Juanita & Maude Review - Albany


(maria ascarrunz) #1

My sister and I went to Juanita & Maude last night, which has only been open for about 2.5 weeks. It took the place of old-timer Nizza La Bella, which, for us, had gone downhill over the last at least 10 yrs. We split starters and firsts, no entrees.

Started out with cauli cheese croquetas over schug - fantastic!

My sister hated croquetas when we we were in Spain and I kind of agreed. It took Lisbon to turn me into a fan. These were light, crispy, and creamy inside. Schug turns out to be a chimichurri-type sauce but with jalapenos or serranos, although this one had no real heat.

Then, crostone of liverwurst & silky mortadella on house-made pugliese with picked veg.

The veggies were slightly sweet, not too tart, and the whole thing worked really well. I just found the combo of the charcuterie and the creamy liver, with the crunchy veg, very special. Plus the bread was so soft.

Next, a salad of grilled squid, amazing sweet cherry toms, chilies, ginger (not very discernible) and avocado.

The squid was perfectly smoky, a really great dish.

And then we had another salad but it was rather boring - endive (which i love), Roquefort, radish, broccoli, and a soft boiled egg.

The problem was that it was all bitterness with no real contrast, and all crunch (the broccoli was raw). It really could have used lardons. The egg was cooked perfectly, at least. We didn’t finish it, and the server didn’t make any mention of that when he picked up the dish.

Since that was going to be our last bite, we had to split a dessert.

Walnut cake with poached apples. It turned out to be more like a cupcake, which I dislike, but it fortunately wasn’t too sweet, pleasantly tender, with some buttery something on the plate and sweet/salty toasted walnuts on the side. The apple was fine but that cake was crying out for ice cream. Still, we really liked it.

The have some good cocktails (full bar)and a nice little diverse wine list; beer too. The server told us that Juanita & Maude were chef Scott Eastman’s (formerly of Corso in Berkeley) grandmother and mother, from who he draws his cooking inspiration. The decor is rather spare, and they got rid of the wooden booths that Nizza La Bella had. It feels a little cold in that room now to me, so maybe they’ll add some artwork. Juanita & Maude’s pictures are on one wall, but off to the side on the way to the kitchen.

Service was prompt and friendly, on a slow Tuesday night. They said they will be changing up the menu quite often, which is always a good sign, and in my opinion, why Nizza faltered, after so many years of doing the same thing every day, even though some of their dishes were favorites of ours.

We will definitely be back.


510-526-2233


#2

Thanks for the review!

I must profess my ignorance that I had never heard of schug and have to google it. The results are mostly about a Yemeni sauce- a form of spicy herb garlic pepper Sauce. Do you happen to know if its common in the Iberian peninsula, or do the chefs adapt it for the menu?


(maria ascarrunz) #3

Iberian peninsula? The restaurant isn’t Spanish, at all… not sure i understand. i also did not know the sauce myself, but did see it was a Middle Eastern thing.


#4

Oh I brought up Iberia because I was wondering whether it’s a common sauce with the croquetas, especially the ones you ate in e.g. Lisbon.


(maria ascarrunz) #5

oh! gotcha. no, not at all. In either Spain or Lisbon, croquetas were rarely served with any kind of sauce.


(maria ascarrunz) #6

went again last night, 3 of us this time. Super busy for a Tuesday night, and as i think they’ve gotten some rave reviews in the press, the prices seem to have gone up? I may be imagining that, but some items seemed pricey. The space is very loud, we had to shout at each other to be heard.

However, dinner was great, albeit carb heavy (our fault). Our server was kind enough to come over before our 3rd person joined us and informed us of some items they were running out of, asking if we wanted him to save us one. We did - the monkfish wrapped in bacon.

I started out with cocktail - forgetting the name now, but billed as Gin, Vermouth, and Rose. it was basically a martini with dried flowers floating in it. The rose was not very discernible until the end. As a martini, it was a good one.

We shared sunchoke gruyere tater tots; I’m a sucker for sunchokes. These were super delicate and delicious. There was a sweet jam on the plate as well, for a nice contrast.

Next, monkfish wrapped in bacon with celery root puree, roasted carrots, spinach, and a sauce. This dish was so good it seriously didn’t even need the monkfish. The puree was ethereally silky. The fish was good, though, dense, a tad salty maybe. Loved the carrots too

The gnocchi sounded awesome, and they were nice and light, but this could have been on a children’s menu - the sauce was a bit of a snooze. Tomato sauces generally don’t thrill me, but we all felt that way. I would have been much happier with the one described on the online menu: Gnocchi alla Cacio e Pepe

Lastly, we had the “flatbread” - in quotes because it was so puffy! Not at all flat. With anchovy, chili flakes, pecorino, and broccolini. Wonderful. Light, crispy, buttery.

Glad to see they’re busy, hope the prices don’t continue to rise, for what feels like a very neighborhood place.


(maria ascarrunz) #7

here: i wonder if this helps or hurts your decision to go with your kids?

i think you should all go!


#8

LOL- A place with locally sourced, lovingly made food, without wailing kids or anything remotely resembling pizza.

Now I am not so sure.

I’d probably just call them up and ask. I have a reservation this weekend. But I am not sure whether I will be in the East Bay this weekend.


#9

The amount of snark and condescension in that review is notable. A comment says “Could you be any more condescending and provincial in your tone towards the East Bay? Get out more.”


(maria ascarrunz) #10

agreed.

@sck i don’t think you should let the writer intimidate you. It’s a neighborhood place, albeit a slightly pricey one. Your kids would love that gnocchi, i bet…