Delicious Indian food can be found all over Manhattan; from East 6th Street to Curry Hill and elsewhere. But when you really want an unforgettable fine dining experience in the realm of Indian Cuisine, there is no question that the place to come is Junoon. On a previous visit to this Michelin-starred foodie haven on West 24th Street, we were wowed by delicious foods perfectly paired with a variety of wines (wine pairings are a Junoon specialty), gracious, personalized service and the understated opulence of the main dining space. When we paid a long-overdue return visit to Junoon last week, we decided to change up the experience a bit by dining in the Restaurant’s equally gorgeous front room and bar, which is called the Patiala Lounge.
Offering the same menu as Junoon but in a more relaxed, intimate (and dimly lit) space, Patiala Lounge provides a variety of seating options. From the room-length bar to high communal tables, clusters of sofas, low tables and side chairs, or suspended, glass topped tables (which were formerly swings) that display a collection of colorful Indian spices and dried flowers, Patiala is an ideal destination for everything from an after work cocktail and light bite to an impressive first date. Chef and Culinary Creative Director Aliya LeeKong along with Executive Chef Vikas Khanna have created a menu with all of your Indian favorites as well as their own special creations.
We were so smitten by numerous delights on the appetizer section of the menu that we opted to forgo main dishes in favor of concentrating on a meal of exotic starters. We started off with specialty cocktail selections including the Star On Earth ($14) a Floral Cocktail of Chardonnay, Maraschino, Pear Brandy and St. Germain with a Star Anise floating on top as a garnish. This is a very sweet and potent drink, as you might guess by the list of ingredients. My dining companion chose one of the featured nonalcoholic cocktails, the Jaswal ($8), a refreshing blend of Cucumber and Lychee Juice with Fresh Lime, Topped With Ginger Beer (the virgin cocktails can be spiked with your choice of alcohol on request).
Here’s what we ordered:
Paneer Pakoras ($12), Generous pieces of Homemade Spiced Paneer lightly fried in a chickpea flour batter and served With Cilantro – Mint – Yoghurt Chutney is amazingly delicious with a nice mix of textures as well as being vegetarian friendly. Junoon makes its paneer in house, and it is the best.
Lahsooni Gobi ($12), Crispy Florets of Cauliflower with Chili Flakes in Garlic Tomato Chutney has a rich and fresh tomato taste and a hint of fire. If you like just a bit of spice but not too much, this dish is a good choice.
A new favorite as of this visit is the Eggplant Chaat ($12) featuring lightly fried sliced Baby Eggplant topped with crispy Red Onions and served with Yoghurt and Tamarind. Chaat, meaning snack, is a name for most Indian street food, and I just wish they had street food this yummy in the US. Seriously, if you are a fan of eggplant, this dish is must try. The sweet fried onions and blend of sauces take it over the top.
Murg Tikka Mirza Hasnu ($14) is a dish of Chicken Thigh pieces marinated in Hung Yoghurt, Junoon Garam Masala and Cheddar Cheese (yes, the cheese is in the marinade) and served with a Tomato and Cucumber Salad. Juicy and very flavorful from its time in the tandoor oven, our waiter suggested we have it prepared with a little extra char on the outside to accent the tenderness of the meat.
Because we were in a tasting mood, we asked for a basket of assorted Indian breads that included traditional Naam, Parartha, Roti and a Junoon Specialty Naan stuffed with Prune and Walnuts, which was divine. Breads are priced from $5 – $8 for a basket generous enough to share.
Normally we would not order three desserts (!), but our server insisted we try a little of everything, it seems, as follows:
If you are a person who, like me, enjoys many different flavors commingling together on one plate, you will flip over the desserts at Patiala Lounge. This is a Chocolate Spice Cake with a light touch of chili powder giving it a little kick. It comes with a buttery tasting ice cream flavored with pistachio and other assorted nuts. Insane.
Here we have a mélange of Coconut Rice Pudding, Bruleed Bananas, Dates, Rum Glaze, Candied Almonds and Ginger Ice Cream. Unreal.
The Date Fig Gateau is topped with Salty Caramel Sauce, garnished with sweet and fragrant fresh Clementine segments (which we loved), Meringue bits, Black Sesame Crumble and accompanied by Cinnamon Ice Cream. All Desserts are $12.
There are many reasons why Junoon is one of my favorite restaurants – excellent food, beautifully designed interiors, exceptional service – and I can say that when you visit you will be treated to all of these things equally in the Patiala Lounge as you will in the main space of the restaurant. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Update August 20th, 2021: While Patiala Lounge at Junoon Restaurant has closed, the restaurant remains and is located at 19 W. 24th St., New York, NY, 10010 (Between 5th and 6th Avenues). I would recommend that you phone 212-490-2100 for reservations! The extensive menu can be viewed at their website at Junoon NYC.