How would you feel if you spent $114 (before tax, tip, and wine) on a dinner that was basically an online joke brought into the real world?
That’s exactly what a number of New Yorkers did over the weekend, unbeknownst to them, The New York Times reported on Monday. Mehran’s Steak House, a fake restaurant that started as a joke among friends, popped up for a one-night-only dinner in the East Village on Saturday. Diners, who had been waiting for a table for months, finally got their chance to try the highly rated steakhouse’s four-course menu, prepared mostly by 20-somethings with no culinary experience.
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“We were laughing because it was like, ‘Do you think we’re being punked?’” Leigh Wade, an ob-gyn who showed up with her husband, told the Times.
In fact, they were being duped. The origin of Mehran’s Steak House is that Mehran Jalali used to cook steak for his roommates, one of whom changed their address on Google Maps to use the restaurant name. Friends then wrote reviews as a joke, but suddenly people started showing up at their house for steak. Another roommate created a website with a waiting list, which eventually grew to some 900 people.
The friends ultimately decided that they should give it a go with an actual dinner, booking an event space and reaching out to some of those people waiting for a reservation at Mehran’s. They visited a couple of steakhouses to see how the operation worked, then pulled together 60 of their friends to serve as back-of-house and front-of-house employees. The intrigued diners who showed up Saturday night had no idea about any of this.
That night, Mehran’s served a coursed dinner meant to depict the life cycle of a cow, The New York Times wrote. There was ribeye with rosemary potatoes, as well as Meadows Bring Life (a mixed green salad), Youth: Ever Precious, Ever Fleeting (veal meatballs), and Agrarian Synergies (bruschetta with mozzarella). Some diners praised the food, while others sent their steak back to the kitchen; one remarked that his beef “was like at a wedding buffet.”
That’s not a glowing review of a restaurant—but hey, Mehran’s was never actually meant to be one. “It seems like more of a theater production than a dinner,” Kyle Hertzog, another one of the customers, told the Times.
As a show or performance-art concept rather than a meal, Mehran’s may very well get five stars.
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