As I dashed off the train and walked into the richly cultural Flatiron Neighborhood of Manhattan, I took note of the variety of restaurants and other activities that were going on there, such as new construction projects and condo developments, lofts for rent, etc. (Whenever I can take some time to wander so I can scope out a neighborhood for new real estate prospects, I'm all for it !)
At Last !!
Nestled off Fifth Avenue and Broadway, not far from the Flatiron Building on 24th Street is the famed restaurant Junoon - http://www.junoonnyc.com
As I walked in to the restaurant, I saw a very welcoming foyer area, complete with a beautifully lit glass sculpture. A charming hostess immediately escorted me into the wonderfully lit dining room, surrounded by the warmest appointments, cozy earth tones and some of the richest wood carvings I have ever seen, all from old world India ! Words could not fully describe the feel of the main dining room, bar and lounge areas, private dining room (for intimate gatherings), the famous spice room downstairs, and even the plush powder rooms.
The wonderfully attended and well dressed staff took care of my every need, explaining the menu with the ease of knowing each dish in crisp detail...
Sitting and taking in the calming atmosphere, knowing I was about to experience fine indian cuisine just made me think of what it may be like visiting my friend Ari in Mumbai...
I decided to start off with a nice red Cabernet Sauvignon. The richness of the maroon color and bouquet of red grape notes ignited my taste buds – and I didn't even make it to the salad yet !
You must know that Junoon boasts that they have one of the most complete collections of over 700 wines in the United States, including Champagnes/Sparking Wines, Whites, Roses, Reds, and Dessert Wines... well worth trying !
Accompanying my Cabernet was a simple but freshly-picked Junoon House Salad, with baby lettuces, diced tomato, cucumber, and other vegetables, adorned with a rose-smoked vinaigrette. This firecracker dish of garden variety was so fresh I wanted more ! The vinaigrette was of course memorable; aromatic – flavorful – uniformly delicious - the perfect start to a wonderful meal !
Chef Adin Langille surprised me with something I never tasted before and was thrilled to try out – Junoon's famous “Lotus Root Three Ways” !! Lotus Root (a root vegetable indigenous to Asia and found underwater, growing 4 feet or more), is fried, pickled and pureed with hibiscus gel and cilantro powder.
This marvelous grouping of flavors and textures was something I really enjoyed – the crispness of a potato chip, the other flavors of pickling, hibiscus gel and cilantro powder uniformly took control of my senses, sending my mind to sing, “Just Can't Get Enough” by Depeche Mode... I am now inspired to find some lotus root and learn how to fry it myself...
Well, as they say in Real Estate - timing is everything ! My timing could not have been any more perfect this time around !! As a main course, (now a seasonal off-menu dish), “The Shakkarkandi Murg Kebab” is comprised of boneless chicken thighs, marinated with sweet potato, cinnamon and garam masala. I also had a serving of garlic Naan and plain pulao rice.
Now with my immediate response - “O M G” !!! Packed with a brassy punch from that of a prize fighter, and the melodies of the Boston Pops, is a symphony of sweet potato, delightful cinnamon and garam masala, and the ajwain-butternut squash puree, pickled delicata squash and pumpkin seed oil – which sent me to another planet entirely – not at all overpowering, but perfectly designed to give that majestic flavor I never imagined I would find in any dish ! My rice was cooked perfectly, with each grain dancing in my spoon... My Garlic Naan was delightful - warm and crispy...
Let's not forget dessert !!!
What is a lovely dinner at a fine dining establishment without the dessert ? As an “outed” chocoholic, I had to try the spiced chocolate cake – carefully blended with chocolate sable and chocolate crème, along with white chocolate powder and accompanied with torrone ice cream.
My words to describe it – Uniformly rich, decadent, scrumptious, and tastefully romantic ! This is a perfect dessert to share with that special beau in your life, with the flavorful torrone ice cream as your almond-laden grand finale...
The food at Junoon represents so many different things, as it is clearly prepared with love and respect for the colorful, fragrant dishes themselves, to the fresh herbs and spices, to the decadent french styled sauces, and the caring staff and management who clearly make you feel like family.
As a “pretty average guy” in the New York City real estate business, I will tell you I did not expect what I experienced at Junoon. Too many of us think of indian cuisine as being “too spicy” or “full of curry”, (I like curry by the way).
Junoon's food has proven to me there is a way of cooking that blends the traditions and flavors of India with the culture of New York City in a very unique way, one that is not at all overpowering, but instead marries cultures, herbs, spices, sauces, and techniques that set a “creative balance”, putting Junoon at a very high standard and raises the bar for other restaurants who can only seek to attain the esteemed identity of Junoon.
I see dishes of carefully seasoned lamb, chicken, and goat, as well as perfectly cooked seafoods and vegetables, not to mention the vast array of wines and delectable desserts to pair with any of these lovely dishes.
I urge all of my readers, their families, friends, colleagues and others, to get out to Junoon for an experience you do not see often !! I can say with certainty that Junoon is “Where Heaven Meets your Pallet”.