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Junoon (bad)...Other suggestions for Indian, please?...(very long)

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Yikes...went to Junoon tonight for a light meal at the bar...

i’ve disliked almost all Indian food i’ve had in Manhattan (with the exception of taxi stand thali that i’ve taken home, refried w/ extra garam masala and hot sauce, and topped w/ fried eggs)...(the reason i say “almost all” is because my trip to Indus Valley on the far UWS years ago was good -- but not quite worth a 200 block roundtrip from/to my home in Union Square)...

I had low expectations for Junoon, given the mixed reviews i’d read here, and personally i would have been satified forever just eating Indian food via my doctored-taxi-takeout method or homecooked by me or on trips to cities i go to that have better Indian food like London and Bangkok (or Queens)...

But i have need of an Indian restaurant pretty soon, because i’ve recently become friendly w/ two lovely vegetarian European supermodels whose fav food is Indian, and while they also like Japanese food, wine bars, cooking at home, etc, i aim to please...so figured i’d scout Junoon for when i take them on our next my-version-of-a-double-date (i.e. me and two girls).

I actually stopped in at Devi first: i stood at the front for five minutes minimum...there were a good 15 to 20 customers in the place...but no one came over to see what i wanted, despite the fact that i was well-dressed and waiting politely while reading the takeout menu...there was no bartender at the bar...no host in sight...few staff of any kind...it was a bit like The Shining -- were the customers ghosts?...when i saw a few 30+ dollar seafood entrees on the takeout menu and a weak assortment of veggie options, i walked out, totally unnoticed as a (former) potential customer...(should i try Devi again another night?)...

Strolled up to Junoon...the hostess and the coatcheck girl were supernice...i got a seat at the bar...from there, it was mostly downhill...the bar staff are among the most clueless i’ve ever met in an upscale restaurant...zero knowledge of wine...zero recognition of a customer needing a refill...zero observation that the customer ate only some of his food and obviously disliked it...i've read here that Junoon has a good sommelier: someone needs to introduce him to the bartenders.

Borderline comic incompetence:

Me: I’ll have a glass of the Quincy.

Bartender: The what? The Indian wine?

Me: No, the Quincy.

Bartender: The Indian wine is really good.

Me: Sure, i’ll try a sip. (i gamely try a sip -- it’s foul). Thanks, but i’ll have the Quincy.

Bartender: The what?

Me: The Quincy.

Bartender: Ohhh, the Quincy! (mispronouncing the wine as the name of the tv Medical Examiner played by Jack Klugman)

Later on, after trying to signal the bartender that i’d like another glass, i flagged down a different bartender (note: there were maybe four customers total at the bar and 2 or 3 bartenders).

Me: I’ll have a glass of the Garnacha please.

2nd Bartender: The what?

Me: The Garnacha, rose.

(2nd Bartender brings the Indian white wine and starts to pour it).

Me: No, no, the Garnacha, the rose.

The 2nd Bartender looks baffled. Brings over the two roses they have. I point to the Garnacha. Meanwhile the first Bartender is sort of aimlessly loitering and not working at all.

Food. I just had two dishes, so maybe other things on the menu are much better, but they are 0 for 2 in my book.

-- Saag and cauliflower...not sure they even brought me the correct dish here, as i ordered the entree one that supposedly came w/ spinach and this had none...it was tender-but-ultra-sugary cauliflower w/ a crispy glaze which i saw another chowhound described as like General Tso’s and that’s pretty much spot on...couldn’t finish it as it was just too dessert-sweet...

-- Piri-Piri shrimp appetizer...this came w/ a 3 or 4 bites of jicama/avocado salad that was far and away the best thing they served me -- crisp, lightly-dressed, delicious...the shrimp themselves (3, for 14 bucks) were large, fresh, and nicely cooked, but so salty that i only ate two of the three...i can’t remember ever wasting a giant shrimp before, no matter how salty)...i also requested this dish to be extra-spicy and it was pretty mild and sugary (like Sweet and Sour sauce w/ a drop or two of Tabasco).

At no time did the lame bar staff bother to ask about my food or notice that i left a third of it uneaten.

As fate would have it, one of the managers started eating his own late supper at the bar as i was nearing the end of my meal...i chatted w/ him for a while: he was extremely nice, and when he asked how my food was i gave him a polite mutedly critical review of the two dishes i had, and we pleasantly chatted about India, etc...he discreetly comped my cauliflower dish, even though i had praised the tenderness of the veggie itself and said that the sweetness was possibly appealing to other people...he was so nice that i wish i could be writing a better review of the place...

On my way out i checked out the main dining room, just in case my new Indian-food-craving friends ever need curry so desperately that i’d be tempted to give Junoon another chance...and, wow, i think the design of this restaurant is awful...it feels like a converted lobby, similar to the way Le Bernardin used to be, but in a much shabbier way...just not a comfy space...like an upscale restaurant at an airport...the bar/lounge area is also very cold and airport-like: a real fail design-wise.

Highly unlikely to ever return...i think the supermodels will have to settle for my taxi-stand-Indian-refry -- but at least my home is comfier and better art-directed than Junoon, and, unlike the staff there, i know how to refill wine glasses...

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

Indus Valley
2636 Broadway, New York, NY 10025

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

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  1. What happened to the 18-year-old supermodel from Ukraine who doesn't like chocolate cakes in the US?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Cheeryvisage

      Thanks for asking!...she's back home in Canada; she was just here for the summer...but she wrote the other day and wants to visit sometime...her fav chocolate fix turned out to be the mousse-like dessert at DBGB and a supply of milk chocolate w/ hazelnut bars in my fridge...

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      DBGB
      299 Bowery, New York, NY 10003

      1. re: Simon

        lol, very good. Glad your fridge keeps her happy too.

    2. I also had just a terrible meal at Junoon. Overpriced, terrible service, and mediocre food.

      I did recently try Tulsi, and I thought that was much better. It's still not cheap, but the service and food were so much better and I had a much better experience in general. However, I can't speak to their wine selection or vegetarian selection, as I had beer and pretty much all meat dishes.

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      Tulsi
      211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

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

      5 Replies
      1. re: InfoMofo

        thanks, Info...any thoughts on Devi or Tamarind?

        1. re: Simon

          I went to Devi about 4 years ago and it was quite good- the service was outstanding and it was a solid meal.

          However, I have heard from good friends who went recently that the quality has not stayed consistent, and I haven't been back, so I can't really say. i'm hesitant to recommend it based on a 4 year old meal. If you do go though, please let us know how it is.

          I haven't been to Tamarind.

          1. re: Simon

            I'm not a fan of Devi, other than one lamb dish, nothing particularly impressed. Service, ambiance and presentation are all a notch above at Tamarind. You should have no issues with refills or otherwise. However, the feast at Tamarind is visual. Sumptuous settings and elegant presentation. Some of the dishes I received were room temperature and should have been at least warm. Spices are done with a light touch... erring on the side of caution with an Anglo audience. If you are used to the bold flavors of London Indian, you will experience a mildly pleasant pastel simulacrum at Tamarind. More style than substance but not glaringly bad.

            1. re: Simon

              tamarind is overpriced and unimpressive.

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              Tamarind
              41 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

              1. re: morisaur

                Totally agree. Also, I can't recommend Devi since they served my hubby raw chicken (that's right) and then admonished him for ordering it in the first place. I ate at Dhaba recently and it was good.

          2. I think people need to be much more specific when discussing ethnic foods. (I will probably start a new thread discussing this later in the week). Are you looking for classic Indian or modern Indian? There's a difference, it's not really as much an apples to apples comparison as one would think. Just like you can't lump Jungsik in with every other "Korean".

            One thing I don't get. If you already read a review that described the dish as general tso's, which obviously you weren't interested in, why did you order the dish anyway?

            As for Indian recs, I can't speak from experience, but I've heard extremely good things about Amma, and for vegetarian, Vatan.

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            Vatan
            409 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016

            Amma
            246 E. 51st Street, New York, NY 10022

            17 Replies
            1. re: fooder

              When Amma opened, Suvir Saran and Hemant Mathur were its co-executive chefs. We went once while they were there, and the food was stellar. But they didn't stay there long. Next, they opened Devi. We had several meals there, all stellar, but have not been back since Hemant left to open Tulsi. We've been to Tulsi once and, no surprise, found the food to be superb.

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

              Suvir continues to be Devi's e.c., and there is a new chef de cuisine in the kitchen. I believe Hemant is now a consultant.

              We went to Vatan once several years ago. They served a set menu with no choices. I didn't care at all for the food.

              With regard to Junoon, we've had dinner there four times. Obviously, we like the food. We have not had either of the two dishes Simon had.

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

              -----
              Vatan
              409 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016

              Tulsi
              211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

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

              1. re: RGR

                Do you remember what your specific objections were to the food at Vatan?

                You may have seen this before, but my take on Vatan is here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/703891

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                Vatan
                409 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016

                1. re: FoodDabbler

                  Our visit to Vatan was so long ago -- several years before I started taking photos -- that I can't give you much in the way of specifics. I can say it was not because the food was vegetarian because I do like vegetarian Indian dishes, especially eggplant. I recall that there were a few appetizers I might have liked had the spice level not been so extreme. While I don't mind a bit of heat, I don't remember being given a choice as to the level of spiciness. As for the second half of the meal, there was not one thing that I found even remotely appealing.

                  The village decor was cute. With regard to the seating, there was no way we were going to sit on the floor, so they did seat us at one of two tables. There were not a lot of them at that time. Maybe three?

                  Thanks for the link to your comparison review. which I'd not seen before. A superb piece of writing. You are obviously very well-versed with regard to Indian cuisine. My knowledge is exceedingly paltry.

                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

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                  Vatan
                  409 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016

                  1. re: RGR

                    Thanks.

                    I can't, in all honesty, urge you to try Vatan again. It has weaknesses, and there are much better food options in New York. I face this dilemma all the time. Between reasonably good Indian food and very good something else I tend to go for the very good. What Vatan tries to do is to emulate eateries in India where waiters circulate with trays. But the turnover at these Indian eateries is such that when you are at the bread stage, there's always somebody nearby with hot-off-the-pan bread, when you are at the rice stage, there's always somebody nearby with two or three different types of rice, etc. The Vatan version, though, offers too much at one go, and not always pipingly hot or fresh.

                    I must try Junoon, Tulsi and the new Tamarind. After Tabla closed and half the Devi team moved out I have not paid enough attention to haute Indian.

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                    Vatan
                    409 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016

                    Tulsi
                    211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

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

                    1. re: FoodDabbler

                      We went ot Tamarind on 22nd St. twice not long after it opened. The first meal was quite good; the second, not so much. Since there have been changes in the kitchen since then, I suppose we should try it again sometime. Considering that it's within walking distance from our apartment, I don't see us shlepping to try the downtown location.

                      I will be very interested to hear what you think of Junoon and Tulsi. The only reason we've been to Junoon four times and Tulsi only once is because Junoon is situated conveniently close to our apartment while Tulsi is a longish walk (in nice weather) or a short cab ride away.

                      http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

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                      Tamarind
                      41 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

                      1. re: FoodDabbler

                        I haven't been to Vatan since the renovation (2? years ago), has the food changed?

                        -----
                        Vatan
                        409 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016

                        1. re: Pookipichu

                          The Vatan post I linked to upthread was written about a post-renovation visit. There was something of a gap between that time and my previous visit to Vatan (pre-renovation). It's hard to accurately compare food across a multi-year gap. They serve more-or-less the same Gujerati fare they did in the past, and the execution is similarly uneven. As I said, I think the problem is that they try to put out more food than their kitchen can handle. Many of the things they put on their appetizer thali -- samosas, batata wadas, etc. -- need to go straight from the frying pan to your plate, and they're not equipped to put all these things out simultaneously fresh. They'd do more if they tried to do less.

                          -----
                          Vatan
                          409 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016

                  2. re: RGR

                    We had the non-vegetarian Tasting Menu at Amma recently and enjoyed it.

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                    Amma
                    246 E. 51st Street, New York, NY 10022

                  3. re: fooder

                    Hi Fooder...as i mentioned above, i ordered a cauliflower entree which was supposedly with spinach and i think they brought me the Gen Tso's Indian Cauliflower by mistake, but the bar service was so bad i didnt bother inquiring if it was the right one or not , as it wae difficult enough just to get a glass of wine.

                    1. re: fooder

                      Will check out Vatan. Thanks

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                      Vatan
                      409 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10016

                      1. re: Simon

                        Try Chola, it was fantastic.

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                        Chola
                        232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                        1. re: princeofpork

                          I went to Chola once about ten years ago with a group and had many dishes and really disliked it: like a stick of butter added to every dish and no dish stood out. But if its changed and/or there are specific dishes u recommend, i'd give it another chance, although i'd generally prefer somewhere downtown unless its worth a special trip.

                          -----
                          Chola
                          232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                          1. re: Simon

                            I have eaten at Tamrind on 22nd street and thought Chola was better. Did not feel overwhelmed with butter at all.

                            -----
                            Tamarind
                            41 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

                            Chola
                            232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                            1. re: princeofpork

                              Maybe i'll give Chola another chance solo when i'm nearby. Do u now if they have a bar one can eat at? I dont remember from ten years ago.

                              -----
                              Chola
                              232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                              1. re: Simon

                                Chola has a bar, toward the front. If you didn't like it 10 years ago, I don't think you'll like it now. I think it was excellent 10+ years ago, but things have changed in recent years. The turning point for me was when they stopped making their rasmalai in house and served me dessert that had come from a can.

                                -----
                                Chola
                                232 East 58th Street, New York, NY 10022

                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                  I liked the food at Chola's sister restaurant Dhaba much more than the food at Chola.

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

                                  http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                  -----
                                  Dhaba
                                  108 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016

                              2. re: princeofpork

                                Tamarind on Hudson is better than the one on 22nd.

                                -----
                                Tamarind
                                99 Hudson St, New York, NY 10013

                      2. Blast. I was hoping Junoon would be good. I've been planning to try Junoon or Tulsi this autumn, especially after their winning Michelin stars [I know, I know...].

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                        Tulsi
                        211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

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

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Winterpool

                          I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the idea of going to Junoon, While Simon was not happy with the food he had, as I've posted above, my husband and I think the food there is excellent and deserving of that Michelin star. We have only sat in the dining room. I find the ambiance very pleasant, and service is professional and attentive.

                          http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                          1. re: Winterpool

                            I also had a very different experience than Simon at Junoon. I will agree that service wasn't great but not because they were not knowledgeable and actually the sommelier was probably the best person we encountered. However, I'd been warned that service wasn't friendly (I think described as "formal") so we went in expecting that.

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

                            1. re: Winterpool

                              You're never going to find a consensus on any restaurant. If you do a search, you'll find that the majority of CHounders like Junoon (present company included). btw, I didn't order the two dishes Simon had.

                            2. Interesting. I haven't been there, but I was recently in a food and wine pairing seminar with the chef and sommelier. Somm, btw, is very wine knowledgeable. Too bad he hasn't trained his staff!

                              Didn't they just get a Michelin star? Doesn't sound star-worthy to me!

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: ChefJune

                                You should try Junoon and see for yourself. I think it's great.

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

                                1. re: ChefJune

                                  Everyone seems to agree that Junoon's sommelier is fantastic -- and pairing wines with Indian cuisine isn't the simplest thing in the world, especially when you go beyond the usual rieslings, etc. I've read that he'll recommend claret for some of the dishes... I confess I don't know if I'd be brave enough to follow such counsel.

                                  I remember Sifton reviewed Tulsi and Junoon together: he felt Tulsi's food was better, but gave two stars to Junoon?

                                  -----
                                  Tulsi
                                  211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

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

                                  1. re: Winterpool

                                    That was an odd review in that he seemed to reward Junoon for what he felt were its better lighting, furniture, and general atmosphere, while saying, as you observe, that he thought the food at Tulsi slightly better.

                                    -----
                                    Tulsi
                                    211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

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

                                    1. re: FoodDabbler

                                      All Sifton's reviews were odd...and i'm so happy that i was able to use the past tense in that sentence, as i think he was an embarassment as a restaurant critic...though after my poor experience at Junoon, i'm not surprised he liked it

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

                                      1. re: FoodDabbler

                                        And the fact that Sifton liked the design at Junoon is just more proof of his poor taste

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

                                  2. I have to second the recommendation for Dhaba. It's not super fancy (you can just tell them it's where real new yorkers eat if they complain), but the couple times I've eaten there I've really enjoyed it.

                                    -----
                                    Dhaba
                                    108 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10016

                                    1. I've also only given Junoon just one try, but agreed on all accounts - service was really, really bad, food was ehhh and your description of the decor is spot on "upscale-institutional"

                                      Recently went to Tulsi and I thought it was pretty good -- comparable to the Tamarinds -- reliable food and good service

                                      -----
                                      Tulsi
                                      211 E 46th St, New York, NY 10017

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

                                      1. i'd agree, indian food in ny is not very good. i liked bombay talkie when i went, but that was quite a while ago and i'd say it wasn't on par with the indian food i've had in california.

                                        -----
                                        Bombay Talkie
                                        189 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                        1. Tried Tamarind on 22nd w/ an out of town visitor.

                                          Eh...i liked it far better than Junoon, but not enough that i’d go back unless there was an Indian-food emergency...my friend had the the pumpkin soup, which she enjoyed...and the veggie thali for her main course...the thali looked pretty paltry to me, and the couple bites i had from it tasted decent/average: but at 27 bucks, i think it’s a joke...

                                          I had the chili crab starter: a small room-temperature scoop of a mix that was about two parts backfin crabmeat and one part of a sweet/ketchupy cocktail sauce...bad...i ate it because i love crabmeat...but for 15 bucks, this was another sad joke because the sauce made it very hard to enjoy the couple tablespoons of otherwise lovely crabmeat...i liked the veggie jalfrezi i had for my main course and ate it w/ roti...i liked my three glasses of dry Hugel Reisling...my friend liked her mango cheesecake and her tea.

                                          As with Junoon, i think the design is poor, and the place has the vibe of an upscale airport restaurant...service (a waiter from Slovakia and at least two attentive Indian captains/managers) was professional.

                                          Cost for all of the above: 150 + tip...conclusion: not terrible, but not worth the cost, given the at-best-decent food, average vibe, etc...

                                          So i guess in terms of below 23rd St options, i still have Devi and the Tribeca Tamarind to try, plus maybe Vataan slightly north...

                                          -----
                                          Tamarind
                                          41 E 22nd St, New York, NY 10010

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

                                          6 Replies
                                          1. re: Simon

                                            You appear to have high standards for Indian food. That's terrific. I wish more people did. It might push Indian restaurant standards in New York higher if so many people didn't settle for things that were lower. But, you are doomed to disappointment pretty much everywhere here.

                                            1. re: FoodDabbler

                                              yeah, high standards yet somewhat low expectations, given my previous Indian meals in NYC...really just trying to find a downtown place to take my friends that's some combo of tasty veggie Indian food w/ good wine and cozy atmosphere...i'll keep trying and report back...i think Devi will be the next try...

                                              1. re: Simon

                                                Devi is not exactly cozy. We haven't been there since Hemant left (though he's supposedly still a consultant). We liked the food a lot when he was in charge of the kitchen, and I've wondered how it is these days. Of course, since you never went while he was there, you won't be able to judge if it's gone downhill. Since you didn't like Junoon and Tamarind on 22nd, I'm going to guess that Devi will not thrill you either. But we shall see....

                                                http://thewizardoroz.wordpress.com

                                                1. re: RGR

                                                  Thanks for the thoughts...i've peeked into Devi, and it certainly looks cozier than Tamarind 22nd -- but the menu, esp the veggie options don't sound so interesting...but it's extremely close to my home, so prob worth a try at some point...

                                                  Actually just chatted w/ one of the Indian-food-loving girls, who told me she likes Tamarind, but that she also knows of some hidden private Indian kitchen in Midtown that she offered to take me to if she can get a reservation, so i'll be sure to report back if that happens...

                                                  At some point, i may take them to Kin Shop, which, while not Indian, might be very appealing to them given all the curries, roti, veggie options, etc...i ate at Kin Shop again the other night and it was really as delicious as ever...

                                                  1. re: Simon

                                                    Devi's exotic decor is certainly more interesting/appealing (at least, to me) than Tamarind's. The main dining area is a soaring two-stories high. I should have mentioned that there are actually two quite cozy alcove areas, each seating 8, in the rear on either side of the dining room. And the balcony is cozier than the main area.

                                                    If you are willing to go to Midtown East, you should try Tulsi. Though I wouldn't describe the ambiance as cozy, the space is much smaller than Junoon and Tamarind.

                                                    http://thewizardofroz.wordpress.com

                                                    1. re: Simon

                                                      i took them to Kin Shop -- they loved it: esp the skate/calamari jungle curry and the roti and the bibb lettuce salad, and the soft lighting and fun vibe...

                                                      -----
                                                      Kin Shop
                                                      469 6th Ave, New York, NY 10011

                                            2. We have only been to Junoon once several months ago but we had an outstanding meal and incredible service. I will say it is very pricey.
                                              I'm sorry that you had such a poor experience.

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