Curry-less Delights at Junoon
As usual, full review and photos on the blog: http://ramblingsandgamblings.blogspot...
When most people think of Indian food, they think of curries. But Indian food has much more to offer than just that. At Junoon, the one-Michelin-starred modern Indian restaurant, they do a fantastic job of demonstrating just that. We had the five elements tasting menu, which was very reasonably priced at $85 and featured five different Indian cooking techniques (one of which is curry).
I want to note that we used Savored, which gave us 30% off the final bill pre-tax. That turned a good deal into a great deal.
Junoon is very ambitious in all aspects. The dining room is huge and opulent with high ceilings, carved teak, and a reflecting pool. It was impressive, and I am tired of the many food critics in New York (most notably and recently Sifton) who complain about opulent decor. There were plenty of servers on hand, although they were slow to refill water for the only spicy course of the night.
CINNAMON LASSI This was an absolutely fabulous drink. A slightly sweet, slightly tart, not-too-thin and not-too-thick yogurt with a perfume of cinnamon in every sip. I began to swirl the glass and smell it as if it was actually wine. However, something has to pay for all that opulent decor, and this came at an exorbitant price. The barely half-filled wine glass of yogurt and cinnamon cost $8.
AMUSE: SEMOLINA CAKE There wasn't much flavor in this, but I guess it's meant to be a bridge to the stronger flavors in the rest of the meal.
AJWAINI MUSHROOM - STONE COOKING - CHANTERELLE, TRUMPET ROYALE, AND SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS SCENTED WITH AJWAIN AND BLACK PEPPER ON CARAMELIZED ONIONS The mushrooms had good flavor and a nice cooked texture. For me however, the onions tasted like the onions you get on a hot dog, and tainted the dish for me as a whole.
BLACK BASS RECHEADO - CAST IRON COOKING - BLACK SEA BASS SEASONED WITH A CLOVE-CHILI PASTE SERVED WITH SAUTEED VEGETABLES The first thing I noticed was the pretty substantial portion of fish for a second course. While the skin was not crispy, it was cooked pretty well overall. The marinade and seasoning had completely penetrated the fish, giving it great flavor without any real need for curry or sauce.
VENISON BOTI KEBAB - OPEN FIRE PIT - CUBES OF VENISON MARINATED WITH YOGURT, LIME JUICE, GROUND FENNEL AND MUSTARD OIL It's hard to retain moisture with a kebab, especially the ones with a spit through them charring over an open flame. This one does a pretty good job considering, but if you're someone who must have their meat on the rare side, it might not work.
Accompanying our third course were naan, dal, and raita. Pretty good, but nothing amazing.
LOBSTER TANDOORI AND DAHI WALE LAMB CHOP - TANDOOR CLAY OVEN - LOBSTER TAIL IN A TANDOORI SPICE BLEND, LOCAL LAMB CHOP MARINATED IN YOGURT, CASHEW NUT, WHITE PEPPER, AND GREEN CARDAMOM While both meats in the surf and turf had a tasty char on the surface, they suffered from the same problem as the kebab. Due to the style of cooking, you are going to be left with lamb and lobster more cooked than in modern Western cuisine. I personally don't mind it because the Chinese have always overcooked lobster, but there are many who will not like the texture. For what it's worth, I thought they did a marvelous job in keeping the flesh as tender as possible given this method of cooking, and the marinades really penetrated the meat.
DUCK TELLICHERRY PEPPER - CURRY - CRISP DUCK BREAST SLICES ATOP RED RICE WITH A SAUCE OF TELLICHERRY PEPPERCORNS, CURRY LEAVES, TAMARIND PULP, AND COCONUT MILK So it wasn't completely curry-less, but this was curry in the sense that it was a sauce. The protein itself wasn't cooked in the curry, and this allowed the skin to remain crisp and the duck to be cooked to a medium rare. This was also the only dish of the night that had a spicy kick. It was not clear to me that this curry particularly enhanced the duck.
Neither of us liked the dessert on the tasting menu, so we asked to replace it. They allowed us our choice from the dessert menu.
TRIO OF KULFI - FIG, GREEN APPLE, CARDAMOM The fig kulfi was quite nice, but the green apple was too tart. The cardamom was pretty good. The problem I really had with this dessert was one of texture. Kulfi, by nature, should be denser and creamier. However, in doing these fruit flavors, that richness disappeared and the texture was a mediocre limbo between ice cream and sorbet.
SPICED CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH CHOCOLATE CRUNCH, COCOA NIBS, AND CHAI ICE CREAM All the components of this were good, but there was nothing particularly novel.
MIGNARDISES Passionfruit gelee and I think coffee-flavored chocolate. Not particularly memorable. Except being served mignardises at an Indian restaurant.
Downstairs by the bathrooms is where they showcase the many spices they use. On one side is a table filled with spice jars.There is also a whole room filled with more spices. I don't think the door was locked when I was there. Given some New Yorkers' affinity for umm... exploring restaurant bathrooms, I hope they lock the door in the future.
When we asked for the bill, it originally came without the Savored discount. But that was quickly taken care of with no problem when I mentioned it to the server. Overall it was a very good meal in an attractive setting. The modern interpretations of classic Indian cooking styles were very well executed, but you have to be predisposed to liking those cooking styles, especially with the meats. I think even without the discount, the $85 price for the tasting menu is reasonable considering how many expensive proteins were involved, including lobster tail, lamb, duck, and bass.
27 W 24th St, New York, NY 10010