Chef Vikas Khanna’s Junoon showcases fine Indian cuisine and I recently had the opportunity to dine at this phenomenal Michelin Star restaurant. I asked my best-friend, Anu, to revel in the experience with me as she truly understands and appreciates Indian food.
On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, the two of us headed to Junoon on an empty stomach (yes), so hungry, yet so excited. I decided I wasn’t going to drink on an empty stomach and risk getting tipsy, but once I saw Junoon’s exotic cocktail list featuring drinks such as Tandoori Tequila, Mumbai Margarita and Punjabi Passion, I knew I couldn’t resist.
Junoon means passion and you can feel the passion behind Vikas Khanna’s dishes. Almost every dish I tried here blew me away. The familiar flavors as well as the unfamiliar flavors worked well and came together seamlessly. The dishes at Junoon are authentic, yet innovative. You’ll be pondering your head over all the different spices used to create such remarkable dishes, at least I did.
Mumbai Margarita (left): A sweet and spicy cocktail prepared with tequila, mango purée, rose-chili syrup and lime. This drink felt warm and soothing down my throat. My favorite of the 2.
Punjabi Passion (right): A refreshing, light & summery drink, yet strong. The Punjabi Passion was prepared with rum, lime, cilantro, green chili and turmeric.
NOTE: The appetizer portions are smaller since we experienced a chef tasting of various appetizers.
Eggplant Chaat: Crispy eggplant topped with raita (Indian yogurt) and tamarind chutney… the eggplant was soft and crunchy and didn’t taste oily at all. Overall, this appetizer was tangy and sweet at the same time. A favorite!
Beet Papdi: Baby beets topped with dahi vada, beet chutney and raita. There were a multitude of flavors in this dish and the chutney and tamarind paste stood out, but this appetizer wasn’t my top pick.
Piri-Piri Shrimp: One of Junoon’s bestsellers and just look at the presentation… it’s too pretty to eat. Tender and juicy shrimp flavored with Goan chili sauce, melon puree, and a few raspberries to the side. Although there was melon in this dish which isn’t typically used in Indian cooking, the flavors tasted authentic and I was able to taste the Garam Masala. The shrimp was quite spicy, but nothing that I couldn’t handle. A favorite!
Chili Murgh Tika: Tandoori chicken thighs paired with a side of pistachio puree, tawa carrot salad and papaya achar (pickle). The chicken seemed to be prepared in a yogurt marinade with hariyali flavored spices. This dish was incredibly flavorful, tender and spicy.
Mirchi Pakora: Shishito pepper dipped in a batter and then deep-fried. The sauces on the side included whipped paneer, mint and mango chutney. For those of you who have eaten paneer, it’s not very often that you get to taste whipped paneer– creative! The pakora was crispy, flavorsome and not too spicy. The presentation was beautiful and all the flavors and sauces magically came together. A favorite!
Hara Paneer Kofta: A slight twist on the traditional Saag Paneer, this dish was prepared with mustard greens and topped with crispy kale. The greens were slightly bitter and smoky, as expected, however the paneer dumplings sort of just melted in my mouth. Delicious!
Eggplant Khatte Meethe: Baby eggplant in a sauteed mixture of tomatoes, ginger, mustard seeds and honey. The eggplant itself wasn’t too flavorful, the sauteed melody of spices were oily, sweet and tangy. This dish was just okay for me.
Murgh Lababdar: This dish is essentially a version of Chicken Tikka Masala, but at Junoon it has a fancier name, understandably so. Tandoor grilled chicken cooked in a tomato sauce with fenugreek leaves. The chicken was tender and soft, the sauce was sweet and creamy. This dish wasn’t heavy or oily as one would expect of a tikka masala type dish. Absolute perfection and my favorite entrée at Junoon!
Daal Makhni: A classic Punjabi dish and my favorite daal. Black lentils and kidney beans cooked in a tomato based cream sauce. This dish was traditional in every sense… it was creamy with loads of flavor, warm and soothing with a hint of spice. Simply outstanding!
Junoon Spiced Naan & Garlic Naan: Do not leave Junoon without trying the Junoon Spiced Naan stuffed with paneer and gruyere cheeses and then topped with za’atar, a Middle-Eastern spice. Tender and so delicious!
Coffee (not pictured): The coffee was better than the tea. Robust in flavor.
Tea: I was hoping for authentic Masala Chai, but the tea was prepared with a masala teabag. This was just okay for me, but just look at the this lovely cup and teapot.
Valrhona Chocolate Cake: The presentation of this dessert was outstanding and there was so much going on here. Ganache, coconut sago, chickpea shortbread, puffed lotus seed, and hemp seed. My favorite part of this dessert was the coconut sago since i’m not a huge chocolate fan. On the other hand, Anu – a chocolate fanatic, devoured this dessert.
Saffron Phirni: Mango cream topped with sesame crisp, candied almonds, pomello. The mango mousse was refreshing and the perfect summer dessert. It was a combination of sweet and salty and just the right amount of crunch. Additionally, the saffron flavor really stood out. I devoured this dessert and also my favorite dessert of the 3.
RESTAURANT REVIEW: Junoon
CUISINE: Indian *Michelin Star*
FAVORITES: Eggplant Chaat | Piri-Piri Shrimp | Mirchi Pakora | Hara Paneer Kofta | Murgh Lababdar | Daal Makhini | Junoon Spiced Naan | Saffron Phirini
VERDICT: 4.5 / 5
As you can see for yourself, my experience at Junoon was extraordinary to say the least. Being of Indian origin, I rarely dine at Indian restaurants due to the unnecessary amounts of oil and cream used in most dishes, but Junoon is the exception to the rule and my favorite Indian restaurant in Manhattan. On this particular visit to Junoon, I had the opportunity to meet Sous Chef Akshay Bhardwaj who was extremely warm and welcoming. In the past, the few times that I have dined at Junoon, the food and service have both been consistently outstanding. Each dish here is presented beautifully. There were a lot of new flavors I experienced during this visit, such as the whipped paneer, walnut cream sauce, naan with gruyere cheese and a melon puree over the piri-piri shrimp. I can’t begin to fathom who comes up with these concoctions, I’m envious my mind doesn’t work in this fashion. Junoon takes Indian food to a whole new level, it’s an experience I wholeheartedly enjoyed and I hope you will too. Take advantage of their $30 3-course Lunch Special, it’s a great deal if you ask me. Very highly recommended!
Food: Oustanding | Drinks: Excellent | Décor: Modern/Classy/Elegant | Service: Outstanding/Professional | Value: Expensive
Have you been to Junoon? If so, what are your favorite items?