Dubai: Indian fine dining at Junoon

July 25, 2015

Junoon Dubai

// I was invited to the tasting by Junoon and I didn’t pay for food and drinks. The invitation didn’t come with any requirements, but it’s hard to stay unbiased when good food is served, so read this blog post with that in mind:) //

Junoon opened last year in Dubai as the first international branch of the New-York original. Junoon in New York has been rewarded one Michelin star for three years in a row, and was recently voted New York’s best Indian Restaurant by Taste Asia.

Indian food is fairly new to me, and even though I’ve actively sought out and tried several Indian dishes during my time in Dubai, there are so many different regional cuisines, each with their own distinctiveness, so it feels like I’ve only been digging a tiny dent in the top of a giant iceberg.

I therefore asked my friend Nicola to join me, as she is much more well versed in Indian food than I am. Besides, it’s been quite a long time since the last time I saw her, so we had a lot of catching up and Danish gossiping to do.

We were told that we could choose whatever we wanted from the menu, but after 20 minutes of rather unproductive menu-browsing, a nice guy from the staff intervened and provided us with his suggestions, and together, we managed to assemble a 3-course menu. On the side, we had a selection of different chutneys.

The waiter also suggested that we ordered the Junoon spiced naan with za’atar. Za’atar is a very popular seasoning in this region, and one of the dishes unique for the Dubai branch of Junoon, but because Nicola eats za’atar all the time, and I’m not a big fan of the spice, we opted for plain naans instead.

As an appetizer, we had macchi hara masala, which was a pan-roasted fish in a delicious green marinade of chili and cilantro. The fish was actually a main, but the waiter told us that it wasn’t very big and would be perfect to share as a starter. It was a very nice dish and the subtle flavors from the marinade were in perfect harmony with the delicate texture of the fish.

We also had eggplant chaat, which is one of Junoon’s most popular dishes. I’m not usually a big fan of eggplant, and I’ve had a lot of bad eggplant dishes through the years, so I was skeptical, but the waiter assured us that it was amazing. The crispy-fried eggplant chips were in fact really delicious, but most of the wow-effect probably came from the funny way the dish was served and the excitement from watching the staff mix the chips with the sauce in front of us at the table.

After the appetizers, we had murgh lababdar, which was a chicken-dish that tasted like a supercharged version of butter chicken, even though I think murgh lababdar is made without butter as opposed to murgh makhani, which is the dish that’s usually translated as butter chicken (correct me if I’m wrong). The sauce was rich and creamy and the chicken incredibly tender and juicy and no doubt the best butter-chicken-ish dish I’ve ever had.

The other main course was a dish with paneer. It was like the paneer I usually order from my favorite Indian take-out restaurant, only much creamier and more delicious. That’s the problem with fine dining places serving heavenly versions of staple food, because how am I supposed to ever go back to eating cheap, but average-tasting Indian take-out food, when I know what’s also out there?

Kulfi is a kind of Indian ice cream, and for dessert, we had a selection of 3 different flavors; curry leaf, pink guava and cardamom. They were all very tasty, but my favorite was the one with guava. Probably because it was the one, which tasted the most like ordinary ice cream. Once again, I’m not very familiar with Indian food, and my taste buds still need some fine-tuning and adaptation, so please bear over with me.

Seems like all reputable restaurants in Dubai have chocolate spheres on their menus these days, and Junoon was no exception. At Junoon, the mandatory chocolate sphere was resting on top of a block of almond milk sorbet in Junoon’s version of the traditional Indian dessert falooda.

Both Nicola and I were excited to see what was hiding inside, so when Nicola hit the sphere with the spoon, she hit it a little too hard, and the content, which turned out to be light pink, milk-based rabri sauce, was splashed out all over the place:)

It was my first time to try falooda, and even though I was swept away by the gorgeous presentation, I didn’t like it a lot, but Nicola, who is a seasoned Falooda-eater, claimed it was among the best and most beautiful Falooda’s she has ever had, so I guess it’s an acquired taste.

 

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