At casual-chic JUNO in Sheung Wan, chef Jordi Vallés Claverol pours his heart into a menu featuring elevated Mediterranean-inspired signature dishes
When it comes to comfort-food eats, Italian and its related Mediterranean cuisines often spring to mind, whether it be a hearty plate of pasta, paella, or pastistio. There are plenty of both high-end Mediterranean fine-dining restaurants and neighbourhood pizzerias and tapas joints here in Hong Kong, but what’s sorely lacking for us in the 852 is mid-priced (Italian and otherwise) eateries – where the ambience is just that bit fancier and the dishes more refined.
Enter JUNO in Sheung Wan. The pastel-hued interior of the striking corner eatery is comfortably contemporary, fitted with light-toned marble, textured plaster, and travertine panels – the very essence of casual chic.
Overseeing JUNO’s kitchen pass is chef Jordi Vallés Claverol, who lands at the restaurant after strutting his stuff at sister Spanish restaurant Chueca, founded by husband-and-wife team Horacio and Qinjie Moreu. A Barcelona native, chef Claverol is no stranger to the cuisines of southern coastal Europe and the Mediterranean, having cut his chops at Italian-Japanese hotbed Aqua in Beijing and Hong Kong’s own Spanish jewel The Optimist.
JUNO’s tasting menu (HKD490 pp) is a bargain, both in terms of the quality of the ingredients utilised and the sheer volume of dishes offered. It begins with a diverse selection of small sharing plates – whether you call them cicchetti, tapas, or mezze, depending on where in the Med you land, these bite-sized dishes are just the ticket when we’re craving variety. First up, we have 48-month Ibérico ham piled atop homemade focaccia redolent of rosemary, with the ham giving us a umami wallop.
The whipped feta takes us to Greece with an ultra-smooth and salty feta purée sweetened up with pomegranate and honey.
We remain in Greece (or possibly travel over to Lebanon) with the caviar d’aubergine, fashioned to resemble a mini eggplant. The aubergine is charcoal-roasted, imparting a smokiness, and drenched in olive oil, pine nuts, mint, and basil. Whilst fresh, the flavours are on the subtle side, and we yearned for a burst of acidity to awaken the palate.
The codfish fritters and padrón peppers come as a duo of Spanish staples. The croquettes are filled with bacalao, or dried and salted cod. Their saltiness is tempered with a bright citrus mayo. A personal favourite, the peppers are deep-fried, blistered, and salted to addictive perfection.
With the tasting menu, each diner gets to choose their own main course. The lobster Acquerello risotto (+HKD50) is a noteworthy main. Acquerello rice, a premium aged Carnaroli variety, has been chosen by the chef as its consistency allows the grains to absorb more of the cooking liquid. This risotto has a very robust lobster flavour, akin to bisque. The lobster meat on top is sweet and succulent, cooked just to the point of tenderness.
The ballotine d’agneau à la Provençale features a smallish chargrilled lamb chop (we wish the flesh had been slightly pinker) alongside a crumbed lamb-shoulder ballotine that veers towards the bland side in comparison to the chop’s well-seasoned smokiness. Accompanying these milk-fed lamb twins, the grilled baby eggplant, shallot, tomato, garlic, and black olives transport us straight to a sunshine-filled day in Provence.
Dessert once again brings a choice for the diner. The creamy tiramisu is a good rendition of this Italian classic, perhaps a bit sweeter than we’re accustomed to, whilst the raspberry chocolate coulant (+HKD20), otherwise known as lava cake, offers even more chocolatey richness (thankfully, tart raspberry sorbet is there for balance).
Our verdict of JUNO
JUNO is not your average trattoria or tapas bar, nor is it an uber-luxe restaurant. However, what it is is a relaxed, stylish spot to while away an afternoon or evening savouring chef Claverol’s well-executed Mediterranean dishes, without being pigeon-holed in a specific cuisine. We’d be hard-pressed to find a more reasonably priced tasting menu of the same quality in Hong Kong. In addition, although we didn’t indulge during our lunchtime tasting, JUNO’s affordable wine list is notable, presenting hand-picked bottles from France, Spain, and Italy (Puglia in particular).
|Order this: fritto misto, codfish fritters, truffle tagliolini, seafood fideos, baked sea bass, ballotine d’agneau à la Provençale
Menu: JUNO menus
Price for two: HKD1,100–1,300
|Atmosphere: chilled, convivial vacay vibes that ferry diners to a seaside restaurant on the southern coast of Europe
Perfect for: a long, leisurely weekend brunch catch-up session with friends
This review is intended to offer an individual perspective on the dining experience and should not be considered as a definitive judgement of the restaurant’s overall quality or reputation. The views expressed in this review are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions of Foodie.