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Let's talk about Junoon

I have been to Junoon three times now, twice having sat in the lounge and once in the dining room. My conclusion: I love, love the food; I hate the formality and rigidness of the place.

Two examples of the latter:

Shortly after they first opened, my girlfriend and I tried a couple of dishes in the lounge (including their spectacular tandoori lobster) and loved it. So when we needed a place to dine with a group of 8, we called them to make a reservation. Even though they had only recently opened and were completely off the radar screen (and thus half full at best during prime time), they told us they would only accept a reservation for 8 if we ordered from their tasting menu (which, in fairness, offers a lot of choices, but does require one to order the full menu). We politely told them that we were not interested if we could not order a la carte; they declined the reservation rather than accommodate our request.

For my next visit, I brought a client, we sat in the dining room, ordered the tasting menu, and loved it. So my girlfriend and I returned, but chose to sit in the lounge instead of the dining room, since we find it more comfortable and relaxed, and were not interested in the full tasting menu. I wanted to order the same lamb dish I had eaten with my client, but noticed that the lounge menu was an abridged version of the full menu, and that the lamb was not on it. To get the restaurant to agree to serve me the lamb in the lounge was like pulling teeth. The waiter broke out into a sweat when I asked if it could be done; he had to call over the manager. The manager VERY reluctantly agreed to do it, only after we very politely explained that we would rather eat elsewhere if they wouldn't accommodate our request.

Maybe I'm being unreasonable. Maybe it is a challenge for the kitchen to make exceptions to their policies. But we live in the neighborhood and want to be regulars, but we're just not interested in that level of formality and rigidity.

What do others think?

By the way, I'm not trying to trash the place: For those who do want a more formal, high level dining experience, I highly recommend Junoon, and I will return when that is what I am looking for. But when my girlfriend and I just want a casual night out, we'll go elsewhere. It just seems silly to us that they'd rather turn us away than accommodate what strike me as fairly reasonable requests.

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Junoon
27 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

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  1. I've never dined in the lounge, but have always experienced exceptional service in the dining room. During our tasting menu dinner, Chef Vikas Khanna even dropped by our table to make sure we were enjoying our meal.

    The service is reserved and somewhat formal but I don't mind that at all. I don't think the restaurant was being unreasonable in declining your specific requests.

    1. Let's discuss! I went when it first opened and yes, they did seem rigid in their procedures, or the need to do things certain ways. I personally contributed that to the fact that the just opened, were still new and wanted as few hiccups as possible. I like to think they were trying to “run a tight ship.”
      My friend who was meeting me was late, when she arrived late they said they could only accommodate us if we agreed to take the table only for a less than average time frame. Now I was a little put off just because there were plenty of other tables but how can I fault them when she was late? I can see what you were saying however that they are "strict."
      Overall I found it actually nice to be in an Indian restaurant that was more formal, that had nice table clothes, etc. So many Indian restaurants are more casual so it was great to find one that had good food, good service (they were on top of things) and good decor/atmosphere. I love Indian food so it was really nice to find a place that has that cuisine and is good for “special occasions.” This would be a nice date night spot, birthday dinner, etc.
      It is a bigger restaurant and is reminiscent of the many big named restaurants that have come and gone earlier this decade (BUT in a good way!) I found the staff to be nice and very helpful with recommendations for dishes. Their tandoori prawn app and vegetarian eggplant main dish were very good.
      Before I sat down for dinner I had a few drinks in the lounge area. They were pricey, some worth it, others not, very nice looking area however. Bartenders I found less than stellar because I didn’t find them very personable.
      I’d be curious to go back now since it’s been a few months since they opened. Overall it’s a nice place with great food that is good for every now and then or special meals

      1. Sorry, Blumie, but I disagree. I have been to Junoon several times (tried it the first time soon after you wrote about it on CH, thanks) and have not found it overly formal, just well-run with professional service.

        It seems to me that the reason for requiring the tasting for a large group is necessary in order to coordinate the serving. Perhaps the kitchen would have difficulty timing that many orders for one table, with people ordering many different things and possibly some having more courses than others.

        The question of the lounge menu is harder to figure, but many restaurants have separate menus and won't make substitutions, so there must be a logical reason for it, perhaps certain dishes being more difficult to time properly when someone is not ordering a full meal?

        Every dish I've had has been perfectly done, so I could understand if they are reluctant to do things that they think might compromise the quality of the food.

        1. I've been wanting to try Junoon for some time based on the praise from rrems. We finally made it there a couple of weeks ago. The food was delicious, and the space is beautiful. As for the service, it was not too stiff or overly formal but, rather, courteous and professional.

          I think it's ridiculous for them to force a party of 8 to have a tasting dinner. Did you ask them why they would not allow your group to order a la carte? I'd be curious to know what reason they would give.

          With regard to the lounge situation, as has been pointed out, restaurants usually have bar/lounge menus which are more abbreviated versions of the dining room menu, and sometimes even totally different. Since you *chose* to sit in the lounge, that was the menu being offered. Thus, while it would have been nice if they had accommodated your request, they had every right to refuse.

          My only "complaint" about Junoon was the lighting was so dim where we were seated that it was difficult to get good photos. Next time we go, I will try to get a table with better lighting.

          Junoon photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

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          Junoon
          27 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

          1. Ridiculous conduct by the restaurant on both counts. You were eight people, not eighteen, or eighty. As for the dish to be served in the lounge, likewise a petty point by a rigid and/or full of himself manager. You had been there before, it was one dish, on the menu (albeit in another room ten feet away) and it was going to make the diner happy, the key to restaurants in the first place. I've been meaning to try Junoon. But, frankly, this doesn't get me running out to the restaurant. Plainly they don't value business all that much, even in this environment. At the prices Junoon charges that is surprising.

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            Junoon
            27 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

            6 Replies
            1. re: comiendosiempre

              comiendosiempre, i agree -- you clearly and succinctly articulated what i was thinking when i read the original post...i'm sick of NYC restaurants that feel like they are doing you a favor to allow you to pay for their food...

              i live fairly close to Junoon and i might try it at some point, but i trust Blumie's detailed description of the annoying service vibe and i won't be rushing there...

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              Junoon
              27 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010

              1. re: Simon

                Just want to clarify one point: the servers have all been excellent. Our waitress in the lounge on our very first visit was absolutely lovely. I sat in the dining room with my client just after Sam Sifton's review, and the sommelier was more than willing to chat about how they all knew when they were serving Sifton. The issue seems to be a management-level issue, where they've decided that things must be done a certain way, irrespective of the customer's desires.

                And to reiterate: I will go back. But only when I'm willing to have things done exactly how management wants things to be done. My wife and I would sit in the lounge and order drinks and a couple of dishes fairly regularly if we could, be we can't, so we won't.

                1. re: Blumie

                  Someone posted on another thread (link below) that he was planning to have dinner at EMP's bar. He would be going solo and would feel uncomfortable sitting at a table in the dining room. He was informed that the bar had a different menu, and he would not be able to order from the dining room menu, which bummed him out. So, even at Danny Meyer restaurants, known for their supreme hospitality and going that extra mile for patrons, you may not always get what you want.

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/791675

                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                  1. re: RGR

                    Same situation at the Modern Bar Room. It's not unreasonable to have wholly separate bar and dining room menus.

                    1. re: peter j

                      Your post reminds me of a situation encountered by my good friend ellenost. She was having dinner in The Modern Dining Room and wanted to have one of the desserts on the Bar Room menu. When she made the request, she was told she could not have it in the Dining Room. Instead, she would have to leave the Dining Room and be seated in the Bar Room, which she declined.

                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                      1. re: RGR

                        I think the desserts at the Modern Dining Room are better than the desserts at the Bar Room anyway.

                        It is understable though to have these expectations when places like Le Bernardin and Marea serve the full menu at the bar. But each restaurant is entitled to set its own policies, including EMP, The Modern, and Junoon.

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                        Le Bernardin
                        155 W. 51st St., New York, NY 10019

                        Marea
                        240 Central Park South, New York, NY 10019

                        Junoon
                        27 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010