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Juniper, Wellesley

If you follow the Flog, you know that I love the Bolognese at Sweet Basil – it is the yardstick to which I hold all other Bolognese to. Dave Becker's second restaurant Juniper immediately went on my to-go list. It is more focused on Middle Eastern flavors. Carol, Amy and I saw Much Ado About Nothing performed Actors From the London Stage, a touring troupe at Wellesley College. 5 actors played all 18 roles and it was excellent. The play ended at 9:40pm and we raced to Juniper to get their before the dining room closed at 10pm (although the bar is open till midnight).

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There was a generous bowl of olives to start and we ordered a dip platter (3 selections for $15, or $6 each) with goat's milk tzatziki, smoked eggplant baba ghanoush and almond skordalia. It came with a platter of hot, fluffy, homemade flat bread, shiny with olive oil. We started in on the dips and in the skordalia, I scooped up a large piece of plastic wrap. We alerted the server and he exclaimed, "oh, that's horrible" and took the plastic wrap away. There was no apology or compensation. Sans plastic wrap, the dips were all delicious: smooth, creamy and flavorful. My favorite was the skordalia.

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Next was the charred octopus ($14). It was slow cooked in olive oil and unbelievably tender and flavorful. It was accompanied by a refreshing apple-jicama slaw. Carol stated that she has only had octopus once before and it tasted like a rubber eraser, but now she loves it. The serving was small for the price.

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Of course, I had to order the Bolognese – Juniper's version is cooked with lamb and served with handmade saffron pappardelle, and roasted tomato sauce ($25). The Bolognese was good, but paled in comparison to Sweet Basil's. Plus, it cost 15% more, but was less than half the size. I guess that's the difference in real estate costs in Wellesley vs. Needham.

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We ended our meal with a semolina orange cake. It was so dry and the obligatory dollop of whipped cream did nothing to help it. Come to think of it, I cannot recall a semolina cake ever being moist. Maybe it's just an issue with semolina.

I would like to say our service issues ended with the plastic wrap, but we also had to wait for him to return at the end of the meal, we eventually gave up and flagged down another server to get our bill. We came in towards the end of the night, so I understand that the staff is busy wrapping up the evening, but our service was quite disappointing.

Between the service gaffes, the higher prices, and smaller portions, I think I will be sticking to Sweet Basil.

http://www.juniperwellesley.com/

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