For my birthday, Tori treated me to dinner at Juniper and Ivy in Little Italy. This is the second time we have been to this San Diego restaurant of Richard Blais, the winner of Top Chef All-Stars in 2010. After our server suggested three to four small plates per person, we reordered three favorites from our last visit and experimented with four new dishes. The Cheddar Chive Biscuits they served as an amuse-bouche were so delicious that I almost wanted to order more to take home.
Our Buttermilk Biscuit (Smoked Salt / Butter) - I am not normally a fan of smoke, but it infuses into the top of this biscuit so perfectly that we had to order it again this visit. The texture reminds me of cake.
Baja Yellowtail (Shark Sauce / Tostada) - We reordered these bite size tostadas again and they are our favorite dish at this restaurant. They are so good, I close my eyes as I savor all the flavors.
Pigs in a Blanket (Cheddar Sausage / Mustard) - This was a new item on the menu and it was very tasty.
White Bass Ceviche (Grapefruit Aguachili / Guajillo / Radish Salsa / Fingerlime) - This was Tori's dish but I had a bite and it tasted as colorful as it looked.
Cauliflower Nachos (Monterey Jack / Pickled Chile / Chicharone) - We tried this plate out and it was amazing. I wouldn't mind being a vegetarian if all the dishes tasted like this. The lightly fried cauliflower had the texture and flavor of perfectly cooked meat.
Pastrami Toast (Guajillo 1000 Island / Swiss / Pickled Cabbage) - Last visit, I ordered the Carne Crudo Asada Toast and I had the same opinion as this time. Both very good, but I wish I had ordered something smaller since it quickly filled me up and I was too full to explore any more dishes. Next time I will skip the toast.
Yodel (Devil's Cake / White Chocolate / Hazelnut Brittle / Hot Chocolate) - I still had enough room for this concoction of deliciousness stuffed into a chocolate tube. When they pour the hot chocolate over the top, the casing melts and exposes the treats within.
We had a table in the raised area near the bar. It was a nice spot with views into the open kitchen. We are interested in trying out Richard Blais' more casual restaurant, The Crack Shack, next door but we will probably just wait until they open their second location in Encinitas soon.