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, or at worst, lazy.

With its curious combination of cuisines ― North American, Asian and Indian ― Jun's in Downtown Dubai is certainly a fusion restaurant, and you’re not sure what that entails, until the chef’s story sheds light on a very interesting journey.

Drawing inspiration from Kelvin Cheung's Chinese heritage, his birthplace of Canada, upbringing in the US and a 10-year stint working in India, coupled with his French culinary training, Jun’s melds street fare with fine dining.

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

What to expect, where to sit

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. The valet parking is handy, and you enter a contemporary but vibing venue that’s more reminiscent of the ones in DIFC — after-work hangouts where you are guaranteed a great meal but also let your hair down a bit.

Shades of brown dominate the interior, creating a warm and rustic edge, complete with high ceilings, suspended mesh installations and plenty of leather, which ties to the restaurant's equestrian theme. No single decor element is a standout, but paired with the in-house DJ’s tunes, is designed to draw you into a relaxing, cozy vibe in interiors that are spacious, with high ceilings, yet intimate at the same time. 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, and so does our effort to maintain a 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

The sight of a single-board is welcome — it clearly signifies the chef is attempting to pool his skills into a select, limited number of dishes and not spread them thin. There are no starters and mains here, but littles and grills instead. Our first “little” item of scallop and corn is an artsy-looking Hokkaido scallop (Dh70) doused in yuzu kosho or Japanese citrus chilli paste, corn puree and served with warm crispy rice. Encouraged to scoop up the yuzu kosho with the scallop using our fingers, we eat it in one bite for a very punchy, citrusy sensation.

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, making for smooth yet punchy flavours that follow one after the other in rapid succession.

I crack up a little inside on seeing sabudana vada (Dh55) arrive at the table. The humble Indian street food snack, unlikely to be seen much outside the streets of Mumbai, is a deep-fried fritter made of tapioca pearls and served with a killer green chutney. Here, it takes on a deconstructed avatar, with the pearls softer and a little less chewy, served with salmon roe and an interesting potato foam. Another Indian street food-inspired creation, the tempura za’atar chaat (Dh45), comes with tamarind, yoghurt, avocado crema, with chaat masala lightly sprinkled over it.

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.

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 don’t cease to surprise. A creme brulee (Dh55) arrives, only to be cracked open to reveal boba inside, with ginger-scented custard. A very pretty mango and elderflower panna cotta with coconut sago, crumble and mango leather (Dh55) finishes off our meal with true Asian flair.

Mind you, the food here is not always pretty looking — plating and theatre are eschewed for a more wholesome, tossed-up look that draws on its street food cred. But this is genuinely what Dubai’s fine dining scene has been craving: in a sea of perfectly curated and created food art, Jun’s offerings are a complete feast for the senses. Each dish is designed to surprise and whatever you pick, it’s guaranteed to have a completely different taste and texture from the previous one.

Stand-out dish

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

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: January 04, 2023, 4:04 PM