Pranna and Community Food and Juice: A Tale of Two Restaurants

As much as I hate to admit it, I am occasionally swayed to like or dislike restaurant for reasons other than its food. The service, the decor and most importantly, the PRICE all way in on how much I enjoy a dining experience. Now, this is not to say that I am cheap – no siree, not at all! I can roll with the best of them! But when I feel like my money has been taken without getting a worthy product or experience in return…well, I’m sure you get the picture.
Of course, on the other hand, if I feel like I have paid a price and gotten a wonderful experience, even if the food wasn’t the greatest, I am okay with that too! 2 recent dining excursions are perfect examples of my feelings:

Community Food and Juice is a restaurant that I would have bet MONEY I was going to love. Locally grown and produced food. Seasonal menu. Low prices, considering the menu options AND they served booze?
This place had me written all over it!
There was a hopping bar area and the restaurant itself was spacious, casual and modern..
Sweet Potato Fries. Okay, these were pretty fantastic. Thick cut steak fries, liberally salted and sprinkled with parsley, these perfectly walked the line between sweet and savory. Dipped in the restaurant’s homemade ketchup, they were crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside and had that sugary taste that makes sweet potatoes gifts from the heavens. These were delish and totally worth the price.
Green Goddess Salad with Boston and Bibb lettuce, Spinach, Cremini Mushrooms, Cucumbers, Chives, Sourdough Croutons, Creamy Basil-Dill Dressing. This salad sounded RIGHT up my alley. And it was…soooo not up any alley of mine. The vegetables were fresh, but that was about all I could say. The mushrooms were raw, and it was my fault for not asking how they were served. I am just NOT a fan of raw mushrooms, and whereas I had envisioned a pile of umami-licious sauteed mushrooms gently wilting the crisp lettuces, that was not what I got. I got a plate of crudites. With an insipid dressing that tasted only vaguely of dill and not at all of basil. The croutons were great – clearly just toasted and crunchy with a bit of give in the middle.  But the salad as a whole…was bleh.
Which is kind of what I could say for the food I tried here. It was okay, but not great. And all of a sudden,t he prices that seemed so reasonable when read the menu, seemed exorbitantly high. Paired with service that was a bit haphazard, this was just NOT the meal that I wanted it to be.
I felt a little cheated.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Pranna. I went here for a media preview, and from the moment I walked into the swanky nightclub-cum-restaurant I felt a little out of place. The cuisine is South Asian inspired fusion, and there is a $28 brunch menu that includes 3 drinks (Screwdriver, Bellini, Mimosa or Bloody Mary – feel free to mix and match) and an entree before a DJ comes in at 2 pm and the whole place turns into a massive party
I’m, like, REALLY not cool enough to come here.
The spacious lobby and bar area gave way to a light filled room with a streamlined look and whimsical chandeliers.
And the food was just what I hoped it would be: Good. Well scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, fresh greens tossed in a peppery, vinegary dressing. And, oh yeah – the best breakfast potatoes I have had in Manhattan. Creamy and soft potatoes mixed with tender cauliflower, tangy tomatoes, sweet caramelized onions and a hit of pungent curry powder for an unexpectedly delicious side dish. This was so flavorful and surprising that it really made me consider Pranna’s chef in a different light. I did order a kind of boring dish, and he managed to make it interesting and delicious. Score one for him.
Still, the service was quite slow, and the food was not worth $30…but oh wait.
The 3 Drinks.
Champagne served in WINE glasses – easily 3X the pour of any other boozy brunch in town. when I thought that my Bellini was too fruity, the cocktail waitress could not have been more apologetic and poured me a fresh one with only a slight bit of sweet peach puree in a glass that was mostly minerally, fizzy, tipsy-inducing champagne. My glass was never allowed to go empty, and the champagne they used was delicious – definitely not the cheap crapola that I’m sure I would buy if making Bellinis for myself.
Was this the best meal I have ever had? No. The service was slow and I would have liked a bread basket at the start of the meal. But was it worth the money? YES!
And that’s the moral of the story here. One interesting side dish and a few included drinks makes me overlook some less than favorable aspects. A few forgettable dishes and some overpriced veggies make me forget the delicious sweet potato fries and excellent atmosphere.
What sways you about a restaurant other than its food?

Comments

  1. Ada says:

    As a student up at Columbia I find myself dining up at Community quite often. Unfortunately, I never seem to like what I order there and find it way overpriced, particularly in a college neighborhood. They have amazing bluberry pancakes though!

    That's so neat that you got to go to a media preview at Pranna, I actually work right by there. Glad you had some nice meals!

  2. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Ada-yeah I am not a fan, as you can see. Do you like anywhere else up near there?

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