Chef Shaun Hergatt presides over the Michelin-starred Juni, one of New York’s most inventive and invigorating dining establishment to rise above the noise of the local restaurant scene. Located in a small dining room, in a nondescript area of 31st Street, the private club feel of the space provides a respite from the busy Murray Hill block. Wrapped quietly inside the Hotel Chandler, the somewhat intimidating 50-seat room instantly puts you at ease with a warm welcome from the staff and casualness of the servers.
Sitting at one of the tables in the front room, it’s easy to notice that attention has been paid to every detail around you. The inspiration of “nature’s bounty” can not only be seen in the food, but in the decor – as the restaurant uses serving items from renowned artist Michael Aram. Bread baskets rimmed with botanical leaves and compote dishes that resemble flower buds fit-in perfectly to the very strong effort to utilize seasonal ingredients in all of the inventive dishes.
The meal was just as detailed as the decor. After a smattering of house-made breads and small “beginnings”, a fleet of well-crafted and stunningly beautiful dishes came pouring from the kitchen. Some of the dishes included beet-red cranberry “stones” with apple gelee on a bed of black gravel, butter cookies sandwiched with aberico ham and mustard served in an antique cookie tin, scallops with yuzu “snow” and “sounds from the sea”, foie gras mousse with bitter chocolate coconut cream and warm brioche, shredded braised oxtail, shrimp with bamboo and pink peppercorn as well as chocolate cremu yogurt crumble with blood orange and port sorbet. Though the food was decadent, it was approachable and served with not an ounce of pretentiousness.
Chef Hergatt, a Northern Australia native, came-out of his kitchen to greet us and explain his approach to the food. Fun is in his DNA, you can tell, and although he’s serving highly conceptual cuisine, he does so with the intention for the guest to be at ease and experimental. This meal was truly delightful, unique and one that should be experienced for a special occasion. The Juni team is doing something special in that little room on 31st Street.