The suburbs usually get a bad reputation when it comes to restaurants. Big chains prevail and competition is often so low that overall quality takes a hit. However, in many cases, gems can be found and enjoyed if you know where to go.
Executive chef and restaurant owner Dave Becker thrives in the suburban areas of Needham and Wellesley with two restaurants that are well worth a trip out of the city. Juniper is the newer of the two and provides a casual, fun, and funky take on Middle Eastern dishes. The interior is warm and inviting with quirky details and personal art touches dotted around the space. A potter himself, Becker seeks out local pottery works and sneaks in one or two of his own works of art in the tableware, making each course a delight to both the eyes and the taste buds.
Cocktails and wines reflect the individuality of the menu. Little-known varietals abound, and some intriguing organic wines complement the fresh flavors of the dishes. There’s also a list of creative cocktails like hot “duck fat” buttered rum, or a rye-based Negroni.
Although the pace of life in the suburbs is calmer in relation to our rapid-fire city rhythms, the service is very attentive, comfortable, and friendly.
Once you have settled into your first drink and your complimentary olives, order a couple of Juniper’s housemade dips. The butternut squash dip, as well as their potato almond, was among our favorites. Other appetizer options are the lamb tartare with pickled red onion, charred octopus salad, and their fried Manchego: a generous slab of sharp Manchego cheese with apple and pomegranate accents. Rumor has it you can opt to add a fried egg for even more texture and contrast in the dish.
For main dishes, switch to wine and enjoy a take on chicken tagine with juicy chicken on a bed of couscous and dried fruits. The seared scallop dish is beautifully executed, showcasing the kitchen’s skill with delicate seafood.
Pistachio lemon cake and their devil's food cake served with homemade ginger ice cream make for wonderful finishes to what is sure to be a delightful meal. Add a housemade limoncello with rosemary and you will wish you lived closer.
With the recent emphasis on classic American and French cuisines seen in and around Boston, the Middle Eastern focus of Juniper is a wonderful relief. Becker is a perfect local and moves with ease and interest from table to table, creating the friendships and experiences that lack in so many busy city restaurants these days.