You’ve got to give Shaun Hergatt credit for persistence, if naught else. His first fine-dining restaurant won two Michelin stars but took a critical drubbing. The critics acted clowns, but the same clowns (or some of them) are still running the circus.
A lot of chefs would have followed it up with a steakhouse or a noodle shop. But here he is again, giving the critics what they already told him they don’t want.
To be fair, dumb reviews weren’t all that went wrong at SHO Shaun Hergatt. It was in a terrible location, not visible from the street, on an upper floor in a building surrounded with scaffolding and Jersey barriers. Even with the best reviews, I’m not sure he could have overcome that.
Juni (a diminutive of the Latin word for June) isn’t a SHO clone. It doesn’t look like a hotel in Dubai, the room isn’t as spacious or as opulent, there are no tablecloths, he’s not sending out edible gold leaf, and the wine list is far more modest. But it’s still an expensive fine-dining restaurant in a boutique hotel (The Chandler at 31st and Madison), a genre the foodocracy does not embrace.
There are two gracious, comfortable dining rooms, decorated in taupe and other muted colors, with custom flower prints on the walls and a large floral centerpiece. The flower motif is in the food too, with colorful petals on many of the dishes. Servers are in navy suits and ties, runners in dark blue coats, with a low diner-to-staff ratio. There’s a heavy ceramic pedestal at every place setting, and plates are served on top of this. Water glasses, silverware, and serving pieces, etc., are first-rate.
The cuisine is recognizably Hergatt, but there is a hint of the new Nordic here and there, with a heavy dose of crisps, flower petals and herbs, assymetric platings, and austere presentation. Whether you like this style of cooking or not, it is obviously labor- and ingredient-intensive, and beautiful to look at.