This last weekend I had the opportunity to visit my favorite Lower East Side/East Village Indian restaurant Panna II. I remember eating at the original Panna a few years ago at its old Curry Row location on East 6th between 1st and 2nd Avenues. The new place is around the corner on 1st Avenue between East 5th and East 6th and is well worth visiting.
This is hands down THE best Indian food in NYC. Any readers who would beg to differ, please let me know. Though some I’ve tried might fall close, this is the winner.
Panna II is decorated like the jingle trucks that roam the highways of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. Toys, nick knacks from around the world and red jalapeno-shaped lights cover the walls and ceilings, making it necessary to stoop down as you walk to your table. Something about that red lighting makes me feel very technicolor trippy, as if I’m with the Beatles in India or something.
The service was great; we were greeted outside on 1st Avenue at the bottom of the front steps. The host ushered us in past other South Asian Restaurateurs vying for our business. We were immediately supplied with menus and consulted on appetizers and (non-alcoholic) drinks. Panna II is currently BYOB with some of the patrons going so far as to bring in Kingfisher Indian beer from nearby stores to complete their meal. It’s an inconvenience that seems to add something to the casualness (and low cost) of eating here. If you don’t feel like drinking, the house Mango Lassi can be a refreshing relief from a spicy meal.
My lamb vindaloo was as spicy-hot as expected. My girlfriend’s chicken tandoori was lean and white without being flavorless, though it did seem a little bland when compared with the atom bomb of spices my lamb was in. The aromatic long-grain rice was absolutely necessary to soak up all the sublimely delicious masala that came with my dish. While it wasn’t the most relaxing meal we didn’t feel TOO rushed. All in all, we left feeling glad that we had made the trip.
If you’re planing on eating at Panna II, expect to spend around $25 dollars per person for a three course meal with a side order of bread (my favorite being garlic naan), a non-alcoholic drink and a shared appetizer. A small scoop of vanilla ice cream after the meal is complimentary.
I gave Panna II a 5 for Affordability, 5 for Value, a 4.5 for Service, 4.8 for Food and a 5 for Atmosphere. Based on an average of these 5 criteria, Panna II receives a total score of:
4.86 out of 5 inanimate objects.