If it's a hot day (like today, which is 95 degrees) do not show up at this place just when it opens, which is at 12 noon. It is extremely hot inside! I was sweating bullets and kept fanning myself with the menu - and thank goodness they have an extensive menu, which means I get a better than average breeze from it!
But aside from the uncomfortable heat (which dissipated after about 20 minutes of them running the AC), Panna II is one of the best and more affordable Indian restaurants in Manhattan. I've eaten there several times in the past and went by today to take out for lunch, but never had the chance to write them up.
The first thing that hits you as soon as you walk in is the decor - and I mean literally hits you in the head (or face if you happen to be taller than me). Make sure you duck or you may find yourself entangled in a mishmosh of chili pepper lights, happy birthday streamers, Fanta beach balls, Christmas tree lights, capiz shells, and a snowman stuff toy. As the slogan on their delivery menu says, this is a place "where chili pepper lights meets [sic] Christmas tree lights".
The wait staff has always been accommodating and attentive. In fact, when I walked in today the waiter came back with a scoop of mango ice-cream (my favorite!) and a glass of water just to cool me off, without me asking for it! But over the years, I've enjoyed a lot more at Panna II than the mango ice-cream. The vegetable samosa is filling so you better control yourself and not eat too much of this. The shag mottor ponir (cooked with peas, fresh spinach, and cheese) has always been my favorite at any Indian restaurant I go to (particularly in this place). The butter chicken (boneless chicken tikka cooked with pure butter, almonds, and creamy special sauce) is as sinful as it sounds - and has just the right amount of spice.
A word to the wise as you go looking for this hidden gem - From the street level, you go up a few steps and veer to the right to get into the restaurant. Take note that you HAVE to go to the right side. There is another Indian restaurant on the left-hand side that will try to hijack Panna II's customers and lure them into their place under false pretenses. The restaurant to the left (I don't even know the name) is in no way related to Panna II. And believe me, they can be very aggressive in trying to get you into their place. You have been warned!