At a time when high costs force East Bay restaurateurs to choose fast-casual models, Juanita & Maude feels like returning to the not-too-distant past, when diners judged restaurants equally for their food, service, and ambience. The cozy, New American restaurant brings an unparalleled level of sophistication to Albany’s dining scene. The food is worthy of a special occasion, but the relaxed energy makes it the sort of neighborhood spot that draws regulars week after week. Chef-owner Scott Eastman spent six years as chef de cuisine at Corso. Here, he breaks away from his previous confines of Northern Italian cuisine, incorporating Japanese ingredients alongside Eastern European traditions on a menu that changes daily. The results are confident and exciting, though the pastas are fantastic as well. Serves dinner Tue.-Sat.