Panna II: Where Chili Peppers and Christmas Lights Meet
I was focusing more on the waitstaff turning out the lights and yelling when they brought out my birthday cake, so it took me a minute to notice that a customer from another table had stood up, taken off his shirt, and started running back and forth in the restaurant’s narrow are between tables. But that’s the magic of Panna II. It stays true to its motto of being “Where chili pepper lights meet Christmas lights.” The restaurant is covered in strings of lights to the point where you don’t notice the plastic Godzilla figurine above your head until half through your main course.
There’s also a bit of mystery with Panna II. Mainly, why is it in a building with three other Indian restaurants? Panna II wins out of the four because they 1. have the most lights and 2. have the most absurd dinner special. For $12 to $15, you get your choice of any appetizer, any soup, and enteree on their menu. And the food is pretty damn tasty. I’m not saying that the food is going to make you feel like you’re in Mumbai or even Brick Lane in London, but it’s the best inexpensive Indian food downtown. The best part: it’s BYOB. Out of the four restaurants, Milon is a close second for asthetic value and food prices. But their dinner special has limited options, and their slogan of “Garden-like view inside” just isn’t that enticing.
Panna II and Milon, and friends
93 First Avenue, between East 5th and 6th Streets
[East Village, Manhattan]