NYC: Juni (Jan. 2014)
Authors: Monte and Tad
Exec Chef: Shaun Hergatt
January 20, 2014
Monte: I had tried SHO downtown when Chef Shaun Hergatt was still working there and thought it was great. I had been wondering what he had been up to when I randomly saw that Juni had reservations on OpenTable and I decided to google it since I had never heard of it. Surprise, it’s Shaun Hergatt’s restaurant. The lunch deal of 3 courses for $35 (or 2 courses for $30) looked accessible so Tad and I jumped on it (Tad edit: for the record, I would have jumped on it if it was $100 for three courses).
Tad: It’s been a while since I’ve written on Noms, mostly because I spent the last few months finding myself. After over two decades of schooling, I finally had to face the “real” world (or at least father threatened to cut me off unless I got a real job). So I guess this is my job for now…I will keep writing until I get bored.
I guessed that Shaun left SHO because catering Wall Street business lunches wasn’t what a chef of his caliber deserved (you can’t BUY discerning taste, to paraphrase the old adage). The new restaurant is a way for him to showcase his cuisine at a more centralized location, however icky the new location may be: Jungsik aside, it’s hard to think of Korean food, especially of the type in Koreatown, as anything but what you eat to demonstrate your worldliness in ethnic foods.
Tad: The lack of an amuse course didn’t bother me. I’ve always thought that if something is free, it’s not worth having. At the finer restaurants in New York, a good amuse would therefore be a pleasant surprise, a gesture from the chef that, “yes, we are serving you some extra ingredients lying around, but you know at least we put thought into it.” And at $35 for three courses, one doesn’t expect too much.
1. Quail Egg, Iberico Ham, Frisee
Monte: The velvety and rich iberico ham worked really well with the crisp frisee and tart caesar-like sauce.
Tad: I didn’t eat everything in one bite. I preferred eating each element separately to test the quality of the individual ingredient. But the ham could have used something crisp or tart as contrast, and the frisee by itself was good but lacked richness.
Monte: … so shouldn’t you eat everything together?
Tad: Skill is something that people develop to compensate for lacking innate talent. So yes, I acknowledge you are more skillful at eating than me.
2a. Pommes Puree, Black Kingfish, Orange
Tad: The virtuosity of Chef Hergatt is on display in this dish. Rejecting the notion that food must look familiar or comforting to be appetizing, the presentation of this dish is at once minimalist and overwhelming in detail. Moreover, the balance on display is reflected in the tastes and textures of this dish: savory, crunchy, soft, sweet, a bit of acid, and pungent from the use of aromatics. Brava (and bravo to Chef Hergatt)!
Monte: They should give you more celery. That piece on the far side of the dish is very pretty by the way.
Tad: I would use this as an opportunity to segue into a brag about the prettiness of the women I’ve dated, but it’s really unnecessary; I think it would take very little to impress the present company.
Monte: Uncalled for.
Tad: Anyway, the potato puree is exquisite. What it lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in the pure intensity of its buttery focus. Not unlike you, dear Monte.
Monte: Wow, what a back-handed compliment. Plus I’m not white and pasty like your fish and potatoes.
Tad: You are correct. Perhaps it looks like one of our fellow bloggers?
Monte: Uncalled for but perhaps merited.
Victor: I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE.
2b. Parsnip Beef Cheek Tokyo Turnips
Monte: This dish was generic but delicious. Yes it was rich and intensely beefy. I wish there were more vegetables to add some additional depth of flavor and complexity to the dish.
Tad: Funny…”Rich and Intensely Beefy” was going to be the title of the documentary I am funding about my new weight-lifting regimen. We changed it to “Pumping Gold,” an obvious homage to the film starring my favorite Austro-American politician, for a catchier title.
3 Citrus Praline Vanilla Balsamic
Monte: This dessert felt so odd, but I liked it. The flavors were there, and the contrast in textures (creamy, crunchy, and even that “pop” from citrus) were interesting. Not the best thing I’ve had, but I’m not sad I ordered it.
Tad: I chose not to order dessert. As previously mentioned, I am currently working on a new weight-lifting regime. I realized while traveling that all the riches in the world will do you no good if you are unhealthy. In anticipation of my appointment with my personal trainer, I decided to be good and forego dessert.
Monte: Seriously? You are working out now? Pics or it did not happen.
Tad: You are welcome to join me if you want. We have enough workout equipment in the new exercise wing that you could do whatever you needed to do while I work with Lucas. We could get dessert after.