Shoppes at Erwin Mall
737 9th St #210, Durham, NC 27705
My colleague and I unexpectedly found ourselves at Juju for dinner on a recent Sunday night when we were famished after driving around and around in search of another restaurant. When we finally gave up after 15 minutes of valiant effort, I remembered Juju being high on the list of recommendations from other foodies, so we decided to check it out.
We were greeted by a lovely hostess, as well as the fragrant smells of Asian oils and spices and the impressive sizzles of the kitchen. The restaurant was fairly crowded on a Sunday night (which I always associate with more mellow dining out experiences). However, it was more lively than noisy, with some fairly animated couples enjoying themselves at the bar located in the center of the restaurant. Despite not having a reservation, we (and our stomachs) were grateful that we got seated pretty quickly.
Juju is known for small plates and sharing, so our server Evanthea recommended 2-3 dishes per person, and we proceeded to narrow down what we’d both be interested in checking out. The biggest challenge in eating with someone else (as opposed to dining solo — which I absolutely love) is that a meal involving sharing also involves a bit of discussion and negotiation. I’m currently leaning towards more veggies, while my colleague was feeling the meat. I loved one half of the seafood selections; she loved the other half!
Thankfully, we’re both reasonably accommodating, so our final assemblage was quite balanced in my estimation. To satisfy my veggie needs, we went “sprout crazy” and decided on the kale sprouts ($8) as well as the crispy brussel sprouts ($11). Both sprout dishes had a bit of sweetness to balance out the intense savory flavor, as well as crispy elements, which provided a dynamic textural experience.
To add to the mix of veggies, we also tried the pan seared collard and wild mushroom dumplings ($8), which we found intriguing in its components. They ended up slightly greasy, but also perfectly crispy. Plus they were filled with veggies, so they were healthy enough, right? OK, maybe not, but they were still pretty satisfying.
On the meat side, we went with the house pork sausage ($13), which came with a bunch of accouterments (like kimchi and pickles) that served to cut through the unctuousness of the sausage by providing acid and spice. My colleague used the buns to make little pork sausage sandwiches, while I dove in with fork and chopsticks.
With only four dishes, we were surprisingly full. However, I always check out the dessert menu at the start of the meal, so ordering sugar is practically a necessity. I picked out the sorbet trio ($8) and my colleague decided on the blueberry almond cake ($8). If you love intense sweetness, you’ll love the sorbet trio. The candied pecans break up the monotony of going from one flavor to another, so use them wisely. The blueberry almond cake was much milder on the sweetness scale, so that dish suited my palate better.
The food and service at Juju were excellent, especially when Evanthea couldn’t locate the remainder of the crispy brussel sprouts she’d boxed up for us, so proceeded to have the kitchen fire up a half order — just so we’d have the leftovers that we promised ourselves. We didn’t have to wait long, plus it was a much-appreciated gesture.
We loved the menu and the space, so we’re excited to come back for another chance to explore the rest of the options, particularly the whole Peking duck ($70 and advance notice). This is a personal favorite — and I have a feeling Juju’s version will live up to expectations.
Hoi Ning Ngai is the Associate Dean for Student Affairs at The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill. She’s a recent transplant to the Triangle, a native of New York, and a lover of all things bacon, ice cream, and Paris. Follow her life adventures on Instagram at @hoiningngai!