Tag Archive | NYC Restaurants

Destination Dining: Saffron Fine Indian Cuisine!

Cover Shot
All Photos By Gail

For fans of authentic Indian food, New York City is blessed with several key neighborhoods where an abundant selection of terrific restaurants are available for your choosing. 6th Street in the East Village and Curry Hill (East 20s at Lexington Avenue) are convenient destinations for downtown residents who don’t want to travel outside Manhattan to get their fix of favorites like Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Vindaloo. But the Upper West Side also boasts its share of excellent Indian restaurants, and one of those is Saffron, located at 75th Street right on Columbus Avenue — one of the best locales for prime people-watching in the city!

Saffron Interior

The Gig was recently invited to dine at Saffron as part of a media dinner, where we had the opportunity to savor many of Saffron’s excellent, multi-regional dishes, be pampered by friendly, attentive service, and enjoy the great street views! Owned and operated by Raju Brahmbhatt, who is already an established successful restaurateur, each menu item at Saffron was personally developed by him to showcase the depth and breadth of authentic and diverse Indian cuisine, characterized by the use of exquisite spices, herbs, vegetables and exotic fruits. Here are a few of the dishes we enjoyed!

Onion Kulcha

Saffron
features an extensive selection of Indian breads, including this still-warm-from-the-oven Onion Kulcha; a soft white bread stuffed with fragrant chopped onion.

Poori

We also enjoyed this freshly prepared Poori, a puffed, quick-fried whole wheat bread. This one is always greeted with smiles when it arrives at the table.

Ginger Tikki Chicken

Ginger Tikka is made with boneless chicken marinated with fresh ginger, garlic and spices, and cooked in a clay oven. A tender and juicy people-pleasing dish!

Shrimp Balchao

For seafood lovers, Shrimp Balchao is a classic Goan dish with succulent shrimp in a spicy chili sauce.

Lasuni Gobi Cauliflower

Lasuni Gobi is a dish of battered and fried Cauliflower, served in a garlic sauce. Saffron has seemingly endless varieties of creative, vegetarian-friendly dishes.

Aloo Gobi Mutter

Aloo Gobi Mutter is another popular Indian vegetable medley of lightly spiced potatoes, cauliflower and green peas, cooked in a ginger and tomato sauce. All of these dishes are ideally portioned for sharing, so a small group of friends can enjoy an eclectic feast by ordering just a few items!

Basmati Rice

Peas and Carrot Pulao is the favorite Basmati Rice dish with Saffron’s special touch of, well, saffron!

Fish Tikka Jalfrezi Salmon

Another standout entree, for Salmon lovers especially, is the Fish Tikka Jalfrezi; tandoori Salmon Tikka sauteed with onion, bell pepper and special seasonings in a tangy tomato sauce — the best salmon dish I’ve yet tasted in any Indian restaurant. Highly recommended!

Palak Paneer

No Indian feast is complete without Paneer; a traditional Indian Cheese that is one of our favorites. The Palak Paneer pictured above combines  cubes of this delcious homemade cheese with spinach, garlic and herbs.

Indian Ice Cream Cake

Although we were all surely stuffed and satisfied by the end of the meal, Saffron did not skimp on serving two excellent Indian Desserts. The Indian Ice Cream Cake is light and luscious, with its three flavors of ice cream including pistachio, cherry and vanilla, layered on top of a moist, spongecake base. So good!

Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun is a light pastry dumpling (not unlike a doughnut) served with a honey syrup. Sweet and a little decadent! What a fantastic evening!

In addition to its full dinner menu, Saffron also offers a variety of lunch options. Monday through Thursday, enjoy a special $9.95 lunch menu (Noon – 3 PM), or pick up a boxed lunch to-go for just $8.95. A weekend buffet lunch (Friday through Sunday, 11:30 AM – 3:30 PM) offers a fifteen course, all-you-can-eat entree selection for only $14.95  —  a unique alternative to the usual Sunday Brunch!

Saffron Indian Cuisine is Located at 320 Columbus Avenue, at the corner of West 75th Street, in Manhattan. Take the 2 or 3 Train to 72nd and Broadway, or the C Train to 72nd and Central Park West. Order online or make a reservation for dinner at Saffron NYC Dot Com.

Saffron Exterior

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La Loteria: Serving Winning Mexican Food in NYC’s West Village!

La Loteria Skulls
Above Image Courtesy of La Loteria, All Food Photos By Anne Raso

If, like me, you happen to have lived in California, where they have excellent Mexican food on every corner, you already know that being a Mexican food enthusiast in NYC can be, shall we say, disappointing. It’s no secret that NYC restaurants can get a bit lost when it comes to delivering consistently excellent Mexican food. While many places do an acceptable job, or get two or three things (say, Guacamole) right, I’ve lost track of how many Mexican Restaurants not only miss basic details like baking the enchiladas in sauce (duh), but  also do weird things like putting Goat Cheese in the Quesadillas. Seriously, no me gustan.

But I never give up on my quest for great Mexican food, and that journey recently led me to La Loteria, a “Cocina Mexicana Moderna” on Seventh Avenue South that lives up to the hype of its 4.5 Star Yelp Reviews! Taking its name from a Mexican card game similar to American Bingo, La Loteria continues that sense of playfulness with its decor that features vibrant framed prints of La Loteria Cards and handmade Day of The Dead-style Mexican sculptures and figurines. The restaurant’s interior has a bright and modern feel with many endearing, traditional touches that lend it a distinctive look among its culinary competition. Props to whoever designed this space.

Operated by Chef Julieta Ballesteros (who also owns Crema and Los Feliz) and business partner Jaime Herrera, La Loteria’s well-focused menu doesn’t get distracted from what makes an excellent taco, while also bringing in fresh seafood, and taking just the right creative liberties with Mexican favorites like Flautas and Empanadas. The result is one of the best new Mexican Restaurants in NYC, maybe ever. Worleygig.com was recently invited to enjoy a tasting menu of some of La Loteria’s signature appetizers. Here’s a look at what we ate:

Guacamole Tradicional

Of course, we had to start with the Guacamole Tradicional ($13), served with still-warm, housemade chips. It tasted as good as it looks, with a hint of jalapeno added for a kick, and the tortilla chips were light, crispy and  delicious! You can add chicharrones (crispy fried meats), including ancho chile-dusted pork belly, to your Guacamole for an additional $5 to $7. This appetizer easily serves three adults.

Trio of Salsas

Complement your meal with the Salsas Del Valiente ($10) a trio of Specialty Salsas (also served with chips) that includes (left to right in the above photo): Roasted Chile de Arbol, Salsa Verde Cruda, and de Cacahuate Enchilado — a chunky/creamy, peanut-based salsa. Really nice!

Ceviche

The Ceviche de Pescado ($14) is made with a fresh fish of the day, and ours featured fresh-caught Red Snapper, mixed with the customary lime and citrus juices along with chunks of ripe  avocado, tomatillo and pickled cucumbers. La Loteria’s Ceviche is among the freshest and most flavorful I’ve ever eaten, and I highly recommend it if you are a lover of fresh seafood.

Tostaditos de Atun

Tostaditos de Atun ($14) are an array of mini-tostadas topped with a slice of fresh, chile-rubbed and pan-seared tuna, resting on a dollop of guacamole and dressed with sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, chipotle aioli and sweet mango salsa. It’s a ton of flavors in a couple of perfect bites.

Empanadas

Empanadas (Mexican filled turnovers) are a favorite of mine and La Loteria’s Empanadas are made with the flakiest, most tender pastry imaginable. We tasted two varieties including De Flor De Calabaza y Huitlacoche ($18 for three) which are stuffed with squash blossom, devil corn, chihuahua cheese, yellow bell pepper coulis and cotija cheese. Also on the menu are very savory empanadas De Papa con Chorizo ($14), filled with spicy potatoes, Mexican chorizo, cream, pasilla sauce (made with Pasilla Chiles) and cotija cheese. You can’t necessarily tell by the photo, but these Empanadas are huge and very filling!

Flautitas De Pato

I am also highly recommending the Flautitas De Pato en Trilogia de Salsas (Small Duck Flautas with Three Sauces, $16). Here, rolled corn tortillas are stuffed with juicy, shredded duck confit, corn and caramelized onions and then fried crispy, before  being topped with a colorful medley of avocado tomatillo, mole poblano (very chocolaty!) and chipotle aioli. This is a great plate to share.

Churros

For dessert, we were served two specialties of the house: warm Mexican Churros with Chocolate and Caramel Dipping Sauces (who doesn’t love churros?), and the Guava Pie, which are small tarts with layers of flan custard and sweet guava compote, then topped with whipped cream and sliced toasted almonds. Very original, light and delicious!

Guava Pie
Guava Pie

Service was friendly and accommodating all around. We didn’t do any drinking on this visit but we heard that La Loteria makes a mean Jalapeno Margarita! We’ll look forward to a return visit to try their take on Queso Fundido (Quesos Flameados) with homemade corn tortillas and many other Modern Mexican classics!

La Loteria is located at 29 7th Ave South (Varick Street, between Bedford & Morton). Hours are Sunday – Thursday, 12 Noon – 11:00 PM and Friday – Saturday 12:00 Noon – 2:00 AM, with a Happy Hour Daily from 4:00 – 7:00 PM. Call (212)858-9096 or visit them on the Web at This Link to make a Reservation.

The Derby: Southern-Inspired Dining on the Lower East Side

Front Door Signage
All Photos By Gail

The choice corner lot that formerly housed Tiny Fork Oyster Bar (RIP) is now home to a bright and casual Southern-Inspired bar and dining hall called The Derby. While this lower east side neighborhood has its share of up-and-coming eateries boasting a farm-to-table ethic, as far as location goes, you probably couldn’t ask for a better spot to enjoy an early summer evening dinner. Weather permitting, the front room keeps the doors and windows open to the street while the rear dining area remains flooded with natural light from its east-facing span of tall windows. The vibrant yellow-painted metal chairs, dark wood tables and antique bistro lighting (possibly left over from the space’s previous incarnation) add to The Derby’s welcoming vibe. Of course, the people watching is excellent.

Derby Dining Room

Vodka Lemonade

We started off a recent visit with a tall, refreshing Vodka Lemonade, but if you are a Whiskey fan, The Derby has an excellent selection of unique choices to enjoy in one of their house specialty cocktails or on its own.

BBQ Brisket Tacos

As a starter, we shared the BBQ Brisket Tacos ($12), stuffed with tender and flavorful dry rubbed meat, pickled onions and cabbage slaw and served with side of horseradish cream for topping them off. The crispy corn taco shells add a satisfying crunch to the appealing mix of textures going on in this great little plate.

Chopped Salad

We also shared the Carolina Chopped Salad ($12), featuring crisp romaine and a mix of delightfully diverse ingredients including hearts of palm, fresh sliced strawberries, pancetta, and abundant fresh herbs, dressed with a shallot-thyme vinaigrette. Salad offerings also include the Southern Living Lettuce Salad ($12) where bacon lardon, blue cheese and candied pecans steal the show!

Chicken and Waffles

Two house specialties at The Derby include their excellent Southern Fried Chicken entree ($16) and a Breakfast All Day dedicated menu section that includes three hearty Southern brunch entrees. We opted to enjoy a bit of both worlds with the Chicken and Waffles ($18) which did not disappoint! Loaded with three plump pieces of juicy chicken and a plate-sized waffle, this is a hearty entree that you could easily share. Fried Chicken has become a bit of a Thing in NYC recently, but this is exceptional. Having grown up with Southern grandmother who made the best skin-free fried chicken on the planet, I’d swear that The Derby’s is just as good (sorry, Grandma).

Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles
Here’s another “Elevation Shot” of that awesome Chicken, where you can see the herbs and seasonings in the light, crispy batter.

Rib Eye Steak

My dining companion indulged in the Cast Iron Ribeye Steak ($32), a huge slab of perfectly marbled, grass-fed beef served with an oven roasted garlic bulb! Marbling is what makes the Ribeye cut taste so special, but sometimes it can be a bit excessively fatty. This steak was expertly trimmed and, trust me, she ate every succulent, well-seasoned bite. This dish is very highly recommended for steak fans — it even surpasses the Ribeye we enjoyed at The Black Tree (just up the block) a week earlier. Round out your entree with a variety of fresh made sides (all $6) such as the Maple Smoked Cheddar Grits, Bourbon Yams or Yukon Mashed Potatoes. A daily choice of fresh Market Vegetable ls also offered.

Chalk Menu Board

We were actually too full to order dessert (which almost never happens) so we will have to make a return trip to The Derby for that. You can see by the above Chalkboard Menu on display out front that there are many other tempting dishes left try.

The Derby is Located at 167 Orchard Street (South West Corner at Stanton Street). Hours are Monday – Friday 4:00 PM -11:30 PM and Saturday – Sunday 12:00 Noon-11:30 PM. Phone 212-777-8469 for Reservations.

Corner Table

The Hudson Bond: Dining and Nightlife in Midtown

Hudson Bond Bar
Photos By Anne Raso (Click on Any Image to Enlarge)

Tucked away on West 40th Street, midway between the Times Square Subway Hub and Port Authority, The Hudson Bond is a restaurant that’s ideally located to attract both an “after work cocktails” commuter crowd and the destination dating set. Seamlessly incorporating the best aspects of a hip, high-end lounge, a neighborhood sports bar and a comfortable mid-priced eatery, The Hudson Bond is welcoming and trendy at the same time.

Hudson Bond Smokers Patio

A “smokers patio” – sealed off from the restaurant’s interior space but maintaining an open-air feel – has got to be a selling point for those who haven’t quite kicked the habit. And you have to love the topiary elephants and chimpanzees; a feature that surely no other restaurant in Manhattan can lay claim to.

Elephant Topiary

The Hudson Bond features a varied American menu and it is easy to tailor your meal to include items that you are in the mood for. My dining companion and I wanted to taste a variety of dishes to get an idea of what the restaurant does best. Here’s what we ordered.

Steak Tacos

We are always on the lookout for an excellent Taco, and there are a few contenders on Hudson Bond’s menu. We split orders of both the Buffalo Chicken (inventive!) and the Steak Tacos, priced at $11 and $14 respectively for two huge tacos in each order. The Steak Tacos (pictured above) include generous chunks of grilled, marinated flank steak, mashed avocado, homemade salsa, fresh lettuce, shredded cheese, all folded into soft flour tortillas and drizzled with sour cream for a very tasty and satisfying meal.

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Buffalo Wing enthusiasts are definitely encouraged to order the Buffalo Chicken Tacos, which is everything you love about a spicy Hot Wing, stuffed into a soft flour tortilla. I would actually call these tacos “overstuffed,” as they are bursting with tender pulled chicken drenched in hot wing sauce, and topped with cool shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, crumbled fresh Blue cheese and homemade Ranch dressing. Delicious!

Avocado Frites

A fun alternative to French Fries or Mozzarella Sticks – and a side dish that complements an order of tacos – is a warm basket of freshly made Avocado Frites ($10), which are lightly breaded and fried avocado slices served with a Southwestern Ranch dipping sauce. The mix of crunchy vs creamy textures is very appealing and the tangy sauce perfectly accents the mild avocado flavor.

 

Spinach Salad

A delicious and healthy light lunch option, or a great starter for two diners to share, is the fresh Spinach Salad ($17), featuring an abundance of tender baby spinach, crunchy candied walnuts, dried cranberries and crumbled fresh goat cheese, tossed with a lightly fruity balsamic vinaigrette.

While we were looking forward to trying the heavenly-sounding Rib Eye Steak with Blue Cheese and Bacon Butter (sigh), sadly the restaurant had run out of that cut of steak by the early evening. This was disappointing but perhaps it is understandable, if this item is a popular lunch choice. Still, we hope it does not happen often, as we will definitely make a return visit just to try this steak!

Roasted Hen

Fortunately, we were able to comfort ourselves with a delicious Herb Roasted Hen, on the menu for just $23. The dish arrives at your table as half of a tender and juicy Cornish Hen, seasoned with sprigs of fresh Rosemary, its skin roasted all golden and irresistibly crispy, and resting on a bed of fluffy mashed potatoes with a side of fresh sautéed spinach. I implore you, please do not order this item if you do not intend to eat the skin, which is (almost) the best part. The potatoes needed a bit of seasoning, but otherwise this was a perfect dish!

On Saturday Night, The Hudson Bond turns into a bit of Nightclub scene, so be sure to visit This Link to find out what that’s all about.

The Hudson Bond is Located at 215 West 40th Street (Between 7th and 8th Avenues) New York, NY 10018. Phone (212)719-1200 or visit The Hudson Bond Dot Com for Reservations and Information.

‘Aangan Style’: Fine Indian Dining on the Upper West Side!

Aangan Mosaic Chandelier
All Photos By Gail Except Where Noted

Do you like Indian Food? I sure do. I have a couple of favorite destinations on Indian Row (East 6th Street) and also Curry Hill (vicinity of Lexington Ave and 28th Street) but I didn’t really have a favorite Indian restaurant with a proper uptown address. That changed last week when I was invited to visit and review Aangan, conveniently located just steps from the 103rd Street stop on the Number One train. Even folks who dread traveling above 14th Street can be assured that dinner at Aangan is worth the trek!

Our considerable feast at Aangan included at least a dozen different dishes, all delicious, but where Aangan really distinguishes itself from its peers is in the restaurant atmosphere, level of gracious service and overall dining experience. Aangan is a Hindi word meaning “Courtyard,” and it is typically associated with the open spaces in traditional Indian homes – an area where families get together to relax, dine and spend time with each other.

Aangan Interior Shot

In this way, Aangan provides an authentic Indian courtyard restaurant experience on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The restaurant’s interior is beautifully fitted with a glass mosaic chandelier, wall mounted candle fixtures and elegant, modern padded wall finishes. Floor to ceiling windows looking out onto Broadway provide lots of natural light and great people watching. Once the sun sets, Aangan continues to glow with its special brand of hospitality.

Mango Lhassi with Rum Cocktail
Mango Lassi with Rum

My dining companion (also a food blogger) and I ordered modestly: two appetizers and two entrees – all to share – plus a basket of bread. But our waiter asked if they could bring us a few additional items and house specialties which they’d like us to try, and we could hardly refuse. What we ended up with was a bona fide Indian buffet featuring favorite dishes and tasty new discoveries.

What we ate:

Shrimp Balchao

Shrimp Balchao: Medium-sized shrimp marinated in Goan Balchao Sauce ($10.95). When people say a shrimp dish was “Perfectly cooked,” they are talking about the tender and sweet shrimp in this dish. The sauce has just a mild kick. Really lovely.

Bhel In Phyllo Cups

For an unusual appetizer, go with the Bhel in Phyllo Dough Cups, comprised of Spiced crispy Rice and Lentil Flour savories served in pastry cups ($6.95). It’s a light and tasty choice that I’ve never seen on any other menu.

Crispy Cauliflower

Another favorite that I first had at Junoon is the Lahsooni Gobhi: Lighty battered and Crispy Fried Cauliflower tossed in Tomato Garlic Sauce ($8.95). This is a hearty appetizer for vegetarians or a complimentary side to any meat dish.

Assorted Indian Appetizers

The two appetizers we ordered, Vegetable Samosas: Triangular turnovers filled with Potatoes and Peas ($6.95), and the Paneer Pakora: Cottage Cheese Fritters Served with Mint Chutney and Tamarind Sauce ($7.95), arrived on an attractive platter of mixed Vegetraian appetizers including Vegetable Kabob (mashed veggies in a lentil wrap) and a very delicious, pleasantly crunchy Onion Pakora. This off-menu assortment is something you could ask your server about if you are game for trying many different things. Aangan is very eager to make sure your experience is enjoyable and personalized. And, as you can see, they create a beautiful presentation with every dish.

Tandoori Chicken and Lamb

They also brought us a Small Platter of Chicken and Lamb Tandoori to sample. The lamb is exceptionally tender and flavorful, and the chicken is a good choice for the less-adventurous diners in your group.

Tandoori Lamb Chops

Tandoori Lamb Chops are another house specialty, priced to share at $19.95.

(Photo Above and Below By Anne Raso)

Tandoori Salmon

Also perfect for sharing, and with a gorgeous presentation, if I may say so, is the Tandoori Salmon: Filet of Salmon marinated in yogurt, coriander, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, cumin, paprika and turmeric ($19.95). The salmon is meaty, tender and perfectly cooked.

Chicken Korma

Here’s a dish everybody loves, Murgh Korma: Boneless pieces of chicken in a rich cashew nut and almond cream sauce ($14.95). I love that they put a cherry on top of this.

Murgh Xacutti

Murgh Xacutti, a very mild Goan Chicken Curry cooked with coconut and aromatic spices and served with mint rice ($14.95), is an excellent choice for curry fans who want to go easy on the heat.

Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer: Puree of Spinach Cooked with Homemade Cottage Cheese ($12.95). You just gotta have it.

Lamb Biryani

My favorite dish of the night was the Lamb Biryani: Aromatic rice with cubed Lamb ($15.95). I always love a good Biryani, and the Lamb in this dish was beyond tender and so flavorful. I would order this again.

Assorted Indian Breads

An extensive selection of Indian flatbreads are priced at $2.95 – $4.95, or you can build your own Bread Basket, with your choice of 3 breads ($11.95) which we did, selecting the Garlic Naan, Alloo Paratha (filled with mashed potatoes) and, my favorite, Onion Kulcha — which I highly recommend. These fresh and hot from the oven breads are light, delightfully chewy and crispy.

Malgova Mango Pudding

After enjoying such an impressive repast, we hardly had room for Dessert, yet we were able to savor a few bites of the Malgova Pudding – described as a ‘Mango soufflé’ with a touch of Coconut ($4.95). This fruity dessert has a firm, gelatinous consistency, rather than the traditionally creaminess one expects with something called “pudding,” but it was quite light, tasty and refreshing.

Come to Aangan and enjoy the Indian Courtyard Dining experience! You’ll be glad you did!

Aangan is Located at 2701 Broadway on the Northwest Corner of West 103rd Street (Right at the #1 Train Stop). Visit them online at Aangan Dot Com or Phone 212-280-4100 for Reservations.

Aangan Logo

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ Murray Hill Celebrates 5 Year Anniversary with Block Party Feast!

Brother Jimmys Exterior

Brother Jimmy’s BBQ’s Murray Hill location proudly celebrates its 5 year anniversary this month. The popular southern BBQ restaurant and nightlife outpost has consistently served up quality cuisine, flowing cocktails and great memories as patrons continue to “Put Some South in Yo’ Mouth.” Now, in an effort to give back to the community that has allowed Brother Jimmy’s BBQ Murray Hill to thrive, the restaurant will host a Backyard BBQ Block Party on Tuesday, August 20th from 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM at its Lexington Avenue and 31st Street location.

Brother Jimmy’s Backyard BBQ Block Party will feature free concession stands to anyone passing by, with enough food to feed over 1,000 people. Brother Jimmy’s BBQ fans will be able to enjoy cotton candy and popcorn machines, along with many signature dining favorites such as Frickles, 500 Pulled Chicken Sliders, 150lbs of Rib Tips, Cole Slaw, Corn on the Cob and refreshing home brewed iced tea and lemonade. A BBQ Block Party would not be complete without a whole hog smoking right alongside the sidewalk. Executive Chef Eva Pesantez will be serving up the whole hog into over 1,000 signature Brother Jimmy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches.

Brother Jimmys Interior

“We are thrilled to reach this milestone in Murray Hill,” says CEO Josh Lebowitz. “Brother Jimmy’s BBQ Murray Hill has grown into a community of regular customers. The least we could do was put together this Backyard BBQ Block Party to show how much we appreciate their continued patronage until the next celebrated anniversary.”

All Brother Jimmy’s BBQ fans are encouraged to make their way over to Lexington at the corner of 31st Street on August 20th to partake in the festivities!

Brother Jimmys Signage

Restaurant Review: Patiala Lounge at Junoon

Patiala Lounge from Website
Above Photo Courtesy of Junoon Website. All Food Photos Courtesy of Diane’s iPhone

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.

Patiala Lounge Seating
Photo By Gail

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.

Cocktails

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 Pakora At Junoon

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.

Cauliflower

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.

Eggplant Chat

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.

Chicken Thighs

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.

Naan Breads

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:

Junoon Dessert 2

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.

Junoon Dessert 1

Here we have a mélange of Coconut Rice Pudding, Bruleed Bananas, Dates, Rum Glaze, Candied Almonds and Ginger Ice Cream. Unreal.

Junoon Dessert 3

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.

Patiala Lounge at Junoon Restaurant is located at 27 W. 24th St., New York, NY, 10010 (Between 5th and 6th Avenues). I would recommend that you phone 212-490-2100 for reservations just in case, as it is a pretty popular place (and with good reason)! The extensive menu can be downloaded from their website at Junoon NYC Dot Com.