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Juvia: Foodtastic or Just a Pretty Penthouse?

The beauty of

Juvia

was months in the making; we're not sure of how long it took botanist Patrick Blanc to create that rainforest wall, or to build out the gorgeous open kitchen, shining in the back of the restaurant like a food beacon. There was lots of buzz prior to opening about the fact that it was a penthouse restaurant in a parking garage (albeit, a semi-famous garage designed by illustrious architects Herzog & de Meuron) and owned by St. Barth restaurateurs Jonas and Alexandra Millan (

Bonito

). The concept? We kept hearing that it was going to be pretty, pretty, pretty, with a wide view of pretty.

So, we waited until the dust settled and went in for a bite. Turns out that the food is just as attractive as the surroundings, with carefully composed plates that have visual appeal. We want to be wowed on the inside as well, with nourishment that tastes as good as it looks. With a tag team of talent including executive chefs Sunny Oh (formerly of Nobu) and Laurent Cantineaux (who trained under Daniel Boulud), the menu is certainly a creative mash up of Asian, French and South American flavors. Smoky eel is accompanied by a savory chocolate sauce. Japanese yellowtail circles a mound of whipped cream suffused with yuzu kosho (yuzu and pepper) and a trace of micro cilantro. It does seem like a culinary version of the game Twister.

The thought process does work for most of the offerings. We may not have needed quite so much espuma with that yellowtail ($23), and the brushing of chocolate sauce had little effect on a pronounced taste of eel, but overall we liked and admired the plate play. Although it's no casual night out (the moderate prices of individual dishes add up fast, so be prepared to walk away with a lot less cash in your wallet) Juvia's kitchen is turning out food executed with technical precision.

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