By Denise Mattia
As luck would have it, I chose from myriad restaurant/bars in New York’s garment district to meet my friend for lunch at the recently opened Juniper Bar on 35th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues (a block from Macys and Madison Square Garden).
The pristine, sizable marble bar is sleek and modern. The highchairs are covered imaginatively with alternating orange- and tan- backs and shiny muted green seats. Flat-screen TVs are conveniently situated between tall, mullioned mirrors. Teardrop lamps hang from wide solid wood beams. The space was a neighborhood fabric store for decades and retains some of the original interiors. The tables hugging the bar opposite accommodate two people. A tiled floor indicates the bar area and meets the wooden floor panels, which carry the eye toward the dining room.
It was shortly before noon and I was early. Juniper Bar doesn’t open until 11:30 a.m. The place was empty. A little apprehensive (usually crowded restaurant/bars are a sign of good fare), I took a seat in the dining area and studied the novel décor and extensive menu.
I’d never have thought the forest green feathery repeat pattern on the walls would compliment the orange geometric pattern on the banquette. Pleasantly surprised, they add warmth and gaiety to the room. The wooden tables are without cloth covering, and some of the wooden chairs have a bold green leaf design on the cushions. It’s a fun room for diners. Juniper was named after the berry, and the gin menu focuses largely on the liquor.
My friend arrived and we caught up on news over drinks. Pat ordered a Mango and strawberry margarita, which was served with crushed ice ($11) and without salt on the rim to even out the sweetness of the drink. I tasted it; it was weak. We both ordered Natura Chardonnay ($12 a glass), a light, well-balanced, dry, white varietal, with an aroma of grapefruit and a pleasant aftertaste. By 12:30, the restaurant and bar were busy.
We shared a platter of fried calamari ($13) and steak and cheese tacos ($16) as appetizers. The calamari was wonderful — crisp, fresh and tender and the four cheese tacos were large, hearty and tasty. Since we weren’t in a hurry (the restaurant prides itself in being able to serve quickly for those who have an hour for lunch), we asked that our entrée come after we’d finished dawdling over our appetizers.
Our entrees were served hot and fresh. The glazed salmon ($21) was medium rare as I’d ordered. There were subtle tastes going on in this entrée. I thought at first the glaze was superfluous, however, the tart pickled red onions and the fluffy aromatic jasmine rice augmented the sweetness of the glazed fish. Pat’s striped bass was served with lump crab and an ample serving of carrots and French beans on the side. (All the produce at Jasmine is organic and steamed to perfection.) The two subtle seafoods were fresh and moist and delicious. Jeff Hanley, the executive chief, categorizes the menu as “American style with a twist.” His dishes belong in the haute cuisine category.
Thomas Murphy owns Jasmine and, as Alyssa stated, a half dozen or more restaurants in New York, with five up and running in Hell’s Kitchen and Midtown West. Jasmine Bar/Restaurant is a winner. I plan to visit another Thomas Murphy restaurant soon.
About Denise Mattia
A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.