New York’s Junoon is making Indian cuisine a force in fine dining — and its executive chef, Akshay Bhardwaj, is only 24 years old. There are plenty of delicious dishes on the menu and they all start with the restaurant’s in-house spice room.
“This room would be probably the heart and soul of any Indian kitchen, especially Junoon,” Bhardwaj explained. “We ourselves roast these spices, and then we’ll mix them and we’ll blend them.”
Junoon combines authentic Indian dishes with a farm-to-table approach, using ingredients what can be found only in New York City, along with traditional Indian spices. Bhardwaj incorporates flavors he grew up with into his cooking, and even features a recipe his mom makes on the menu.
“My mother is actually making one of the desserts now, in the kitchen for the menu,” he stated. “She would always make rice pudding on holidays and bring it into the restaurant for all the cooks to have it. And they always said, including our pastry chef, they all agree that it was the best rice pudding — that no one could match it or make it better. So that was one of my first choices and that was something that I brought in from my upbringing.”
Junoon’s food has earned a Michelin star for the past seven years, and it’s the only restaurant in New York City to have the prized rating.