26 January 2017

Prankster

A friend of mine invited me to lunch with her at Prankster one weekend (the day before I moved states, right before the holidays, and followed by my return to the US, which hopefully explains my very belated post). Once we met, she explained that we were going to be hosted by the ever-gracious Pawan Soni and try a little bit of everything on the menu. I had a such a great time eating and chatting with so many great, new people - I can summarize the experience with these few word: soooo.much.good.food!

I actually had visited Prankster once before, a few weeks earlier for a weekday lunch with some friends. I had the same pleasurable service and great food that I was served at this event. At that time, my teenage step-daughter made sure to mention that this place was in fact for young people and that we were far too old to enjoy it properly (despite the obviously retro playlist). So I took joy in the fact that I am indeed part of the target age audience when Pawan explained the concept behind the restaurant. When you walk in downstairs, there is upside down decor representing time flowing backwards to your younger years. As you ascend the stairs you are taken through a backdoor into an (Indian) college campus. It is intended to be reminiscent of one's college years, fun times, a time of independence, new relationships, and where you are just starting out in your adult life. The restaurant/cafe/pub has many different seating areas divided up by area of the college. To the left is the library, the right a dance floor and dj booth (don't remember my college having one of those back in my day...), and past that is a chemistry lab where you can mix your own drinks. Walking onto the patio you find a paan wala (apparently a staple at Indian unis) and hostel (dorm) room, complete with clothes hanging from the ceiling for drying. Back inside you find the longest bar top in Gurgaon at 35 feet long designed to remind you of a locker room. Opposite is the brightly colored canteen and a look into the kitchen. Every detail is thought out down to the painted lampshades with ads for 2 minute maggi, a Punjabi dhaba, and Iphantom smoke (apparently a candy cigarette). Other areas included classrooms, lecture hall, and a food truck in the student parking lot. 




                                                                            

prankster punk

While waiting for our fellow diners I ordered myself a specialty cocktail, the Prankster Punk (vodka with orange and lime chunks, peach puree, and lime and apple juices). It went down far too quickly. As it was mid-day on a Saturday and I was supposed to return home to pack post-lunch, I switched to beer (brewed in-house). Definitely ask for a taster when you go and try them all, it's hard to choose just one as they're all excellent aged beers and only cost INR140 for 500ml. I loved the wheat beer.

Intended to be pocketbook friendly and reminiscent of the type of food your mom or north Indian college cafeteria would make, it hits the spot! The dishes are all uniquely designed by the chef to fit the "nostalgic progressive" food theme. 

the masterful chef
lotus root fritters

As he explained, all of the dishes aim to bring the taste of your north Indian mom's kitchen into traditional dishes from all over India, but with a twist. We started with lotus root fritters (a steal at only 99 rupees!). I had no idea that lotus was edible, but while it was crispy and flavorful with its masala topping, it was so light (I'm told it's because of the air-frying).

This was followed by the nitro dahi bhalla, an ice cream with crispy romali roti and pomegranate quick frozen with liquid nitrogen flavored like chaat.

dahi bhalla
We then tried the sambhar cappucino (INR 149) - another air fried treat with a frothy sambar (it has a surprising flavor - as it's intended to be your north Indian's mother's less stewy-version of the south Indian favorite). It was light and full of north Indian flavors. 
sambhar cappucino with dosai crispy
Next up was the pao bhaji (always a favorite) with 3 for INR250. This one was served in a fun creative way intended to remind the diner of the tiffins your mom packed and the truth-or-dare cube game that was a popular kids game here. Apparently in this game, you pick a box and if it is empty underneath then you have to choose truth-or-dare. Fortunately in this version, you are rewarded with a pao slider (unless you're the unlucky one to pick the empty box). I loved the pao bhaji zinker with Marathi garlic crumbs; it had a nice kick to it and the cheese slice was a nice touch. The patty was firm and not soggy and the bun was light. I could have eaten all three of these! 


honey chili potato pepper slaw
Following the game theme, the twist of the honey chili potatoes was that they were stacked like Jenga blocks. To make these, they start with garlic mash then fry. Fabulous presentation, plus they were soft and creamy in the middle.

Already stuffed, I soldiered on as the keema boti and chicken tikka pizzas arrived (all pizzas cost INR325-475, such a great deal). Unlike most pizzas you find here in India, these are modeled after the Middle Eastern fattir pizza with a flaky pastry-like base. The chicken was delightfully cheesy and the keema pizza was absolutely divine and I've found the perfect new delivery system of keema into my belly. Yum!


Fading fast, I tried to keep up with the others and had the Indianized tamarind glazed kung pao chicken served to look like a tamarind candy dish. This was followed by the TT (tender tandoori) lamb chops coated in a delicious bbq sauce of traditional Indian flavors. It was so perfectly cooked that the bone slipped cleanly away from the soft tenderloin. Absolutely sublime!

imly glazed kung pao chicken

Still more delectable dishes kept arriving (mains range from INR325-600), the rampuri ghost - the mutton was served on the bone in a juicy, medium-bodied gravy. It was soft like the lamb chops and very flavorful. The hanged and pulled butter chicken was nicely flavored and not too sweet like many versions. The paneer tubes in Thai makhni curry was excellent, you can definitely taste the lemongrass, but it still a more Indianized version of the traditional Thai red curry. I then tried the ghutwa palak with vaddi. While I was not a fan of the vaddi - I was told that the strong flavor was asoefatida - the creamed palak was nice. 

rampuri ghost, reshampatti shine, lacha coins
hanged and pulled - the real butter chicken white makhan mousse
compressed paneer tubes in Thai makhni curry
ghutwa palak with cumin vaddi

On to desserts: the litchi tikka kebab dipped in pistachio dust was surprising. They look like they would be savoury, but they are definitely sweet. While I have had litchi juice in the past, I wasn't expecting the slick, soft, and fleshy nature of the fruit.


The rose kheer pudding was topped with pistachio and frozen rose petals (INR 295 for this huge bowl of pudding!). I have avoided kheer up until now because of my aversion for overly sweet dishes, but it was not as sweet as I expected and I enjoyed the flavor that the roses added. 

Pranked rose kheer
I had tried the deconstructed jingle pudding plate with frozen cinnamon cream "snow" and topped with fruit on my previous visit - the presentation is a spectacle in itself with the server creating the dish at your table. One fellow blogger exclaimed that it was very good - "just like Christmas day". I don't know what Christmases they've been having, perhaps it's like a British Christmas, but it's definitely nothing we serve in Texas on Christmas. That aside, it was nice and I liked that the deconstructed pudding is just fancy speak for an edible plate made of chocolate. You can't go wrong with chocolate!

deconstructed jingle pudding
Even though my friend had to practically roll me home after I gorged myself on all the food (I have no self-control, clearly), it was a great time and I was glad to try some different dishes from my previous visit while hearing about the deep thought process that went into designing each and every dish and aspect of the restaurant itself. I wish Prankster all the success and hope you get a chance to try them out some time. They're kid-free after 4pm and they pick up the beat with a dj starting around 9pm.

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