Sripraphai - Not overrated
Last Friday my fiancee & I went to Srip for the 1st time and in our opinion deserves the praise that it receives. I know that many poor reviews start with; "Well In Thailand.....", "When it was small" or "My grandma makes better" (In reality whose grandmother doesn't makes better?).
Well we are not Thai, never ate there when it was a hole-in-the-wall, nor have visited Thailand (on our list though). Our only exposure to Thai food has been through local places in the US, which I am sure is the demographic of the majority of people here. Sure the heat was dumbed down, but hands down this was the best Thai food that we have had. Everything had depth of flavor that we have never been exposed to before. It was so good that both of us mentioned that it will be hard to eat at our favorite Thai places going forward. Luckily Srip is a short drive from home.
Logistics: We showed up roughly 8ish on a Fri. Parking was no problem. After hearing the horror stories we were resigned for a long wait. Sure enough when we arrived there were groups of people standing outside. Preparing for the worst, we walked in and put our names down. Turns out it was only a 10 minute wait.
Service: As expected, it was less than stellar. It took forever for the waitress to come take our order. After finally coming over to our table she wanted to take the whole order at once - not the typical drinks, then come back for food. We both sensed that we better order now or we may never see her again. On a positive note she was very friendly and answered our questions thoroughly. Drinks & food came out relatively quickly. Some of the food dropper-offers explained what was delivered and others just dropped it on our table and left.
Food: For the two of us we way over ordered with the expectation that a lot would come home with us.
Tom Ga Kai - Ahhh the depth of flavor of the broth I can only begin to describe. It was so good we immediately ordered a large container to go.
Watercress salad - Just like Italian frito misto, but a bit heavier. We ordered it with mock meat to offset all of the meat dishes. This was fantastic, but as others have mentioned, I wish it was only the fried watercress and peanuts without the "meat". We ended up eating the watercress and leaving most of the rest on the plate - too much food coming to eat something that was marginal.
Larb (pork) - the flavors were great, but was a little heavy on the salt.
Pork with chilies, cilantro and lime - This was fantastic and our favorite of the meal - along with the soup. It was so light and refreshing and the heat actually worked with the dish in a perfect balance. I think if it was any less spicy the dish would not have worked as well. I loved it, but it was a little spicy for the Mrs. To quote her; "This is too spicy for me, but I can't stop eating it."
Coconut rice - Again so good we ordered extra to go
Chicken Green Curry - At this point we were both pretty stuffed. I had a little bit just to try it, but saved it for lunch for the next two days. Wow! Again, what a depth of flavor. I have eaten many-a green curry and this was unlike anything that I have had. It was not as sweet as you normally get, but had a much deeper range of flavors. The only way I can describe it is as a much more sophisticated version of what I was used to eating. I am not sure I can go back to those sugary sweet green curries you normally get - before I had no idea.
Pork with long beans - Again, we were pretty stuffed so at the rest. so I just had a taste. This was a much different flavor than I have ever been exposed to before. Its hard to describe, but when I first tried it it was a little overpowering with flavor. I really liked it, but it was too much flavor coming at me at once. Like a lot of foods this was much better after sitting a day or two - that also goes for the green curry. In fact, I just ate it while writing this. It was so good, I went for another round and finished it off.
64-13 39th Ave, Queens, NY 11377
Regarding the watercress...you can get the veggie version, or you substitute fake ham for the meat or generally ask for other elements to be left out. I've found them really good at making substitutions.
I'll respond to this thread instead of the other one. Srip has always been a bit inconsistent in style and awesomeness, and I say this as someone in the neighborhood who's gone at least twice a week for around 5 years, and visited a few times before that, all after the expansion though.
We've noticed distinct differences based on a few factors, including how crowded it is and if it's the weekend, but discovered something else.
We went this past friday as well, and some of the dishes were good as expected, but the drunken noodles were almost terrible. Really bland. First I noticed for the second time that they did not supply the little dish of fish sauce with peppers in it, which has always helped make it great, so we had to ask for that.
Then last night we called in an order for pick-up. I mentioned the drunken noodles and the fish sauce and the woman taking the order said "we stopped offering that because nobody used it, everybody threw it out". So I ordered some.
Now I don't know if it's the fact that I knew about the fish sauce or the fact that it was take-out and most take-out is locals or if Sunday was just better, but some of the same dishes that we had gotten friday were WAY better on Sunday.
It's a shame about the fish sauce though. That's a perfect example of the dumbing down of food. Instead of getting rid of it they should be telling people that they're supposed to put it on the food!
We had the same experience with the Drunken Noodles, they were just bad and bland - no side sauce either. And the whole meal was by far the most disappointing we've had in about 30 dinners. I think we made the mistake of telling them not to make some dishes spicy. We also went later on a Saturday night and they were very busy. We were reluctant to go back after that for a while, but we ventured out after Christmas on a weeknight, ordered everything very spicy and the meal was absolutely spectacular.
You ordered well—I love all those dishes, and agree that many, if not all of them, taste even better the next day.
As for the tom kha gai, I've been saying for years that it's the best I've had outside of thailand. It's really really good there. And even on off days (and there are some) their tom kha gai is still head and shoulders above anyone else's. It's probably my fave thing there.
I have found the food quality to be the same, both in terms of quality of ingredients and preparation. Have been to both several times. Regarding the much-ballyhooed spicing issue, I think the two branches are equally consistent or inconsistent, depending on the way you look at it.
I recently had a wonderful dish at the LI SriPraPhai that I'd never had before - their dipping noodles with Northern-style curry. Excellent. The curry was a thick stew with chunks of tender pork and rib. It had a wonderful, spicy overall depth and flavor. The noodle portion wasn't quite as much as I would have liked, but they were perfectly al dente, very good. Like Kao Soy, this dish is sided with pickled veggies. I would gladly order this again.
Another excellent, under-the-radar dish is the pineapple chicken w/ cashews and red chilis. We ordered it for a change of pace - I always try at least one new-to-me item when I visit - and were pleasantly suprised. The chicken was not overly gloppy or sweet, as might be feared, but done with a light hand. Best to get a bite of everything in one mouthful, for the full flavor explosion. This is another great dish.
Sri is still tops in my opinion. I don't agree with the naysayers, and I highly recommend that people go and try it for themselves.
64-13 39th Ave, Queens, NY 11377
that pineapple chicken with cashews dish is one of our sri standbys, tho we always order it extra spicy so they throw in extra red chilis. I agree that it's not overly gloppy or sweet—a great dish. Also, a nice change of pace from the more "thai" flavors (lemograss, coconut milk, kaffir lime, lime juice) of the other dishes we usually order. This dish, and the salted beef fried rice are the dishes we usually get to balance out our other ones, and both are v good.
Was the noodle dish you had a form of khanom jin? Thin rice noodles served on the side of the stew, with pickled veggies? I'm more familiar with it as a fish based sauce/stew, but this sounds sort of similar. I'm sure someone more knowledgable can chime in with what it is called.
The curry was listed as "Northern curry." Tried to get more out of the staff/waiter, but something was lost in translation. The curry was thick and meaty, more like a beef stew with a nice, spicy kick. Definitely didn't taste fish-based to me. No matter, this is a superb dish.
I also like the salted beef fried rice, another one that they get right. By mistake on my most recent visit, I ordered the "beef fried rice", and got a whole other animal, with very moist chunks of beef. Very good.
I also try to balance the spicy and mild dishes, wherever I go, as well as some pungent, sour stuff in there as well.
First time truly disappointed with Sri meal on Saturday night. Early, not crowded yet. Panang w/ beef overly sweet by a mile, with no warmth, let alone heat (no, it's not a spicy curry, but should have some balance and chil depth). Pak bung an overcooked pile of stems, couldn't taste the garlic. Pla goong/shrimp salad refreshing, but missing the chili jam that I think gives this salad its depth. Have had all of these there many times before, and never been this let down.
Uninspiring meal and not great value. Sad.
re: mary shaposhnik
I've always been a supporter but will not return again. We had a terrible meal on Sunday. A few of the dishes, including the eggplant with minced pork and drunken noodles, were almost inedible. My kids, who are generally adventurous, refused to eat anything but rice. We all had stomach issues afterward. It was sad because this has always been a family favorite.
I also went last sunday and had one of the most disappointing meals we've ever had there. We're never going on a weekend again. Drunken noodles and penang curry with ZERO heat at all. Really lacking in flavor. We had never seen that waiter before. Wonder if when they recognize you they give more standard spice levels?
Sriprapai certainly IS NOT over-rated. Papaya salad is bliss. Green curry egg noodles are out of this world! The spice level is outstanding. BBBBUUUUTTT! Try out Chao Thai in Elmhurst. I fell in love with thai food when I was living in Bangkok for three months 2 years ago. As I dined at Chao Thai, I actually thought I had time traveled back to Thailand in one night. AUTHENTIC TO THE MAX!
85-03 Whitney Ave, Queens, NY 11373
I don't go far from the well tested stuff -the really brilliant crispy watercress...the pork leg [C-15], the roasted duck though I abhor thai eggplant which is similar to golf ball for texture and taste.
Anyway,last week I decided to check out the Sauté Seafood [C-17]. A big disappointment, an ugly brownish sauce and bits of fish fillet really tasteless, a few shrimp, and some mussels overcooked. Lots of heat in the sauce but no complexity.
-I've had something that's kind of similar at CENTER POINT - one block down or west - and really lovely,squid,mussels,shrimp done perfectly-way better that SRI although a little more heat might be better.
-I think unless one has inside info it's best to stick with the true and tested stuff. I find experimentation with items that have not been highlighted here and Yelp etc quite risky.
There's so much crap on the menu - they should probably try to scale down the menu and ensure everything is excellent.