Vacation 2012 Flashback: Junoon

I am almost done recapping my August trip to NYC. . . and it only took me about three months to get to this post!  Here’s how we stuffed our face our last night in New York. . . enjoy!

My husband and I have a strategy when it comes to dining out in New York City. One dinner is always devoted to an “Ami restaurant,” i.e. one that is vegan or very vegan-friendly. The other dinner (assuming we are there for two nights which always seems to be our standard stay) is at either a “celebrity chef” restaurant or a “top 100″ restaurant that may or may not be super vegan-friendly.

This past trip’s “Ami” restaurant was Candle 79, while the other, more trendy pick was Junoon, which according to my research, is the “hottest” Indian restaurant in the city right now. Of course, that’s a fairly subjective assessment, but it certainly is getting a lot of attention currently. I have a feeling in NYC, restaurants are really popular for one minute, and not the next, but I guess Junoon is having a moment!

IMG_5627 Junoon Sign

I was starving by the time we rolled in for our 7:15 reservation.

It boasted a gorgeous entryway, and the restaurant itself was very chic–spacious with just the right touch of Indian accents.

IMG_5628 Junoon Entryway

Our first impression beyond just appearance was poor. We walked up to the host stand and informed them of our name and reservation time. They literally ignored us and talked amongst themselves for a full five minutes so we were not sure if we were sort of put on hold or actually being addressed. Then, one of the hosts walked away–he got a good ten feet away from us before he turned around to see if we were following. In other words, there were no verbal cues or even gestures to indicate we should follow. He was quite unfriendly to say the least.

Once we were seated, we actually ordered right away since we were starving. We started with the eggplant chaat– thinly sliced crispy eggplant seasoned with chaat spices and tamarind sauce. I asked also that the yogurt be left off, at which point the waiter asked if I was vegan. Major points for that! I said yes, and told him I was gluten-free also. He told me he would ensure my dishes would meet those restrictions, and even told me that the eggplant was dusted in wheat flour, so he would make sure they did not do that to my order.

In the interim, we were brough little shots of a warm Indian lentil daal– the soup was delicious and just like my mom’s!

IMG_5630 Junoon Daal Shot

Our eggplant app came out right away. First impression–it was tiny! Like the smallest appetizer I may have ever received at a restaurant tiny! All it consisted of was thin slices of baby eggplant with some seasonings on top. I took a bite and realized something else…there was yogurt on it!

IMG_5631 Junoon Eggplant Chaat

Just so you know, the restaurant was really dark, and I had trouble seeing all of my food. I should have really looked before I took a bite, but silly me, I didn’t. Our waiter came over a few seconds later and immediately noticed the mistake. He apologized and said another would come out sans yogurt right away. For having had an explicit conversation about my veganism, that was such a fail!

Another one came out soon after, and my husband kindly let me eat the whole thing since he knew I was seriously starving at this point! He’s not much of an eggplant fan to begin with.

IMG_5632 Junoon Eggplant Chaat no yogurt

For dinner, I ordered a cauliflower and spinach dish that was already vegan and tasted amazing. Again–it was just like a spicy cauliflower dish my mom makes, which had me wondering if the executive chef and my mom are from the same region in India…

IMG_5633 Junoon Cauliflower Saag

I also ordered red Bhutanese rice to accompany my entrée, which was an awesome and unusual rice option.

IMG_5634 Junoon Red Rice

I really enjoyed my entrée and ate the whole thing! Just as a side note, my husband ordered their version of chicken tikka masala and was not impressed.

We skipped on dessert, but I noticed that they were giving all tables complimentary dark chocolate to enjoy. However, because I was vegan, our waiter brought us some little apricot “pates de fruits,” which are basically jelly candies.

IMG_5635 Junoon Pates Au Fruits

Let’s think about this for a minute. Almost any jelly candy I know of has gelatin in it, which is far from vegan. Oftentimes though, dark chocolate is vegan. Not that I am sure this particular restaurant’s dark chocolate was vegan or not, but it seems to me that dark chocolate is more likely to be vegan than jellied candy, right? I even googled the ingredients of pates de fruits, and it was pretty clear gelatin is a star ingredient! I know our waiter meant well, but to me, that’s another fail for sure!

Bottom line– Junoon is great for the trend factor and would certainly be a fantastic date night spot However, in terms of overall service, portion size, and quality of food, I would way rather go to any of the Indian restaurants in Providence!

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