It’s not exactly novel to say you’re opening a restaurant based on seasonality anymore, so when chef Shaun Hergatt–who was last at SHO Shaun Hergatt–opens Juni in the Chandler Hotel at 12 East 31st Street on Monday, he hopes to dig deeply into what “seasonality” really means.
“The inspiration came when I was cooking at Sho,” he says. “I was dealing with a lot of local guys, farmers, all that stuff. I began to think about basing a restaurant around the seasons. But how do you define seasons? When you look at a menu, things are not grown four times a year anymore; a season is a month or two months.”
To capture that fluid nature of seasonality, Hergatt has designed his restaurant and menu around instilling awareness in diners of exactly what’s peaking produce-wise at any given moment. “We’ll showcase the best of the best when it’s ripe,” he explains. “It will taste the way that it should.” Opening week, he says, will be particularly good for carrots, which he’s doing with nasturtium flowers and mint.
The concept will be best communicated, he says, via his 10-course tasting menu, a “sequence of dishes that falls in harmony and should give diners a good idea of exactly what’s in the market right now.” Which means that list will change, and frequently. In fact, it’s already seen some variation since staff training started: “We were getting chive blossoms, but now we can’t use them,” Hergatt says. “It keeps our education high.”
An abridged version of that menu comes in the form of a six- or four-course tasting, though Hergatt says those meals won’t give as complete a picture of what he’s going for (nor, for that matter, will a la carte ordering, though Hergatt says he’ll allow it).
Juni’s space was also designed to subtly call forth the seasons: Hergatt went with a monochromatic color palette so that “the vibrancy of the vegetable and reality of the plate come right into your face when you sit down.” He’s added natural touches, though, like leaves etched into glass in the bar and herbs scattered throughout the space will emit subtle seasonal fragrance.
“By the time you leave, you should have a sense of well-being, and you should understand why the concept is season,” Hergatt says.
Oh, and as for the name? Juni comes from the Latin for June, which, says Hergatt, is sort of the height of late spring and early summer. “The flowers are in bloom, and the produce really starts.”
Juni will be open for dinner and breakfast daily and lunch Monday through Friday.