Do you often feel trapped in Georgetown? Personally, I feel that there is an imperceptible barrier surrounding this wonderful neighborhood that keeps me, along with much of our community, from breaking out into the larger D.C. community. Luckily for me, I found the perfect way to take a step out without really having to leave Georgetown at all: by taking in a fantastic meal at Juniper, the restaurant tucked away in the Fairmont Washington D.C. Hotel.
To get to Juniper, you have to walk down M Street, past Urban Outfitters and CVS and when you think you can’t spend any more time on M, take another step. It’s almost as if the owners know that a trip to Juniper will be an adventure: because the restaurant is discreetly placed in a quiet, self-contained corner of the hotel. But for those who make the trek down to Juniper, the rewards are plentiful.
The food is definitely the reason to plan a visit, but Juniper doesn’t slouch on the non-culinary details, either. I can’t pretend to know what Juniper is like during rush hour because I had the luck of going on a slow Sunday, but I can’t imagine that, even at its craziest, it would lose its luxury and romance-filled ambiance. With large ceilings reaching to the sky and European-style windows looking out on the street, Juniper is perfect for couples celebrating in style or anyone looking to really treat him- or herself after midterms. The service is impeccable; present and helpful when needed, invisible when not.
But now to the food. Chef Ian Bens has shaped Juniper with a focus on food that is local, seasonal and sustainable. The first evidence of the magic this creates comes with Juniper’s bread, which, along with the complimentary butter, is infused with honey grown on the roof of the hotel and has more flavor than many entrees at other restaurants. Then, a treat of beef tartar came, compliments of the chef, with an amazing olive flavor that served as the perfect transition to my meal.
The menu is full of enticing options, from peaches and cream to sweet corn risotto to olli calabrese salami. So, like any person overwhelmed with choice, I stumbled into a prix fixe menu to get a little taste of everything. My first course featured mini Chesapeake Bay crab cakes on a bed of succotash and spicy remoulade that was just the right mix of comfort food and haute cuisine. Similarly, my second course was an elevation of a traditional favorite: strip loin steak. Thinly sliced and tender, it was perfectly complemented by a homemade sauce as well as perfectly seasoned green beans and hickory fries. Finally came the revelation of dessert, pumpkin curd with cinnamon garnish, which inverted the style of the other two courses by bringing a complex mixture back to its essentials.
Juniper is without question one of the best restaurants in the area and surely worth traveling a little further down M Street. It melds basic cooking and gourmet cuisine with ease and is a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of 36th and O Streets. Who couldn’t use that?