I'm not usually a huge fan of Indian food and apart from having sporadic cravings for chaat while I was visiting NYC last year, I never need my Indian food fix while I'm away. So when my best friend suggested that we go to the Indian eatery Junoon for dinner, I agreed more to make her happy than out of having any desire to have Indian that evening. Payal's (said BFF) Father in Law, Sushil Malhotra is actually a partner in this upscale restaurant and I'd heard so much about it that I really wanted to try the food. He actually has been in the food business for decades now and used to be the owner of the restaurant Dawat and the popular chain Cafe Spice and has now moved on to Indian catering, pre-packaged and microwaveable meals under the name Zaika, which if you live in the city you must have definitely seen around. Bottom line- they know their food.
Junoon as a concept is an interesting one- the food isn't traditionally Indian, but doesn't stray so far as to be weird and gimmicky. I didn't quite know what to expect but was quite blown away by the Interiors of the restaurant when I visited. Fun fact: the same designer that has done up Mr Malhotra's gorgeous home has also designed the restaurant which is a cross between elegant and homely, while having the perfect balance between traditional and modern.
While I've taken these pictures from the Junoon website, they unfortunately don't have pictures of my favourite part of the restaurant which is the entrance which has 3 massive candle-like structures in the middle of a bed of water. Well, my favourite part about the restaurant is actually the food, but I'll come to that in a moment.
The restaurant has received rave reviews from both, the New York Times and New York Magazine and it's no wonder why. Unfortunately I did not have my camera on me, neither did I have my iPhone on hand, and the pictures on my Blackberry made the delicious tasting and looking food, look quite insipid so I decided not to post them. As I wanted to stick to my diet, we ordered mostly the kebabs and a few other dry starters, and followed it up with a chicken, the lamb chops, a yellow daal and saag. I absolutely LOVED the lamb chops and that was by far my favourite dish of the evening. I also couldn't quite stop having the daal with rice, as it was extremely flavourful without being spicy. The meal was amazing and you could tell the quality of the meats were really good and the food, unlike what is available at other Indian restaurants, was not at all greasy nor was it lathered in butter or oil. If you usually find Indian food too spicy or heavy or have to have a generous helping of Tums to relieve heartburn after dipping into regular Indian fare, you're definitely going to want to give Junoon a try! And I haven't even reached the best part! The dessert! Payal had warned me that the restaurant had an incredible Pastry Chef and that I would want to set aside a few calories to try bites out of what she ordered. Since we were three of us, we ordered the Passion fruit Bombe and the Seasonal Trio of Kulfi. I can't quite remember the Kulfi flavours we had but I do remember one being some sort of fruit and the other being a cardamom. Apparently their Paan flavoured Kulfi is to die for, but they didn't have any that evening. Payal literally had to pull my spoon away as I couldn't stop once I tried a bite! Again, there are no standard rasmalai's and gulab jamun's at Junoon, but I urge you to definitely have the dessert a try... You won't be disappointed.
All in all, a fabulous meal and all you need to do is read the reviews of the restaurant (can be found on their website here) to know I'm not being biased! I can't wait to go back again and have the incredible lamb chops. Oh, and the Executive Chef, Vikas Khanna has also been nominated by online magazine Eatery as New York's Hottest Chef! Alas, he wasn't there the evening I visited, so that's yet another reason for me to want to visit very, very soon.