Junto Restaurant and BYOB is a new dining treasure in the Brandywine Valley. Chef MacGregor Mann, who worked with Iron Chef Jose Garces, opened this cozy restaurant in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, in May of this year. The menu showcases local ingredients as well as seafood from the Atlantic as far north as the Hudson River down to the Chesapeake Bay.
Last week at Sbraga’s third anniversary celebration (a fabulous seven course dinner!), some fellow foodies recommended Junto as their go-to BYOB. This weekend, my husband, friend and I tried it for the first time, and our experience proved to be the best dinner out in this neighborhood in quite a while. The restaurant offers a chef’s tasting; however, we decided to order from the variety of dishes on the menu.
We started with three very distinctive starters: “The Roots” salad, which was a mosaic of pickled kohlrabi, sunchokes, radishes and beets along with green chickpea hummus and goat kefir ranch sauce; the wild mushrooms served in a pea consommé with Crowder peas and goat cheese toast; and, the slow cooked beef cheek with lima beans, heirloom tomato, sorrel and saffron potato chips. The salad was light, refreshing and colorful, while the mushrooms were savory and comforting. The beef cheek melted in my mouth, and the fresh lima beans balanced out the dish with a crunchy texture.
For a pasta course, we decided to share the egg yolk ravioli served over crispy smoked pork, sassafras pork jus, red kale, peaches and shaved walnut. As we cut into the ravioli, the egg yolk melted into the pork jus, creating the perfect blend of flavors. The peach added a sweet note and made for a pleasant transition from a summer to fall menu.
Our main courses were the “Forager’s Pasta” of black garlic fettuccine, summer market vegetables, foraged herbs and tomato water emulsion; the black bass with baby fennel barigoule, pasta neck clams, grilled scallion and lovage; and, the grilled sturgeon, which was alder wood smoked with wax beans, fermented Crowder pea, watercress and a lemon verbena emulsion. All were cooked to perfection and attractively plated. The most striking of the main courses was the sturgeon for its mild smoky flavor and creative presentation on the alder wood board.
We could not resist a cheese plate of Farm Fromage Cloth Bound Cheddar, Tomme Delicious and Galens Good Old Gouda – all from Pennsylvania and served with raw honey, spiced walnuts and raspberry butter.
For a sweet ending, we chose the Shoofly profiteroles to keep up the Pennsylvania theme to the very end. The chocolate molasses sauce was the ideal, not too sweet, ending to the superb meal.
The service was excellent, and, the fact that Junto is a BYOB makes the already reasonable prices even more appealing. With an average cost of fifty dollars per person for all of the above courses, this elegant meal would be impossible to beat in the Brandywine Valley/ Delaware area.