New York is kicking restaurants in Dubai’s direction with a velocity that refuses to dwindle. Indian restaurant Junoon landed here early last year and its big apple roots are firmly secured on the second floor of the Shangri-La hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road.
Junoon, meaning passion in Hindi, exudes a cosy yet contemporary feel – soft lighting, plush purple and gold tinged furnishings and polished mahogany floors. Tables are sunk into secluded corners, which is a nod to that anonymous big city feel, but are arranged around the main event – the open-plan kitchen led by award winning Michelin-starred chef Vikas Khanna.
If you’re a fan of Indian food, you’ll know the bar has been set high in Dubai. But Junoon isn’t just a watered-down Manhattan interpretation catering to Westernised palates. Looking through the menu, the attention to detail is immediately obvious; there’s modern and Middle Eastern twists on traditional dishes and new flavour combinations that are unlike anything available elsewhere in Dubai. You’ll also taste spices from local souks and ingredients from UAE farms, all put together using traditional and modern cooking techniques – the stone and clay ovens are, happily, very much present in the kitchen.
The Gala sharing menu requires a minimum of three people and offers three courses with desserts and vegetarian options. Although ideal for bigger groups, we opted for the á la carte menu – starting with eggplant chaat and tandoori broccoli (AED60 each), both strongly recommended by the waiter. We devoured the crispy pieces of fried eggplant, piled high with lashings of tamarind chutney and chaat masala. The soft tandoori broccoli was served with a red pepper purée and cashew nut kofta – tasty but with a definite kick.
We didn’t hold back on the mains, choosing paneer dum anari, yellow daal tadka, murgh lababdar and a portion of basmati rice to share. “The bhut jolokia gosht is a very popular choice,” our waiter suggested, so we promptly ordered that, too. Not to give the surprise away, but it’s a braised Nali goat curry with lots and lots of chilli, the fiery flavours livening up the tender cuts of meat and a heavier creamy sauce.
The murgh lababdar came out as a joint favourite. The chicken was so perfectly cooked in a red chilli sauce it achieved the right balance between powerful and sweet.
The portions were so big we could hardly move after our last bite, but we ignored our aching stomachs and ordered two super sweet and creamy desserts.
Falooda, a chocolatey saffron take on a traditional Indian drink – it looks like a sumptuous milkshake – arrived decorated with pieces of redcurrant jelly, and topped with almond milk sorbet instead of vanilla ice-cream. And Junoon’s chocolate coconut, a chocolate fennel mousse and milk chocolate sandalwood parfait all carefully piled into an edible coconut shell, was a real showstopper.
We finished the meal feeling extremely satisfied by our whistlestop tour of Indian cuisine mixed with the slightest hint of New York City. We’ll pass by again.
Where: Shangri La, Sheikh Zayed Road
Contact: +9714 405 2717