Mehran Jalali, an AI startup founder, and a group of his friends created a fake steakhouse restaurant in a former public bath house for one night. The prank was initially started in 2021 as a way to commemorate the biweekly steak dinners that Jalali would cook for his 16 housemates during the pandemic. After flooding review sites with fake positive reviews, strangers began showing up at their door seeking steak. By the end of 2022, the fake steakhouse had a waitlist with 2,600 people on it.
Jalali decided to take the prank to the next level and make it a reality. He recruited friends to act as staff, rented a venue, and acquired permits and licenses. The restaurant, named Mehran’s Steakhouse, was located inside a former public bath house turned studio space. As guests entered, they were greeted with photographs of Jalali posing with celebrities like Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe, Barack Obama, and John F. Kennedy. Violin covers of popular songs played in the background as the servers showed patrons to their seats.
Once seated, diners were presented with a 15-inch laser-etched wood cut detailing their meal, priced at $114. The theme of the restaurant was “The Bovine Circle of Life,” which involved servers pouring glasses of milk as if it were wine. Instead of fine wine, milk was served to represent the bovine life cycle and the cow’s byproducts.
During the evening, there were additional pranks, including a large crowd briefly appearing outside pretending to scream for popstar Drake, and a fake marriage proposal performed by two of Jalali’s friends. The reaction to the food was mixed, with some diners praising the steak cooked by Jalali, while others sent theirs back. Reviews on Google also became increasingly over the top, with one person calling Chef Mehran a “god among men.”
However, not all guests found the prank amusing. One couple threatened legal action after discovering they had dined at a fake restaurant. It is unclear what the legal grounds for their complaint are.
Overall, Mehran Jalali and his friends successfully pulled off a prank that fooled hundreds of diners. While some enjoyed the experience and played along with the humor, others did not find it as amusing. The fake steakhouse will be remembered as a unique and unexpected event in New York City’s culinary scene.