Sunday, June 8, 2014

Juniper Restaurant Brunch Review

Pecan Crusted French Toast

If this were a Presidential election, every other candidate restaurant in town would have called over to the Juniper Restaurant at Fairmont Washington, D.C., Georgetown and conceded defeat. It was only three months ago that we declared Juniper home to DC's Best Breakfast; and now it's time to add DC's Best Bunch to its already impressive resume. Although a tad pricey ($48) Chef Ian Bens' Market Fresh Brunch is the closest thing I've found to having breakfast in bed with a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model; and since that will never happen, all I can say is thank you, thank you!

Thanks for the memories of a meal fit for a king... with the king being yours truly (or anyone else lucky enough to sit down to this "feast for the ages.") For starters, Juniper combines DC's best AM buffet with your choice of delectable entrees and unlimited Mimosas (three different kinds, in fact.) Come hungry, and take your time. Anything short of a 90 minute stay would be close to criminal. Also, prepare to be pampered by a top-notch staff that's nothing shy of spectacular. From the moment you set foot inside, to the minute you reluctantly declare "no mas," Chef Ian & co. do everything in their considerable powers to spoil you rotten.

Fruit Plate

My eyes lit up when I was seated at a table in Ms. Hanh's section (I made the request ahead of time, but one never knows about days off, etc.) Ms. Hanh took care of me back in February, and left such a positive impression... that I made a special point to ask for her again (that's a first for me, as a critic.) Needless to say, her service was once again perfect: Obviously, the luck of the Irish was back on my side.

On to the meal itself, presented in Juniper's gorgeous dining room. My table was beautifully adorned with a fresh flower and both the New York Times and Washington Post Sunday editions. I was served a bottle of Vivreau pure still water (with lemon & lime wedges on the side) and the first of three Mimosas (Raspberry.) Next, the buffet bar which remains the best-looking of its kind not only in DC, but anywhere on the East Coast. Noticeable additions (to their regular breakfast buffet) included crab claws, oysters and shrimp (as well as pork sausages & turkey bacon.) One minus however... no scrambled eggs (a favorite of mine, during my last visit.) Rest assured, one mention; and I would have had a hot plate at my table in under five minutes. Don't mess with Juniper's efficiency: It has no equal.

Breakfast Meats

You could say the same about their breakfast meats - Applewood Smoked Bacon, Pork Sausage, Turkey Bacon and Virginia Ham (not to mention at least three varieties of salmon... perhaps next time) next to a serving spoonful of zesty Breakfast Potatoes. Top marks across the board, but extra points for the most flavorful turkey bacon this side of Sizzlean. P.S. Juicy pork sausage links = sinful, but delicious.

Ms. Hanh stopped by with four slices of perfectly toasted sourdough bread, together with a plate of expertly prepared condiments (even the butter was topped off with a knife... they don't miss a trick here.) Speaking of, the butter is made in-house; and it was a struggle not to ask for a carryout container. You'll be proud to know, I kept what little dignity I had left and didn't ask. Perhaps there's hope for me yet.

Sourdough Toast

It wouldn't be brunch without fresh fruit, and Juniper's buffet spread had every kind imaginable (including the juiciest strawberries in town.) Also available - cottage cheese, four different salads, various yogurts and a myriad of breads, muffins and pastries... more than enough to keep even the choosiest vegetarians in your party happy. I managed to find room for an enticing 1-2 combo of hot Cinnamon Twists & Pecan Crusted Sticky Buns - the former, so delicious... I had to dissuade myself from having more.

Raspberry Mimosa

Self-control is a vital skill to own, when it comes to the buffet; because there's still more food to come. Each brunch comes with your choice of six different seasonal entrees, including Chesapeake Bay Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and Rock Creek Quiche with Kennebec Potatoes, Leeks & Bijou Goat Cheese. Me? I couldn't resist Chef Ian's Pecan Crusted French Toast with Preserved Peaches and a decadent Maple Bourbon Syrup. I make a mean French toast at home; but Chef Ian puts mine to absolute shame. Rarely have I encountered such unbelievable texture and flavor (pecans = score.) It was this close to perfect, but I longed for more syrup... perhaps in its own sauce cup?

Mango Mimosa

With yet another plate cleared away, I sat back and took inventory of all I'd devoured during this "magic carpet ride" of a brunch. Behind me, sat a group of a dozen or so well-heeled 20-somethings, decked out in their Sunday best (hats too.) They were having a grand ole time as well; and I overheard one of them saying, "Let's not rush anything." Amen to that. As I said before, to hurry here is a sin. Ms. Hanh returned and offered dessert, which I tried to refuse by raising my arms in defeat. Unfortunately, she wouldn't take no for an answer. She escorted me to a small table near the front entrance of the dining room, and pointed out several pint-sized desserts... each one calling out to me in perfect harmony. Begrudgingly, I caved in (of course) and settled on a Honey Tea Cake that was... like everything else, marvelous. Shame on you Ms. Hanh!

Pecan Crusted Sticky Buns & Cinnamon Twists

Looking back, I forgot to mention Mimosas #2 (Mango) and #3 (Orange, not pictured.) Care to read my mind? They were delicious. Coffee and tea are available as well, but I have to draw the line somewhere. As for atmosphere, I'd eat out of a cardboard box, so long as Juniper's staff was nearby. Thankfully, that's not necessary. Juniper's dining room is an oasis of sorts, outdone only by the people who work its corners. This is where you go to celebrate something special. It makes me wonder what staying in the hotel is like. Too bad I already live in the city. Maybe I could pretend I didn't?

Honey Tea Cake

Considering how wonderful these last two meals have been, you may wonder... Why not try lunch and dinner? Trust me, I'm one step ahead of you: I'm dying to, but I'm determined to ride this train for as long as possible. That means taking my time, and waiting 2-3 months before lunch... then the same amount of time before dinner. If good things come to those who wait, imagine what's in store for those of us who wait a little bit longer? I imagine I'll be awarding Restaurant of the Year to Juniper right around Christmas. Until then, I encourage you to try Juniper for yourself; while I savor what's already been.