I was devastated when Sapa closed. Not because it was the most amazing restaurant in Manhattan, but for me, it marked the end of an era. It was one of my "go tos." Yes, I was a legitimate regular there. While one of my oldest friends did work there and I definitely became used to frequent perks each visit, it was also just a great spot for meeting up with friends to enjoy great cocktails and well prepared Asian-fusion cuisine - all in a very attractive setting. Well, I think I have stumbled upon the new Sapa. It even rhymes with it. Pranna, located just a few blocks north and east from my old haunt, is an expansive restaurant serving up wonderful Pan-Asian cuisine mainly inspired by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.
This is one enormous restaurant. But, there is a lot going on at Pranna and the space really works to accommodate the many different needs of socializing New Yorkers. As you walk in, there is a room for casual cocktails in a bar and lounge-like setting. Look around and you will notice several dining rooms located on various levels surrounding the bar. The ample space allows for both a wide open dining hall as well as private nooks suited for group dining as well as a cozy date - transforming the large space immediately into an intimate setting. And, there is one more option upon visiting Pranna. Head downstairs to its very own club where the volume of the music is turned up and it's more than acceptable to just show up and dance.
No matter where you start off or end up in Pranna, be sure to check out their specialty cocktails. The bartenders know how to use ingredients that I never really imagined incorporating into drinks - creating some of the tastiest, unique cocktails. If you don't mind a little spice (and you should be prepared to indulge in a fair amount when consuming Pan-Asian cusine), go for the Dragon Fly - level vodka infused with orange oil and thai bird chilies, kaffir lime leaves, fresh lemon juice. It was also hard not to pass up on the Butterfly Whisper - hendrick’s gin, veev acai spirit, muddled kiwi, aloe vera juice, yuzu juice - it seemed almost cleansing to me!
I also urge you to check out the food. I recently found out that a new chef just joined the kitchen - and it turns out that he and the other head chef are old friends from cooking back at Sapa, believe it or not. And, I am happy to report that this duo continues to churn out delicious Asian cuisine. It's nice to see the reincarnation of what was always a good thing! All diners start off with a generous and perfectly prepared helping of Naan - served with two different spicy sauces for dipping. The menu is great for sharing starters. I highly recommend the seared diver scallops with tom yum, garbanzo, and hazelnut puree. For the spice lovers, the wok seared Maya prawns served over saffron, mango and leek risotto is a great option from the main course selection. But, the winning entree and an absolute must (I am already thinking about returning and ordering it again) is the cumin crusted hanger steak with fig chutney, crispy onion rings and a penang curry sauce. The flavor combination is not only spot on, but the meat is also perfectly seasoned and prepared.
In times like this, I would normally worry about a restaurant having to account for such a large space - even in a place that has truly nailed the food and drink. However, seeing the line waiting to get into Pranna on any weekend night assures me that it may be the start of a new era and they have it all figured out. New Yorkers can have it all. Just serve great food, drink, and set up a dance floor (the missing piece at Sapa). And, at Pranna, I recommend doing it all - dining, drinking, and dancing. What better way to skip the line, get a delicious protein fix, and be part of the crowds? Going out in New York has never been so easy or tasted so good!
79 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):