“Passion is no ordinary word,” so musician Graham Parker once mused. In Hindi, the word Junoon means “passion,” so it follows that this restaurant, located just west of the trending Madison Square Park neighborhood, demonstrates passion for creating a memorable dining experience. From the decor to the service and of course, the delicious food, a visit to Junoon means it’s time to relax and indulge all of your senses.
Decorated in a palette of muted earth tones (and featuring, we heard, choice items found in ABC Carpet and Home), two reflecting pools – one taking center stage in the foyer and another adjacent to the dining room (see top photo) – provide additional mood-enhancement to Junoon’s beautiful interior, while a row of intricately carved Indian sandstone panels contribute to the subdued elegance of the open dining space. Ambient noise level is low to moderate, so be assured you should not have any trouble hearing the conversation at your table while being spared from hearing that of those seated near you.
It’s always advisable to sample a restaurant’s signature cocktails and Junoon is no exception to that rule. We enjoyed immensely the Aromatic Apricot, fragrant with muddled cilantro and potent with apricot infused gin, with added refreshing sweetness from a mix of lime simple syrup and lemon juice. This is one of the standout specialty cocktails we have tasted on our many culinary adventures this summer, so be advised that Junoon will be changing from summer to fall cocktails at the end of September, leaving you a very brief window remaining to taste this simply amazing cocktail!
If the grape is what you crave, the restaurant offers wine pairings, priced at $45 and $75, with its tasting menu — with additional wine pairings accommodated upon request. Wine lovers, and especially those wishing to know more about wines, should consider taking advantage of Junoon’s brilliant Sommelier, Robin Lewis. Lewis is so knowledgeable he even related the back story /history on the vineyard which produced the grapes for our dessert wine! His wine selections for each of our set of courses are noted below.
Junoon makes its own paneer, a mild Indian cheese of which we are big fans, so we enthusiastically sampled two paneer appetizers. The Spiced Paneer Salad was an appropriate start to our meal with its spice-studded, seared paneer slices alongside a salad of greens, sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, thinly-sliced radishes and toasted pine nuts ($10).
We also tried the Hyderabadi Patthar Paneer, seasoned with roasted onion chutney (which had a distinctive flavor of sesame), turmeric, mint leaves and lime ($12). Another popular item among the appetizers is the Lahsooni Gobi (translates to Tree of Life): Crispy Cauliflower, lightly quick-fried in a garman masala crust, topped with aromatic and mildly fiery garlic tomato chutney ($12). All three choices are recommended for both Indian Food Fanatics and those seeking an introduction to this exotic and flavorful cuisine.
Wine Selection: NV Patagonia Extra Brut (Argentina)
Moving on to the entrees, we had a taste of Indian “Comfort Food” in Junoon’s version of traditional Chicken Awadhi Korma, whose sauce of almonds, caramelized onions and saffron did not overwhelm the large chunks of tender white chicken ($23)
Because we are chicken lovers, we also had to try the Chicken Malvan, in a sauce of Fresh Coconut, green chiles, cilantro and bay leaf ($22)
All side dishes are ordered ala cart, so be sure to include an order of rice ($6), a basket of assorted house baked Indian Breads (Naan, Garlic Naan, Paratha: $14), and a generous bowl of the Yogurt-Based Mint Raita sprinkled with colorful Pomegranate seeds ($6) to cool the fire of your spicier selections.
Raita and Bread Basket (Below)
Wine Selection: 2009 Macon Chardonnay (Burgundy, France)
We had read such high praise for Junoon’s Tandoor-cooked lamb dishes that we simply had to add on an order of the Dahi Wale Lamb Chops, marinated and seasoned with Hung Yoghurt, white pepper, green cardamom and fresh ginger ($36). These chops, though well-cooked (we are used to Lamb Chops served with more than a bit of pink in the center) were as moist and succulent as filet and extremely tasty!
Wine Selection:2009 Lirac Cuvee Reserve (Rhone, France)
For dessert, Junoon’s famous Passion Fruit Bombe, is, well, the bomb! Even if you’ve indulged in a repast as out of control as the one described above, you should be able to at least share this light dessert which consists of a Passion fruit semifreddo with a spray of white chocolate coating, resting on a nest of quick fried Katafi (angel hair-like rice noodles), garnished with Basil Coriander Seeds in Gelee ($12).
Wine Selection: 2005 Vin de Constance Klein Constantia (South Africa)
Let it be said that Junoon is an expensive restaurant where you get what you pay for, including first rate, gracious and attentive service. While your budget may dictate that a visit to Junoon is reserved for the special occasion of a Birthday or Anniversary (or a very special date which is sure to “seal the deal” as they say!) for an authentic taste of India it is certainly much cheaper than a ticket to Mumbai!
Junoon is located at 19 W. 24th St., New York, NY, 10010 (Between 5th and 6th Avenues). Phone 212-490-2100 for reservations. The extensive menu can be downloaded from their website at This Link.