Joonam is a new Iranian restaurant at the Pointe on the Palm Jumeirah. Located next door to Al Safadi with which it shares a similar terraced outdoor waterfront dining area – lovely at this time of year. I found the restaurant’s interior refreshingly simple. I loathe Iranian restaurants which drape themselves in depictions of Iran’s ancient past.
What a name! Joonam is a popular Persian term of endearment meaning “my life” which can be used casually or, as I did recently, very intimately.
Although the restaurant is not Iranian-owned, its chefs are very much Iranian. And in addition, if my information is correct, they come with Mestooran pedigree. Mestooran is one of my favourite Iranian restaurants in Tehran which, interestingly, has recently opened a branch in Doha (really? Doha, not Dubai?).
Okay, so they’ve got the location, interior and kitchen sorted – time to give their menu a test run. I ordered Kashk-e Bademjan, Maast-o Khiar and Zeytoon Parvardeh to start; followed by a mixed grill of kababs, Khoresh Ghormeh Sabzi and Baghali Polo ba Gardan as mains. Oh, and their in-house made Doogh which turned out to be spiked with rose water – why? why? why? no! no! no! Doogh is the Iranian version of Ayran or salted Lassi. Can you imagine that with rose water – ugh!
It is customary for Iranian restaurants to serve complimentary bread, herbs and cheese before the meal starts: noon-o-panir-o-sabzi it’s called. Some also serve soup in a similar manner to mandi restaurants. As these are comps, I can appreciate restaurants trying to cap the size of their outlay, but Joonam’s comp platter made Ebenezer Scrooge look like a philanthropist! Joonam, really?
I found both the Kashk-e Bademjan, an eggplant appetizer, and the Maast-o Khiar, a yogurt and cucumber raita (it’s what the Greeks took, added garlic to and called Tzatziki), well presented and high on yum, especially the yogurt. The Zeytoon Parvardeh had obviously been sitting in the fridge for a while, the smaller than usual olives clumped together with the thicker than usual walnut and pomegranate paste – no! no! no!
Served on a dreaded table-top mangal, the mixed grill comprised of Koobideh, Barg, Jujeh, Chenjeh, Maasti and Shishlik (lamb chops) – with the exception of the koobideh, which was underwhelming at best, all were good, none wow. And of course, all were bone-dry before we could have seconds because of the stupid mangal. All four Iranians at our table agreed that the Ghormeh Sabzi should not have left the kitchen – I’m being polite when I say, it was disappointing. If there was one dish which pulled a little back for Joonam, it was the dill and fava beans rice with braised lamb’s neck – Baghali Polo ba Gardan. Whilst not nearly in the same league as my favourite at Cando, it was good, nonetheless.
Although none of the staff were Iranian, they knew their way around the menu, pronouncing the names of the dishes properly and describing them correctly. That said, a sloth would be considered fast compared to their speed of service – atrocious. Yes, I’ll admit that they’ve only just opened but bring into the equation the group behind Joonam (@mezzahouseme @juanuae) and you’ll understand why my expectations were high, disappointment higher.
With Rue Royal switched to another cuisine, until Ariana’s Kitchen opens at the Royal Atlantis, Joonam is the only Iranian restaurant on the Palm. That alone should ensure they get a lot of attention. I’ll go back in a couple of weeks to see if they have improved. Till then, if you are at the Pointe and fancy a decent (not fantastic) Iranian meal, consider Joonam. I would not consider driving to dine there from anywhere else in Dubai. Nor would I consider ordering from them either. Not yet. There are far, far better options for that. My initial rating of Joonam is 5/10.