it was a cold day off. i wore mittens and tights under jeans.
the juno dining room, however, was warm in both temperature and décor. an unshakable hotel-restaurant feel pervaded (the name-tag pins, the plethora of managers), to be sure, yet the booths were deep, the bar dark, extensive, and inviting, and a fire burned in the rear of the room.
i chose the quiet side of the bar, away from the cocktail hour business men and be-sweatered older women. the bar chairs, woven leather things, were attached to the ground, my legs, stiff with two layers, had trouble fitting under the bar just right.
my bartender was cute but clearly stretched thin, which meant less pestering and suited me just fine. juno’s bar menu is made up of tastes, affordable small plates to keep the martinis from absorbing too quickly. the cocktail list is largely based upon infused vodkas, sweet berry flavors, and bright colors.
my new yorker received a skimming, but for the most part acted as a ruse to conceal my eavesdropping. as i watched, the blazer-ed hostess scanned the seven or eight open table reservations for the night, the late server arrived, and a few forks clattered to the floor in a poor handoff. the soundtrack alternated between appropriate, cozy jazz, and mariah carey-ish lobby music.
i eventually got my tastes, three small plates carried by two large gentlemen. lamb carpaccio ($6) was delicate and thinly sliced, generously drizzled with olive oil. roasted olives sat on top like barnacles. all quite successful except for ten or so olives that were saturated with a liquid-smoke flavor that engulfed any subtlety from the lamb or olive oil. risotto croquettes ($5) were inoffensive balls of creamy fried rice. the violet red onion jam beneath them, however, was so sweet i had to hurry to rescue my croquettes from absorbing any of it.
a beef and lamb slider ($3) was straightforward and well-cooked. the addition of beef tempered the lamb and an aioli and piquillo pepper gave it some character.
dinner hour approached and the tuesday night crowd arrived. a perky man-waiter took an order behind me, noted desired wellness on steaks, extolled the virtues of grey goose. the hostess ran for the phone, i didn’t see the bartender for twenty minutes and didn’t mind. i don’t know whether he could sense that i wanted a quiet, leisurely snack or was just busy – it didn’t matter (though, try as i might, i couldn’t help but notice how many waiters ignored my dirty plates while he rushed around). i spun gently on my stool and held my breath as i sucked down the last dregs of liquid gourd.
desserts came in dessert form as well, but i couldn’t bring myself to face the black pepper cheesecake or avocado white chocolate mousse.
i’m not sure why the bartender left my drink off the check – i didn’t even get a chance to charm him or drop that i worked in a restaurant. it was probably just that he’d tried the seasonal cocktail himself.