, the Carne Crude Asada, sort of a steak tartare version of carne asada, came with a quail egg, cotija cheese, and jalapeño on top. It was the type of dish where people fight for the final piece. Glad there wasn’t a third person.
The Baja Shrimp with avocado, cucumber, and orange had potential, but the toast wasn’t crisp, which made it soggy.
A couple of other points I’d like to make: When I first saw the Juniper and Ivy space after it opened, it seemed a little too big. After all, 50 diners in a restaurant that seats 75 looks full, while 50 in a space that seats 100 looks empty.
I was wrong: two months in, the place is pretty crowded and the diners look like they’re enjoying themselves.
As for the cocktails, they are tasty and designed to go with the food and San Diego’s hot weather. The ones I had were fruit forward in a good way. My favorite was the 15 Love, a Pimm’s cocktail made with basil and passionfruit. It’s like a non-cheesy pina colada. The watermelon-flavored Drunk In Love also gets high marks for tastiness.
My gut (as well as my tastebuds and stomach) predict a good future for Juniper and Ivy.