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amgym interior

When I visited Junoon, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan, owner Rajesh Bhardwaj told me that his goal was not to have an Indian restaurant but to have a restaurant that served Indian cuisine. The distinction is more than subtle, it puts the emphasis on the dining experience to break down the stereotype of the average Indian restaurant. Junoon is no average Indian restaurant; it offers an extraordinary dining experience with a menu that is based on tradition but creative and exotic as well.

It was Bhardwaj's goal to do the same thing in Orlando when the owners of Raga called upon him to take over the business and make it the restaurant they had originally wanted but had accomplished with only limited success. After some cajoling by the owners, Bhardwaj agreed to take on the task. The result is American Gymkhana, a fine dining experience with an Indian flavor.

The name is derived from the sports clubs popular during the raj where the British and India's social elite would meet. The decor, which has been completely reworked from the Raga days, is less like the typical gymkhana of dark wood paneling. It's less masculine, more elegant and very comfortable. The open kitchen remains, and there's something less masculine there, too.

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We all like to think that everyone at the restaurant is really happy to have us there, and grateful for our business. I'm not sure the unidentified chef in this article from Distractify is one of them. There's a bit too much vituperativity and general resentment in this list of 21 things a chef wants to say to your face. Let's just assume he or she is just venting under the veil of anonymity.

Still, there are a few suggestions that are worth heeding in here. And I especially like the last one -- I share the chef's pain there.

Let's here from you chefs out there: Are these complaints warranted?

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If you're headed to the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center for tonight's premiere of The Nutcracker, you'll be the first to see first of two new Barnie's CoffeeKitchen cafes that will be part of the complex. The first to open will be on the second level; a first floor cafe will open in the spring. You'll be able to buy espressos and specialty coffees, hot chocolate, Irish coffee, and Santa's White Christmas Eggnog, with or without Bailey's Irish Cream. (I recommend with; I've seen many, many productions of The Nutcracker. In fact, make it a double.)

You'll also find some sweets, including BCK macarons, biscotti and blondies (but no sugar plums).

It's nice to see our hometown Barnie's CoffeeKitchen become part of the DPAC concessions. 

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mynt downstairs

Mynt has moved into the Hannibal Square neighborhood, and just like its similarly spelled namesake, it's a refreshing addition. It took over the space that was previously occupied by Fresh Cafe. I've always liked the intimacy of this place — it can feel like one of the small restaurants in Brooklyn or the West Village. But Mynt's owner, Sunny Corda, has also reopened the upstairs dining area, where there is a bar, which adds more seating while still maintaining the cozy atmosphere.

Corda also owns Saffron on Sand Lake Road's Restaurant Row. But even though both restaurants are Indian, Mynt is quite a bit different.

Mynt takes a fresher and more healthful approach to its food. In fact, it uses no ghee, the type of clarified butter that is somewhat of a staple in Indian food. Instead, Corda told me, the kitchen uses more olive oil in the recipes.