If there's one thing I am afraid to admit in public - it's that I ate expensive Indian food this week. I KNOW, I KNOW - it's nearly impossible to tell the difference between curry from a foodtruck or a 5-star restaurant...but OMG, Chef Vikas Khanna of Junoon won the award for New York's HOTTEST CHEF...so I knew I had to get myself a dash of that Indian spice!!
The atmosphere of Junoon can best be described as sad opulence - there is no doubt that a great deal of thought went into designing the serene pools, ornate seating, and architecturalized interior...but there is a sienna-colored haze that settles over the entire scene.
We began with a small bite of Steamed Semolina Cake served over a cilantro mint chutney as a gift from the kitchen...certainly delightful. Loved the sponginess of the meal-y cake juxtaposed with the freshness of the chutney.
Our first appetizer of Star Anise Sea Scallop - two stingily-small, wilting scallops seasoned well with cracked white pepper corn over a cinnamon roasted pepper chutney.
The Patek Patte Ki Chat was unexpected. Battered and deep-fried leaves of spinach were drizzled with sonth chutney and spiced yogurt and served with grilled chunks of tandoori pineapple. I enjoyed the light crispiness of the spinach and the spicy sweetness of the thick sauces.
We ordered the Bread Basket, which came with three different types of naan bread: Naan, Garlic Naan, and Paratha. We ended up using each and every slice to soak up all the delicious sauces.
The Lobster Tandoori - two lobster tails prepared with cumin, cayenne, lemon, and ground fennel - was a win. The texture of the meat was substantial but not chewy (a common problem with tougher portions of the lobster). Each crevice of the meat held the sauce well.
They had a very clean execution of Bagarey Baigan - grilled eggplant, peanut, tamarind, coconut, and curry leaves.
I was especially intrigued by our Punjabi Kadi - which is described on the menu as vegetable dumplings with buttermilk, mustard, and asafetida - but I would most certainly liken it to a vegetarian Swedish meatball!! I'm not sure how it was prepared - but I absolutely loved it!!!
And finally - dessert. The Date Pudding Cake, a recommendation from our waitress, was out of this world. The cake was absolutely soaked in caramel and served with a cranberry reduction, streusal, and orange buttermilk cream. Each bite of the cake was spongy, juicy, and had a toasty caramelized taste - an absolute treat to our taste synapses!!!
While I have no alarming complaints about the food, I will give fair warning that the price ticket of this meal is not justified. I find myself having an equally delicious meal somewhere in Curry Hill (maybe sans the lobster). And at the end of the day, you still go home smelling like an Indian spice rack. While I am glad I was able to experience a meal at Junoon, I don't think it is somewhere I would return to or suggest.