One of the most enjoyable dishes of the meal, the chef had thinly sliced a baby eggplant and then grilled it to create delicate, crisp chips. Garnished with a minty yoghurt sauce, chunks of red onion, tamarind and a generous amount of fresh, spicy cilantro.
The best way to describe this dish was like a vegetarian (and Indian) version General-Tsao’s chicken. Big mouthfuls of crunchy fried cauliflower had been covered with chili flakes and a sweet and spicy tomato-based sauce, which I found a little bit sickly. The plating, with its ugly smear of sauce, was unimpressive, to say the least.
Given that Junoon is considered to be one of the best Indian restaurants in town, we were excited about our two curries. We were expecting intense and exciting flavor combinations with perfectly marinated morsels of meat. Unfortunately, we were disappointed by both of our orders. The lamb promised “a spicy curry of red chili, toasted coconut, star anise and white poppy seeds.” Instead, the stew was chunks of chewy meat in a bland lentil-based sauce.
Kerela shrimp curry
The seared shrimp was somewhat better. It was nicely cooked with a slightly more dynamic flavor profile. The stew was an interesting combination of coconut milk, curry leaves, mustard seeds, green chilies and smoked kodampuli. However, we were still surprised at how simple it was (especially given the fact that the restaurant showcases a “flavor lab” of sorts in its basement, replete with large vessels of bright spices and carefully portioned recipes). The rice also seemed a bit overcooked and might have benefited from a hint of jasmine or another interesting spice.
While not the most Indian of desserts, this micro-sized chocolate tart was pretty satisfying. The crumbly crust was nice and buttery, while the chocolate center was rich and moist. To add an Indian element, it was served with a small piping of nutmeg ice cream and then garnished with a few flakes of gold.
Coconut rice pudding
A large scoop of creamy rice pudding covered with candied almonds, gooey bruleed banana with sweet rum and garnished with a single date. Tasty but not memorable.
Overall, Junoon seems a bit dislocated within New York’s vast multi-cultural dining landscape. The food is evidently Indian but lacks the dynamic and exciting flavors that, to my mind, make this cuisine so unique and wonderful. The chef seems to dumb down many of the dishes, perhaps in an attempt to appeal to a more cautious, corporate midtown crowd. Indeed, this seems reflected in the large, muted space, which seems like an awkward hotel dining room. To our mind, those seeking delicious Indian cuisine would be best off exploring one of the many, less well known options in the city.
Note: We ordered the Restaurant Week menu, which was available for $35.
27 W. 24th St.