When a restaurant boasts 4 Michelin stars and prides itself in winning “Best Indian restaurant of 2015 in New York” (or was it best Chef?), I’m excitedly ready to be wowed by it’s Dubai Chapter too.
Junoon, was, at best, a nice family style Indian restaurant with good service, mediocre food and somewhat good desserts. I fail to understand how it qualifies as a Fine Dining restaurant.
We went for the Iftar tasting. Yes, I know, Ramadan is over but I wasn’t exactly motivated to rush to finish this review. There were only 2-3 tables other than ours that were occupied; each of them with no more than 2-3 guests. The rest of the place was empty- which is never a promising sign.
The Iftar menu had only two drinks to offer: a Rooh Afza milk, and a spicy buttermilk drink. For those of you who are familiar with Indian/Pakistani food, the former has been a sheer disappointment for me since my childhood and the latter was (literally), watered down Raita, i.e, yogurt with cumin, green chillies, and salt, of chuggable viscosity…..in a wine glass. I’ve had a lot of Indian food and love everything spicy but this just made no sense. Disappointing start but it’s ok, they had a whole meal’s worth of chances for salvation.
The appetizers were:
- Crispy and fresh cauliflower, potato, okra, and mushroom Pakoras: Pakoras done RIGHT. I could have eaten the whole plate by myself if I was given the option.
- Crispy eggplant salad: This dish was the winner. Perfectly executed, everything was on point about this dish.
- Chicken kababs on a bed of red lentil puree: under-seasoned and underwhelming
- Sweet potato Boondi on ginger chili paste: loved the strong kick of ginger, although it might overwhelming for some.
- Kidney bean Tikki: On first glance one might expect these to taste like falafel. Sadly, falafel packs WAY more flavors and crispiness than these did.
- Chicken Tikka Boti: The chicken was tender and well cooked but it had a lot of potential in terms of seasoning. The broccoli puree it was served on added little value to the flavor.
The entrees included Haleem, Biryani, Daal, Fish Curry, Chicken Korma .and a Vada Curry. The Daal was REALLY good, but everything else was quite mediocre- everything except the fish. The fish had such a strong and unpleasant smell that it was inedible by all of us. I was somewhat disappointed as nothing from the entrees really wowed me. La Porta Di Indes does a much better job at presentation and elevating everyday Indian dishes to a much more sophisticated level. Overall, nothing was worth mentioning in detail. I’m not even going to talk about how NOT spicy the food was as I have come to terms with the authenticity of cuisines being watered down to be more universally palatable.
The desserts made quite a first impression. Presentation was spot on.
- Molecular gastronomy was used to create a paper-thin casing around the Ras Malai , unfortunately once we broke through the shell, the inner contents just spilled out in liquid form. Last I checked, Ras Malai is soft but firm? The taste was unpleasant too.
- A tiny chocolate matka containing Falooda, placed on almond sorbet in a bed of vermicelli was another impressively presented and well thought out dessert. My tastebuds, however, were not impressed. The contents of the matka oozed out as the chef wanted them to, but Falooda should have Kulfa icecream, not more Rooh Afza milk.
- Chocolate mousse on a raw date tart base, on a bed of Hibiscus coulis: Not bad. But not all that either.
- Mango Sago pudding: This was my favorite dessert of the night. Summertime and Ramadan calls for cool, refreshing menu items and this was just that. The meringue done was not overly sweet, and it was a good use of mangoes being in season. Not bad. It was actually the only dessert I wanted more than one spoon of.
All in all, I am still a little bummed out because I was expecting more from them. You can make things look pretty but they don’t impress my tastebuds, then I guess I should just stay home and drool over Instagram pictures. Will I be going back? Only for that eggplant that I could actually have everyday for the rest of my life.