Among other notable offerings, Turkish Egg Bread brings a boat-shaped sourdough, with a center filled with hot cheese and an egg yolk – perfect for tearing and dipping. Baked char siu bao is a warm, soft and chewy bun with a filling of sweet and salty ground BBQ pork. And, a breakfast banh mi includes slices of sweet homemade Vietnamese sausage subtly flavored with lemongrass, a perfectly sized omelette, sprigs of fresh cilantro and strips of pickled carrots, all on a toasted homemade baguette. .
Banh set on the lunch and dinner menu feature Vietnamese caramel pork, roasted eggplant, and crispy-spicy fried chicken, along with standard toppings of cucumber, pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and a strip of pâté. home. They have a thin, crispy exterior and a soft, airy interior. But these sandwiches did not offer the same delicate balance of tastes and textures as the breakfast interpretations.
These same meat and vegetable toppings can be mixed in a bowl of noodles. Roasted eggplant – or better yet, slices of that homemade Vietnamese sausage – arranged on rice vermicelli, tossed with raw vegetables, lettuce, peanuts, fried shallots and chopped garlic, with a nuoc cham, were more satisfying than the blended flavors of starfruit, citrus and green papaya salad.
Some dishes listed among the chef’s specialties sounded good, but didn’t live up to the plate: an oily coconut pancake stuffed with shrimp and shiitake mushrooms; and the roast duck leg, which lacked lacquer and was on a damp bed of spiralized cucumbers. I was also disappointed with the Thai chili oil to set the Vietnamese hot fried chicken apart. However, a creamy and refreshing jicama slaw was a perfect match.
Familiar favorites, such as shrimp-stuffed summer rolls and pho with oxtail broth were gratifying (vegan pho is also available), but the most memorable bites from this kitchen run by the former cook Lazy Betty’s principal, Timothy Rufino, were the ones that, like the coleslaw, got more creative: steamed mussels in a rich lemongrass-coconut broth with thin strips of starfruit ; an airy, paper-thin fried okra appetizer, masterfully cut lengthwise and seasoned with tangy nuoc cham salt; and light-as-air coconut shaved ice with fresh fruit and fluffy mochi, for dessert.
The restaurant was BYOB until its liquor license came the day I last visited, allowing the bar to pour wine, Japanese beer, sake (by the bottle only), canned makgeolli, and a fiery flight of soju, shochu and baijiu.
A pastel color scheme, bulbous paper lanterns and tiny potted succulents on each table lend a warm and inviting feel to the main dining room and adjoining spacious patio, which is covered and screened in, with heaters and a insulation that allow year-round use.
Prices reflect pandemic times, with take-out packages including a 10% pre-tax surcharge that appears as a line item on the invoice. The Juniper Cafe is also among the restaurants that have instituted an automatic 20% service charge, which is listed on the menu. However, clearer verbiage could prevent inadvertent overspending by customers who don’t realize they are already receiving a 20% gratuity.
Atlanta lucked out when Hsu returned to his hometown, having worked his way up the fine dining ladder in New York. Along with Lazy Betty and, now, Juniper Cafe, he ranks among those ambitious young restaurateurs in town who are attuned to the food, drink, space, hospitality and unapologetic prices that are likely to be characteristics of a fun, post-pandemic meal.
Food: modern Vietnamese restaurant and globally influenced bakery
A service: friendly, quick
Best Dishes: breakfast banh mi, turkish egg bread, crispy okra, mussels, pho, coconut shaved ice
Vegetarian Selections: pastries; starfruit, citrus and green papaya salad; okra; banh mi with roasted eggplant; vegan pho; roasted eggplant noodle salad; sautéed mushrooms
Alcohol: full bar
Price scale: $$$
Pandemic security: optional masks for guests
Credit card: all major credit cards accepted
Hours: breakfast, 8am-11am Wednesday to Sunday; lunch, 11am-2.30pm Wednesday to Sunday; dinner, 5pm-8.30pm Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 5pm-9pm Friday-Saturday
Car park: free lot with ample parking
MARTA Station: Nope
Wheelchair access: yes
Noise level: low
To go out: yes, order over the phone, in person, or through the restaurant’s website; delivery coming soon via Grubhub and Uber Eats
Address, phone: 2260, boul. Northwest Marietta, Atlanta; 470-427-3057
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