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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Juniper 61 Sets High Standards

Something is always new at popular Tosa restaurant

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At the end of 2008 Sarah Jones and Cameryne Roberts opened the doors of Juniper 61 on the border of Milwaukee and Wauwatosa. This is the sister restaurant of Café Lulu, the popular spot in Bay View. While the two have some things in common, especially the homemade potato chips with blue cheese dipping sauce and the Asian slaw, Juniper 61 doesn’t stick with sandwiches and salads, but has entrées as well. The interior is an open arrangement with an inviting bar. Juniper 61 is a place to have fun, although perhaps not an intimate meal because of the high decibel level.

The menu changes often. One item remaining from the beginning is the tempura green beans ($6), still with a crisp batter and a blend of soy sauce with a hint of chili pepper for dipping. There are also weekly specials listed on a chalkboard near the entrance—usually a soup, salad and entrée. The menu wanders the globe. Let’s start with Vietnamese short rib sliders ($10), the braised beef topped with a bok choy, carrot and jicama slaw in a rice vinegar/chili marinade served on small buns. One of the recurring Friday soup specials, shrimp chowder ($3.50-$4.50), takes a New England approach featuring a creamy broth with potatoes and a bit of celery. It’s also good. A white truffle Caesar salad ($6-$9) comes in two sizes and offers options of grilled chicken or tuna for an additional charge. The salad has the usual trimmings of shredded Parmesan and croutons but the flavors are a bit different with the earthiness of the truffles predominating. It’s a good choice for a summery day.

The flat bread pizzas ($9.25-$12) are large enough for a single serving and are prepared five ways. The salsiccia is meaty, topped with house-made pork and beef sausage crumbled on the top. Savor the flavors of oregano, fennel seed, hot red pepper and garlic.

The highlights are the seven menu entrées. Saffron scallops ($19) are seared jumbo sea scallops ringing a mound of Israeli couscous with asparagus and herbs. The beads of couscous look like tiny pearls. The scallops are over a delicate saffron cream sauce that allows their sweetness to dominate. The sole vegetarian entrée is wild mushroom and kale stroganoff ($14.50). The mushrooms are a mix of portobello, shiitake and porcinis on a bed of wide pappardelle noodles in a rich crème fraîche. The kale is served dry and covers everything. This is every bit as good as any stroganoff prepared with beef thanks to the earthiness of the mushrooms.

The bar, a great place for socializing, boasts creative cocktails made with local Rehorst vodka and an assortment of mojitos including one flavored with acai. The wine list is not extensive, more focused on reds than whites. The beer selection is a thoughtful mix of micros, imports and a few domestics. Some items deleted from the menu are missed, especially the juniper pork, chicken paprikash and the Turkish lamb pita. The selections at Juniper 61 continue to change over time in search of new delights. The standards are high.

Juniper 61
6030 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa
414-727-6161
$$$
Handicapped access: yes
juniper61.com
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