Kirbie's Cravings

Juniper & Ivy

It’s not often that one of the hottest chefs in America decides to open a restaurant in San Diego, so when Chef Richard Blais (winner of Top Chef All-Stars) announced he was coming to San Diego, the news of his decision made Juniper & Ivy the most anticipated restaurant long before it opened.

I somehow managed to restrain my excitement and wait a few weeks for the restaurant to settle in before visiting. I’ve kept up with coverage of the restaurant and yet the pictures don’t fully capture the gorgeously designed space.

Up front and center is the huge open kitchen. Sure we’ve seen open kitchens in San Diego, but not quite like this. It had an almost stadium-like presence, making us feel like we were getting dinner and a show.

And right in front of the kitchen are a handful of Chef’s counter seats. I wish I had knew about them in advance because I would most definitely had requested them. They reminded me of the Chef’s counter seats I sat at for my Republique dinner, but even better because it isn’t in front of a fire pit, the kitchen station is much bigger, and in addition to watching the action, you actually get to talk to Richard Blais and he even serves the lucky diners some of their dishes.

If you have a large group, they have a set of tables right behind the counter, Chef’s tables, which allows groups to enjoy the kitchen action too.

We still got pretty good seats though. We were seated on the next level which gave us a great view of the kitchen and restaurant. I spent most of the evening thoroughly distracted by watching Chef Blais and his team in action.

The menu is broken up into many categories, with smaller dishes situated near the top and large entree-portion dishes at the bottom. We had really been hoping to try the 4 x 4 tasting menu which was originally set to debut by the time of our visit, but when we spoke to our server she indicated that it was still a few weeks away. After much contemplating, we decided to try a dish from every section.

I had seen posts about a Cloud 9 cocktail that features an Absinthe cotton candy cloud. Unfortunately it wasn’t available the night we went. We were told the very popular drink had burned out their cotton candy machine.

Buttermilk Biscuit with Smoked Butter

With so many exotic items on the menu, the buttermilk biscuit seemed quite ordinary and normally I would have passed on it. But many positive reviews led me to ordering it. And it was worth it. Hot, flaky, buttery, fluffy– this was one of the best biscuits I’ve ever had. The entire “snack” section had my curiosity piqued with offerings like stuffed abalone, knuckle lobster sandwich and dungeness crab beignet. I need to come back and try them all.

Fluke (buttermilk dressing, fresno chili, black garlic)

From the raw menu, we chose the fluke which was beautifully crafted. I wish the lighting had been better to fully capture this. The slices of fresh fluke were heightened in flavor with the citrusy and tangy buttermilk dressing, which a touch of heat. We both really enjoyed this one.

Charred Black Grapes (ricotta, ice wine vinegar, hyssop)

This was one of the most unique items we sampled that night. The cooking technique really brings the juices of the grapes to the center. The sugary sweetness made them jam-like, working perfectly on top of the ricotta spread toast. I also really admired the wooden slab serving plate.

While chowing down on this, Mr. K spotted another item from the “Toast” section, a carne asada crudo featuring four fried quail eggs. Another item I must order next time.

Abolongna (abalone mortadella, passion fruit dijon)

This one was one of the weaker dishes we had that night. I had a hard time tasting the abalone and the dish tasted more of meat than anything else.

Octopus Terrine (pork belly, uni vinaigrette, sea potato)

Thin slices of cured pork belly were interlaced with tender pieces of octopus. I loved the presentation but found the pork belly too salty and overwhelming the delicate octopus. The baby potatoes were some of the tiniest I’ve ever seen.

All the dishes came out evenly paced. Once we finished with the smaller plates, we were given fresh plates to start the next section of our meal.

Linguni & Razor clams (sea urchin butter, brioche)

Mr. K was giggling when the server announced our “ling-uni” pasta which features an uni butter sauce. The pasta was cooked al dente, swimming in a rich, buttery uni sauce. The briny clams helped bring out the milder uni flavor.

Kurobuto Pork Shorty (corn puree, giant beans, smoked molasses)

The pork was quite tender, falling off the bone easily. It’s glazed with a sweet and sticky smoked molasses. The meat was paired with a corn puree which was a tad too sweet for my liking, but balanced out with a tangy tomato mix, giant beans, and pickled turnips and cucumbers. My favorite part of this dish was actually the vegetables. The pickled turnips had a fantastic crunch.

We passed on dessert as we were too stuffed. After our meal, we asked if we could get a picture with the chef, and he promptly came right over. He chatted with us a little while before taking a picture and shaking our hands. It was definitely a perfect way to end the evening.

Overall, we had a good time here. It’s definitely one of the more exciting meals I’ve had in San Diego in a while. I felt the smaller sharing plates from the “Snacks,” “Toast,” and “Raw” sections of the menu were more memorable and better showcased his creativity. We definitely want to return to try out other dishes and hopefully the 4 x4 tasting menu. And next time, I’m requesting those Chef’s counter seats. Simply ask for them when you make your reservation, there currently is no additional charge to sit there.

Other miscellaneous items:

For parking, since the restaurant is situated near the outskirts of Little Italy, it shouldn’t be too hard to find street parking. Otherwise there is valet parking for only $5 as well.

Be warned, the male and female bathrooms share a communal sink, which you’ll see when you first enter the bathroom doors. For some reason this seemed to disturb the men more.

Juniper & Ivy
2228 Kettner Blvd
San Diego, CA 92101

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20 comments on “Juniper & Ivy”

    we had the rabbit last time we went. it was delicious!! the place is pretty much impossible to get a reservation. So we basically go there at 4pm and start drinking/eating by the bar, no waiting πŸ™‚
    I gotta say, the bill was surprisingly a lot cheaper than I expected.

  2. Found Faye’s post on Juniper & Ivy on Yelp and then found your post on her post haha. Considering going there tonight and the biscuit as well as the charred grape toast look like must-orders. Might have to just compose a meal of small plates here. And as always, amazing pictures!!

  3. Awesome post – the photos/food look gorgeous. Most of the small plates on the menu looked pretty interesting to me – I’d probably want to try more of those!

    • I’m definitely going to do almost all small plates next time. Maybe go with a bigger group too so I can try everything!

  4. Great post! This place has been receiving a lot of buzz lately. Lovely photos of the food too, especially the “linguni” and the octopus terrine. So interesting looking!

  5. Amazing photos! I completely agree with you about the smaller plates being the stars of the show. Having gone a few times now, my favorite dish is still the Carne Cruda Asada with quail eggs, followed closely by the Abolone. Also, I think you should try the both of the other pasta options next time you’re in (the duck egg raviolo just melts in your mouth, and the burrata makes the prawn and pork ragu just pop). Drink wise, the Cloud 9 should be ordered just for the wow factor alone, but the beast of bourbon and the friendship garden are my other two favs. Great post πŸ™‚

    • I’m kicking myself for not ordering the carne cruda! I really want to try it. Mmm, the other pasta sounds good. Must get next time. I was so sad they didnt have Cloud 9. I don’t know if they will eventually have it again. I hope so!

  6. Eeeep! I was so excited for your post after seeing the Instagram photos. Thanks for the tip about the Chef’s Table, too! I can’t wait to check the place out and try everything πŸ˜›

  7. I didn’t know he was opening a restaurant here in SD! OMG!! I love Chef Blais. I had the biggest crush on him when he was on Top Chef. Those pics you have of him in the kitchen are awesome. I haven’t checked out their website but how were the prices for the items you and Mr K had that night? Was it hard to get reservations?

    Thanks for the tip on the communal sink – I was laughing about how the guys had a harder time with this than the girls πŸ™‚

    • Hi Faye! You can click on my little menu pics at the end of the post to see them in full size which shows all the prices. I think it’s sort of the pricing I expected for a restaurant opened by a Top Chef winner. I’m surprised you didn’t know he was opening a restaurant in SD! Now you need to go and meet him!!! Reservations weren’t too hard to get. We did about a week in advance. Not sure about for the chef’s counter seats though

  8. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to visit – we have a couple of things to celebrate in the next few months, so maybe their 4×4 menu will be available by then. It looks like it would be hard to make decisions with so many tasty offerings on the menu!

  9. Nice review. I think as with most places we visit, anticipation and expectation often don’t match. Yes the decor is modern California vibe which he labels an East Coaster’s view of the West Coast. We talked to the Chef Richard Blais briefly and he mentioned that he made his staff get out as an assignment stones that were used in some of the dishes served.

    I had mostly small plates, some were better than others. Pricing is a bit higher but I was surprised that the Toast items were enough to share with a couple of people. But I think this is one of those places you visit more than once to get more feeling on what he is trying. He did mention that his menu will change based on what is available.

    Oh and maybe try the In and Haute burger off the menu but they will make it, his version of the In n Out animal style. My friend loved it (but of course he is a Chef Blais fan). My Yelp review was too long and I couldn’t fit all I wanted to say in it. πŸ™‚

    • Hi! Oh I definitely want to try the burger on my next trip. I read about it, was curious, decided not to for this one since there were already so many items I wanted. But I already have a list of things I want to eat next time!

  10. Wow!!! What a great post, Kirbie! I love Chef Richard Blais too and have been waiting patiently for J&I to open. Thanks for sharing your experience — definitely going to visit soon. The food looked amazing, especially the “ling-uni”, haha. Going to forward your post to my sis, who lives in Philly. She has the biggest crush on Chef Blais!

    • def go visit! i think now is an especially good time to visit since he’s been in the kitchen just about everyday since it opened.

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