Jun’s review: a delectable culinary crossover with Indian, Oriental and American dishes

Head to this Downtown Dubai hotspot for street-food-inspired fusion cuisine done right

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Fusion is perhaps one of the most overused terms in the culinary world. The cuisine is often described as “modern”, “progressive” and “innovative”, but is none of these if not done right, instead coming across as gimmicky, even lazy.

With its curious combination of cuisines ― North American, Asian and Indian ― Jun's in Downtown Dubai is certainly a fusion restaurant, but one that benefits from its chef's rather unique personal and professional journey.

Kelvin Cheung is of Chinese heritage, was born in Canada, brought up in the US, and has trained in French cuisine and worked for a decade in India.

The National sets out to sample how these influences and experiences play out on the plate and palate.

What to expect, where to sit

Jun's channels an equestrian vibe. Photo: Jun's

On Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, Jun’s is in good company, flanked by Bombay Brasserie, Mizu and Bosphorous, plus the Vida and Armani properties next door. Those who dread parking in Downtown Dubai will be happy to learn that the licensed restaurant offers a valet service.

Shades of brown dominate the interior, creating a warm and rustic vibe, complete with high ceilings, suspended mesh installations and plenty of leather, which ties to the restaurant's equestrian theme. The floor-to-ceiling glass facade offers that most incomparable of Dubai views: the Burj Khalifa. As the evening progresses, the music tends to get a little too loud, so it can be an effort to maintain conversation.

Jun's seats 150 guests, and has a bar area and chef's table, which offers a curated tasting menu and an interactive dining experience for up to five guests.

The menu

Despite its trio of cuisines, the menu at Jun's is but one page long. Photo: Jun's

To diners who often feel spoilt (or should that be confused?) for choice, Jun's single-board menu is a welcome sight. To me, it signifies the chef is able to pool his skills into a selective number of dishes instead of spreading them thin, especially given the three cuisines on offer here.

The menu is divided into “littles” and “grills”. From the former, my dining partner and I pick an artistically plated dish of Hokkaido scallops (Dh70, $19)), which come doused in yuzu kosho, a Japanese citrus chilli condiment, with corn puree and warm crispy rice. We are encouraged to use our fingers to scoop up the yuzu alongside the scallops, and find this one-bite dish has an appealing citrusy kick.

Next up is salmon tartare (Dh80), which appears ubiquitous enough, but provides an explosion of flavour. The Norwegian fish is paired with a lightly grilled avocado crushed with agua de chile (shrimp ceviche), and seasoned with thyme, lemon, mint and jalapeno. The punchy but cohesive ingredients follow one after the other in rapid and resplendent succession.

From the Orient, we travel to India. Sabudana vada (Dh55), a humble Indian street food snack, typically takes the form of a deep-fried fritter of tapioca pearls served with spicy green chutney. At Jun's, it's given a deconstructed avatar, and served with salmon roe and a light potato foam.

Another Indian street-food-inspired creation, the tempura za’atar chaat (Dh45), comes with tamarind, yoghurt, avocado cream and chaat masala. Both dishes deliver the flavourful punches we are quickly discovering is par for the course at Jun's.

The Wagyu striploin beef tartar (Dh115) comprises scooped-out Szechuan bone marrow, paired with kimchi, sous vide eggs and chicharron. Also from the grill is a dish of chilli butter garlic jumbo prawns (Dh130), with an irresistible burnt butter garlic sauce, plus lemon and sambal.

It's evident by now that each dish is crafted to surprise and whatever you pick is guaranteed to offer a completely different taste and texture.

The chef's table offers a curated menu for five guests. Photo: Jun's

A dish that best embodies the fusion concept is Macanese mushroom and mantou (Dh175). Charred oyster mushrooms are served in a rich base of Madras curry, coconut and Parmesan, and draws from the various peoples who left their imprint on Macau over the centuries, from the Portuguese, Dutch and British to Chinese and Indians.

The desserts, unsurprisingly, continue to surprise. When cracked open, the creme brulee (Dh55) reveals boba pearls and ginger-scented custard, a unique and enticing pairing. The eye-catching mango and elderflower panna cotta (Dh55), meanwhile, comes with coconut sago, crumble and mango leather, and finishes off our meal with true Asian flair.

Stand-out dish

Carrots with smoked labneh, walnut and soy honey at Jun's.

While my companion favoured the beef, the rainbow heirloom carrots (Dh60) were a real highlight for me. Reminiscent of a Jackson Pollock painting and served with smoked labneh, soy honey butter, candied walnuts, fermented black garlic and Vietnamese banh mi bread, the dish aims to recreate Chicago's famed salmon and cream cheese bagels, but without the salmon.

A chat with the chef

Chef Kelvin Cheung. Photo: Jun's

Hailing from a family of chefs (his father and grandfather owned restaurants), Cheung is a passionate culinary artist. Drawing on his multicultural background and experiences, he has tapped into an emerging global culinary zeitgeist to serve up creations that are as novel as they are comforting.

“When you think of Asian food, it's become ubiquitous with sushi, dim sum, ramen and the like, but I want to show it can be much more than that with what we're doing here at Jun's,” Cheung says.

“The dishes are meant to capture the nostalgia of my Asian-American upbringing, the memories and essence of the foods in my father’s restaurant, as well as all the other food I have eaten while travelling and living in India and Asia.”

There is a story behind each dish. The salmon tartare, for instance, is inspired by a late-night snack when Cheung got off from work at 2am in Chicago, and headed to the Mexican neighbourhood of Little Village. Here, a vendor from Sinaloa sold a huge $5 bowl of salmon over a gluten-free nori cracker with agua de chile, thyme, lemon, mint and jalapeno. The sabudana vada was a dish Cheung enjoyed when sampling Mumbai's famed street fare with his wife, who he met in India.

Price point and contact information

The littles range from Dh50 to Dh80, and the grills from Dh65 to Dh325.

Jun’s is open from 5.30pm to 2am. For reservations, visit www.sevenrooms.com/reservations/juns or call 04 457 6035.

This review was conducted at the invitation of the restaurant

Updated: October 28, 2022, 12:02 PM
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