The new local
Juniper goes French with new menu and remodel
Chef Justin Thompson with Juniper’s Bistro Burger and Lump Crab and Artichoke Beignets
Juniper opened four years ago with warm reception to Chef Justin Thompson’s farm-to-table, locally sourced ethic. But Thompson decided that a local focus wasn’t enough to define the restaurant’s identity. This month, Juniper unveiled a freshly remodeled space and new French-inspired menu.
Voted Best Chef in the Voice’s 2015 Best of Tulsa awards, Thompson also owns Tavolo, Prhyme and 624 Kitchen & Catering under the Justin Thompson Restaurant (JTR) Group. He previously worked as executive chef of Brookside’s former southern French restaurant, The Brasserie. Juniper’s new menu, written with Corporate Chef Tim Slavin, revisits those influences.
“With my background at The Brasserie and the way that I’ve cooked my entire career, it felt natural to dive into more French-inspired cuisine,” Thompson says.
Considering Thompson’s history and his vision for Juniper’s update, it’s surprising to learn that he’s never been to Europe—
“I’ve opened nine restaurants in Tulsa in the past 13 years, so there hasn’t been a whole lot of time to get away to do anything,” he says. “Not yet.”
Though the food showcases elements of classic French cuisine, JTR Marketing Director Evan Wei-Haas says there’s plenty of experimentation happening in the kitchen.
“We’re still going to play a lot,” Wei-Haas says. “And it’s still definitely Juniper.”
As a starter, the Lump Crab and Artichoke Beignets ($14) make a strong first impression: Deep-fried, lemony crab and artichoke fritters are served in a pool of fraise salad and spicy rouille. A classic creole rouille depends on the smoky quality of its red pepper and saffron, and Juniper’s version of the sauce pulls in a mineral touch of braised oyster.
For the new Signature Salade ($12), Slavin pairs endive with radicchio and arugula to create bitterness and spice. Sharp crumbled raclette and tarragon vinaigrette offer a sweet, herbaceous zing, and shaved fennel, anise and orange give the salad a bright, crisp sweetness.
The BLT Croissant ($10)—complete with Scissortail greens and pastry fresh from Stonehorse—is a high point of the lunch menu. House-made chive aioli, plump tomato slices and savory bacon give new zest to this under-appreciated lunch classic. Aioli is a regular at Juniper this season, with hearty, palatable saffron, sage and herb varieties.
Aioli’s not-too-distant cousin, béarnaise, makes an appearance on the decadent Steak Frites—locally sourced strip steak served with pickled vegetables and, for the first time at Juniper, French fries (AKA frites). Parmesan, salt, herbs and aioli accent the fries. The classic entree comes with a hefty $31 price tag, but with the pink marbling of the tender cut and the bath of velvety, Tabasco-and-tarragon béarnaise, it might just be worth it for a true viande lover.
The hero of the new lunch menu is the Bistro Burger ($12).
“Everything about that burger is very French,” Slavin says. “Everything from the brioche bun, to the fried shallots, to the caramelized onions, to the saffron aioli. It’s Brie cheese. It’s pork and beef. The only thing that would be more French is if the patty were made out of horse meat.”
With Juniper’s weekly themed menus now a thing of the past, carefully curated wine and beer dinners are picking up the slack. The Ultimate Foodie Wine Dinner is scheduled for August 26 at 6:30 p.m., and a beer dinner with Roughtail Brewing Company is planned for September. The restaurant also hosts five- and seven-course prix fixe dinners ($49 and $63, respectively).
Juniper’s new wine list features a globetrotting selection of grapes—everything from Bordeaux to Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache. Behind the bar, local legend Liz Pounds brings updated French classics to the cocktail menu, including the St. Germaine Cocktail (elderflower liqueur, sparkling wine and club soda; $9), the French 75 (gin, lemon, sugar and sparkling wine; $12) and her signature martini ($13).
“Her classic French Martini is one of the best in the state,” Thompson says. “Not because she does anything crazy, but because she does it right.”
French influence or none, it’s this grounded, approachable attention to quality that will keep customers coming back to Juniper.
“The best service and food doesn’t slap you in the face with how crazy it is,” Thompson says. “This is food people know.”
For more from Megan, read her story on Tulsa Girls Art School.