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You know that saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”?
Does that mean you shouldn’t judge a restaurant by its interior? Because if it does then I’m 100% guilty.
I found out about this restaurant through… You probably guessed it, Instagram.
A friend who lives in the city had posted a picture of the year-round holiday and chili lights at Panna II from when she dined there and I was sold based on sight alone.
Screw the food (kind of). I wanted the atmosphere.
So when Charles and I made a quick 6 hour day trip to the Big Apple a couple weeks ago for a work-related obligation, we decided to see for ourselves if the food at Panna II was as colorful in flavor as its interior.
A few important things to note before we dive into the food…
Panna II is cash only annnnnnnd BYOB <– my favorite especially when there’s no corkage fee. :)
Charles and I had cash on us but were lacking in the B of the BYO when we arrived. Luckily, the front door man came to our rescue and told us that there was a liquor store next door where we could buy purchase some grown up drinks. Score!
Less than 5 minutes later, we were back at the restaurant with bottles in hand and ready to be seated.
We started off with papadum, a super thin, crispy Indian bread that came with 2 different dipping sauces and a topping.
I honestly don’t know what the sauces were (forgot to ask the waiter) but they were all pretty tasty.
One sauce was sweet and tangy, the other was savory and herbal in seasoning and the topping was pickled carrots. Charles liked dipping the papadum in the sweet sauce while I preferred layering mine with the carrots and topping it off with the savory sauce.
^^ Our beverage of choice from the liquor store. We decided to stay on theme with the cuisine (did you catch my rhyme there?) and get two bottles of the Taj Mahal lager beer.
Guess how much we paid for the two bottles???
Answer = Less than $8. And that my friends is why I love restaurants who do BYOB… Because cheap drinks are the best drinks.
^^ Pinky Up!
^^ Following the papadum, we ordered a few samosas that were filled with potatoes, onions, lentils and minced meat.
For the main course, we both went with curry.
I ordered the lamb and Charles ordered the mix, a combination of chicken, beef, lamb and vegetables.
While we both enjoyed our dishes and found all the meat to be especially juicy and tender, I personally thought there was something lacking in the seasoning…
I like my curry spicy and just felt there wasn’t enough of a kick in the sauce for me. But that didn’t stop me from cleaning the food off my plate.
^^ While waiting for the check, our waiter surprised us each with a complimentary scoop of mango ice cream – a refreshingly sweet way to clear our palate and close out the experience.
And don’t mind the curry stains on the table… We’re messy eaters and proud of it.
^^ Finishing up the last of our beer before rushing out to catch our bus from NYC back to V.A. We totally lost track of time and were running a little late.
Luckily, the bus pick up location was about a 15 minute Uber ride away and we made it to the bus exactly two minutes before it was supposed to take off. Phew!
Panna II is definitely a place to visit at least once if you’re ever in the NYC area.
The food is good. Maybe not authentically so. But it is good – in the watered down way that I’ve found many ethnic restaurants tend to cater their seasonings towards the “sensitive” palates of a majorly westernized customer base.
But for whatever I may have found lacking in the food, Panna II definitely made up in ambiance. You don’t come to Panna II to eat. I mean, you do. But primarily, you come to Panna II for the overall experience.
The lights, the thumping Indian music playing in the background, the waiters bumping into your chairs as they carry huge trays of food over your head thanks for the relatively small and crowded space. The restaurant feels like a divey destination and its objective? Celebration.
Would we come back again? Charles said he was good (as in “probably not”). Me? I’d definitely want to come back again but with my girlfriends next time. The place screams “girls get together” to me in the best way possible.
How do you pick a restaurant to eat at? Is it based off of food alone or does atmosphere also play a part in your decision?
With that said, I wish you a Happy Friday! May your 3 day Memorial Day weekend be filled with happy moments and more importantly, yummy food and drinks!
P.S. I also encourage you to pause for a moment of silence at 3pm on Monday in remembrance of those who have passed in the line of active duty because Memorial Day is so much more than just about barbecues and pool openings.