Where to Juniper, a new Mediterranean restaurant in Wellesley.
What for Fans of Italian restaurant Sweet Basil in Needham will want to visit Juniper — chef and restaurateur Dave Becker operates both. Come to Juniper for a take on the flavors of Greece, Morocco, the Middle East, and beyond from Becker and executive chef Tim Fichera.
The scene The door to Juniper is guarded by a cadre of young women in fashionable rompers. Inside, the bar area is crowded with people plucking olives from tiny dishes and sipping cocktails. The space is narrow as a diner car, with an arched ceiling; potted pathos and glossy orange chandeliers hang overhead, and a green-shaded table lamp casts a warm glow. The bar area leads to a dining room painted Mediterranean blue with curved booths cushioned by geometric maroon fabric. A father and son who look just like each other are seated at a high-top eating lamb burgers. A dour young man with festive facial hair is on a date with a woman in a patterned tunic with bare legs, a messy bun, and a coral purse. Improbably blond women in white tank tops sit next to men in aqua button-downs and boat shoes. People at adjacent tables befriend one another over brimming portions of seafood couscous, served on Becker’s handmade pottery.
What you’re eating At the bar, the fare is more casual: quinoa falafel, lamb burgers on homemade English muffins with thick, creamy-centered chickpea fries. The regular menu offers flavorful dips (beet hummus, smoked eggplant, almond skordalia), light and bright appetizers such as melon-mint gazpacho and charred octopus with apple-jicama slaw, and main courses from lamb agnolotti with roasted tomato sauce and Greek yogurt to grilled, spiced skirt steak with zucchini latkes. For dessert: rice pudding, the semolina cake called revani, and more.
Care for a drink? Sweet Basil is BYO, but Juniper offers wine, beer, and creative cocktails. Try the Gypsy Swing, a pleasantly spicy potion of reposado tequila, Aveze liqueur, sumac, Aleppo pepper, and lime.
Overheard Talk about Wellesley, genealogy, and negronis. At the bar, a woman samples several beers with curiosity. “I don’t know these,” she says. “I like Sam Summer.” “I know you’re not underage drinking with your parents,” a bartender tells a youthful patron, checking his ID. Friends gather for a post-vacation dinner before returning to work: “The real world kind of sucks,” one notes with a laugh. “You guys are all from Wellesley, right?” one diner asks the people at the next table over. “He doesn’t think I’m married, so . . . ,” one woman confides. “Did you get my blood test results?” a man inquires of his wife. A family of four is leaving, smiles on their faces. “That was delicious! I think we’ll be back,” says the mom. Halfway down the block, a woman stops a diner with a takeout box: “Did you just eat at Juniper’s? How was it?”
13 Central St., Wellesley. 781-446-6950. www.juniperwellesley.com.Devra First can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.