Hello, my name is Rebecca and today is my second day as an intern with Spoon PR. Having familiarised myself with Spoon’s roster, I was asked to write about the client I know best.
A couple of weeks ago I was in New York City, where I was lucky enough to be treated to the most incredible lunch at Chef Shaun Hergatt’s JUNI: a restaurant which arrived on New York’s fine dining scene last year and created quite a stir among fans of Hergatt’s previous two-Michelin star restaurant, SHO. Here are a few thoughts on my experience…
Tucked away amidst the soaring icons of Manhattan’s midtown skyline, one of New York City’s most talked-about new restaurants is making some serious waves in the gastronomic stratosphere of this global restaurant capital. Located on a quiet street just north of the Flatiron District, one of the city’s liveliest and most desirable neighbourhoods where local diners have expectations as high and relentless as the architecture that surrounds them, JUNI is not just ‘the new restaurant on the block’: it is an oasis of technically exquisite and visually inspired cuisine which establishes a new and exciting direction for the city’s fine dining culture.
Crowned Best New Restaurant by Esquire shortly after its 2013 opening and awarded The Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence in 2014, JUNI represents the latest masterpiece in Shaun Hergatt’s visionary gastronomic repertoire. Raised in rural Queensland and inspired from an early age by the beauty of his natural surroundings, Hergatt is an uncompromising chef: the precision, finesse, flavour, seasonality, detail and dedication to quality discoverable in every ingredient in each of his dishes is, quite simply, spectacular.
By creatively combining modernist techniques with his strong commitment to the bountiful offerings of New York State’s fresh, seasonal produce, Hergatt has successfully captured that prized rarity in the world of high-end restaurants where something which looks almost too beautiful and delicate to eat meets layers of intense, bold flavour in ways which transform and surprise your palate with every bite. The impressionistic and complex style of Hergatt’s vision infused every course of the vegetarian tasting menu which we were lucky enough to try.
Lunch included fresh hearts of palm served with basil purée, foraged stone crop, purslane and shaved summer onions; tomato gelée with roasted tomato soup made with tomatoes from New York’s celebrated Union Square Market; local corn served three ways with saffron; truffled squid-ink potatoes; and a seemingly never-ending continuation of extraordinary vegetable dishes presented one by one in impeccably timed sequence, leaving us increasingly speechless as each course came and went.
Following our meal, a full ‘backstage’ tour from the head chef himself revealed the spectacular and publicly unseen mechanics of JUNI: a light-filled private dining room under construction; a state-of-the-art kitchen populated by the most skilled, talented and efficient of teams that the city has to offer; and some insight into the character of Shaun Hergatt, whose untiring passion for his work is deeply rooted – each dish on the menu, he told us, is directly inspired by a childhood memory.
Stopping along the way to introduce us individually to members of his team, giving us cucumber flowers and watermelon pickles to try along with him, and anecdotally recounting his experiences of life as a restaurateur in New York City before jovially telling his team that he’d be back shortly – he was just off to walk his Pomeranians – the mastermind behind JUNI carries with him a joyful vivaciousness that is uncharacteristic of the stereotypical, cold-shouldered successful New Yorker. Perhaps it is his Australian heritage to which we can look for the source of Hergatt’s good-natured demeanour, but in the dishes he serves up – in all of their precise, elegant and exquisitely put-together glory – the intensely driven, competitive and perfectionist New Yorker is entirely evident.
To see what Spoon have written about Juni previously, click here