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Monday, April 4, 2016

When a Critique Can Be Your Work's Best Friend

HELLO, FBTOT readers! I know. It's been a while.... But I've become saturated with focusing on my column for Odyssey Magazine as well as my new website/blog, TheGayFoodie.com. And recently, I've begun feeling that I ought to "step up my game" in regards to my writing. I'd been working on several side projects including a series of dinner parties--of which the most recent took place at the Jue Lan Club--as well as an upcoming video shoot. Resulting from this, I think I had unwittingly distracted myself from what should always be my top concern: producing quality writing. 

A few months ago, I forwarded a piece I had written about cocktails to a colleague of mine. He seemed unenthusiastic about it (something that I was admittedly not used to) and ultimately, said that I was "scared" (as a writer). Last Tuesday, after the publishing of my latest for Odyssey Magazine, I posted the article on Facebook along with the following remark:

This is my latest REVIEW for Odyssey Magazine. I was recently told that I was "scared" as a writer, so this is me trying to step up my game... I hope you enjoy reading it! #‎realreviews‬ ‪#‎researched‬ ‪#‎multiplevisits‬ ‪#‎starsystem‬ ‪#‎comingsoon‬ 🌟🌟🌟🌟

by Patrick Bradley


Tucked away along a discreet stretch of 24th Street, just a block west of Madison Square Park, is the unassuming, Michelin-starred Junoon. The Indian-cuisined restaurant (whose name implies passion in Hindi) offers “high-toned food” in “a very nice place to spend a few hours, dressed and dining and drinking well” (–New York Times). 

On two recent visits to Junoon, I positioned myself squarely at its long, L-shaped bar in the front “Patiala” room (the only area offering dishes from both the tasting and prix fixe menus, à la carte). On both occasions, I’d enjoyed inventive cocktails that segued me to equally creative plates at dinner. If you can manage to hold your bartender’s attention, he or she will build for you luxe libations like Time After Thyme—a sexy gin cocktail topped with champagne foam and a sprig of fresh thyme—or if gin’s not your thing, the Sparkling Saffron with saffron-infused simple syrup and sparkling wine is always a crowd-pleaser.

With the Patiala room’s dinner menu, even the most indecisive of eaters will find something to enjoy with appetizers, kebabs and several main dishes to choose from. The perfect accompaniment to my gin-ladened Time After Thyme cocktail was the crispy eggplant chaat with raita, tamarind chutney and red onion. With a super crunch that was kept light, and lifted with a zing of tamarind, even without tasting several other selections, the chaat had already seemed to be Junoon’s perfect dish!

Again at the bar on a different occasion, I opted for a “fuller” experience and selected the mushroom curry from the main dishes. “Accessible” even for a “timid” diner, as my bartender had put it (I’m neither, by the way), the mushroom curry offered heat muted by a fennel seed and cinnamon yogurt broth. With a medley of hen of the wood, king trumpet and poplar mushrooms, this curried dish would make any mushroom lover swoon! (One of Junoon’s more apt bartenders asked if I’d care to add a shaving of “last of the season black truffle” to my dish, to which I matter-of-factly acquiesced, Why not?). With the curried dish being completely void of any sort of starch, I decided to order the Junoon spiced naan as well, spiced with za’atar, topped with modest shavings of paneer and gruyère cheeses. Pillow-soft and fragrant, the naan was the perfect vessel with which I’d sopped up the remnants of fennel seed-cinnamon broth.

At dessert, I chose the Valrhona chocolate tart—quite possibly the furthest from an Indian delicacy that I could have selected, but I was drawn to the sound of “chickpea shortbread.” Served with Assam ganache, coconut sago, puffed lotus seed, and hemp seed, ingredients that seemed unusual on their own, offered a fine dessert once tasted together. But interestingly, it was at the end of my meal when I experienced the height of hospitality that Junoon had to offer. 

Shortly after an order for black coffee was placed, a barista arrived holding a tray with all the accompaniments necessary for coffee service. After pouring a portion of pressed coffee into a handleless mug, a set of lidded pots were placed on the slick bar before me, containing milk and sugars. After removing lids, the pots were gently, thoughtfully pushed toward me (should I so desire either of its contents). As restaurateur Danny Meyer was famously quoted saying, “Hospitality is present when something happens for you. It is absent when something happens to you.” At Junoon, while its food may be perfect enough… perhaps some of those who are behind the scenes ought to take more of a step forward!

Patrick Bradley is the founder of the site, TheGayFoodie.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @thegayfoodie
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