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Qi Thai Grill in Williamsburg

Qi Thai Grill is touted as a collaboration between Pichet Ong and Sripraphai Tipmaneee. The former seems to be a chef and restaurateur behind a couple of Thai restaurants in Manhattan called Qi Bangkok Eatery and Qi Asian Eatery, and as noted in the website bio, P*ng. Sripraphai Tipmaneee is the Sripraphai behind THE SriPraPhai. The menu seems to be divided between the two chef’s creations- about five small plates from Sri and about eight grilled dishes from Mr. Ong. Actually, the rest of the menu may be from him as well. It’s not really clear.

I’ve been a couple of times now, principally because I was interested in the connection to Sripraphai in Woodside, which is one of the cornerstones in my restaurant rotation. The dish I’ve enjoyed twice (from the Sri part of the menu) is the Spicy Pork Trotter /w Fresh Herbs, called “Kee Mao Kah Mooh”. I believe this means like “Drunken Pork Leg”. It’s basically a riff on the ubiquitous stewed pork leg dishes you see in Thailand like the one with mustard greens or what is called “Sautéed Pork Leg with chili, basil, garlic” at Sripaphai. This rendition gets a kick of spice from jalapenos, the usual Thai basil and chili sweet soy sauce, and most interestingly a boost of herbal pepperiness from strings of green peppercorns. Nice balance of Thai tastes, along with interesting textural chunks of meat and collagen…From the same section of the menu I also tried the Spicy Beef Tendon Salad Larb Enn. It’s a solid rendition of larb from the balance and texture profile, though typically tame on the offal/funkiness scale…The Mango Soft-shell crab Yahm Puu Nihm is Sri carryover dish of fried soft shell with a mint, red onion, lime, shredded mango “sauce” (the pretty famous A-15 menu item if you are a Sri regular). It’s the same dish as far as I could tell, although portion size was smaller and the sauce, which is more like a topping salad, was kind of made sloppily when we ordered it. From the rest of the menu, I sampled the Thai Shrimp Cakes, which were fine, and the Crispy Duck Salad, one of those Thai-inspired medley affairs with indiscernible crispy duck bits, shredded mango, mint, tomatoes, cashews, chili lime dressing and (what I found pretty annoying) pineapple chunks.

I haven’t tried any of the grilled dishes, which have some interesting fushiony descriptions- i.e. Ovaltine Pork Ribs, Yuzu Duck Skewers with yuzu hoisin sauce, Cinnamon Pork & Crispy Pork Belly, and a Thai whiskey marinated rib eye steak. The rest of the menu runs along the same fushion-Thai-inspired theme of noodle dishes, stir fries, and curries. So abandon all thoughts that this is “Sripaphai Williamsburg”. Although there are a few appealing authentic-ish sounding dishes: Bangkok Chicken Pumpkin Curry and Fiery Pork Red Tumeric Curry (touted as “perhaps spiciest Thai dish that NYC has to offer), to name two.

Interior is pretty swanky.

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  1. I've been really excited to try this out.

    In Bangkok, the second-spiciest thing I had was a red-turmeric soup at bo.lan. And it probably counts as the first-spiciest because the actual first-spiciest was an impossible-to-eat som tam clearly made for us as part of a "fuck with the tourists" joke.

    1. heya....they have their liquor license yet, or is it still BYOB?

      4 Replies
      1. re: Simon

        Yeah I think so. I don't know about full bar, but they had beer/wine I believe.

        1. re: Silverjay

          Thanks for the review. If i get this right. There are some good dishes, don't expect it to be anywhere as good as the real Sri, but definitely try the place. I don't know of any other Thai near there except Song , which is pretty bad. Are there any other good Thai in WmBrg

          1. re: foodwhisperer

            There are close to a dozen Thai places in W'burg/ Greenpoint. Never hear of Song. Do you mean Sea?...I go to Woodside/ Elmhurst or Zabb Elee for Thai.

            1. re: Silverjay

              Yep,, i mean Sea. Song is in Park Slope ,, Sea is as bad as Song

      2. >The menu seems to be divided between the two chef’s creations- about five small plates from Sri and about eight grilled dishes from Mr. Ong. Actually, the rest of the menu may be from him as well. It’s not really clear.

        Seems the rest of the menu may be in the hands of Kea Siwasila, who started out as a SriPraPhai fan and later cooked at Highline, the modern Thai place in the Meatpacking (now Sea) ... http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style...

        1. Went first night they opened.
          Food was awful. Cannot remember specifics, but we left a lot untouched. Avoid trotter at all costs.
          There was no alcohol at the time.
          There were no signs of Sri in Qi.
          Asked for food to be spicy and got no an ounce of heat in anything.
          The service needed real help, but I imagine that got ironed out. If I hear something positive in a few months Ill try it again, as was waiting patiently for it's arrival. But was extremely disappointed.
          It is a pretty place in a manhattan hotel sort of way.

          1. We have never understood the raves and long lines for Sripraphai in Woodside. We've been there twice and were not wowed. But we are excited to see Q Thai in Willyburg. In fact, we drove around trying to find it when they first opened and didn't find it. I guess this was just before they opened. Perhaps we'll go this weekend and check it out. The whole bathroom thing has got us intrigued too. Is there any one stand out dish that is recommended? Thanks.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Madmaggie

              checked out Qi Thai Grill last night before the Shout Out Louds show. We are big fans of Sripraphai and try to go there every month, even as its spiciness seems to have recently slipped (it's still pretty delicious).

              Qi definitely spent a ton of money decorating the place and I guess is hoping it becomes a trendy nightspot. That doesn't really help my impression but it doesn't hurt, I guess.

              It was fairly empty at 8pm on a chilly Monday and we didn't need the reservations we made. They've been open for some time now but there still some weird service confusion sort of like I'd read about on Yelp. Nobody came to take our drink orders for 15+ minutes even though the restaurant was dead and finally the waitress came over and we ordered the whole meal + drinks. Five minutes later a waiter came over and asked if we were ready for our drink orders. I'm gonna ascribe that to the fact that the third and final member of our party came in about a minute after we sat down and so maybe, even though they seated her and we had a rez for 3, they thought we still had someone coming. I don't know. The rest of the service was fine so no big deal.

              we got:
              MANGO SOFT SHELL CRAB with a side of shredded mango salad. The crab was superb, super crispy/breaded, and went great with the mildly spicy mango salad. Served over, like, mesclun greens, which was odd.

              Three grilled chunks, nice flavor, dipping sauce.

              Tasty, moderately spicy. They somewhat fell victim to the trap of shitty Buffalo wings at many places...you have to deep-fry the wings until they are incredibly crispy and then sauce 'em, so they're simultaneously crispy and soaking through. These didn't have much breading, though the blackened edges from barbecuing helped. Pok Pok's are better, and I would have liked them to be markedly spicier.

              Quite good, not really my thing, but nice.

              GREEN PAPAYA SALAD
              A real disappointment. Som tam has to be incredibly spicy, really fishy, and markedly sweet, all working in tandem. I tasted almost no fishiness and certainly didn't see any crushed-up dried shrimp; it was not spicy at all; it wasn't even especially sweet, though that was the only flavor I detected. It was mostly crunchy. A good quantity, I guess, and also weirdly served over mesclun greens.

              This was pretty decent; not really what I usually order at Thai places, and not great like Sripraphai's curries, but better than your run-of-the-mill Thai place.

              This...was excellent. It would have been straight-up GREAT if it had been fiery. As it was, it had barely any heat. I ate every green pepper on the plate and still got almost nothing out of it. The flavor was great, the texture was great...I would get it again in a heartbeat. But it fell short from being a "go here to get this dish" dish entirely because of the lack of spiciness.

              As you can tell, a common failing of these dishes was a real mildness. We didn't ask for any special mildness, and we were never asked how spicy we wanted stuff, so we got it as it's served normally. This is a huge failing for a Thai restaurant. It should be really spicy unless patrons beg for the spice to be lowered, especially dishes like som tam that are awful without heat. I will probably eat here again, and next time I will demand spiciness, but I don't really have high hopes for getting it, and I really shouldn't have to.

              pix at the link. all the text pretty much exists here:

              1. re: didactic katydid

                Thanks for your reply. we are looking forward to trying it this weekend.

            2. We were really impressed with the space, It kind of had that vibe that Spice Market has. The space is beautiful and you can tell a lot went into it. Firstly, the ceilings are huge and they have an exposed second floor. It is darkly lit and there seems to be all sort of Thai wooden furniture and decor around the room. It is like the ABC Carpet showroom meets a lounge. We were digging it.

              The menu is very interesting too. The first page has dishes that were designed by the owner or chef from Sripraprhai and Pichet Ong. Remember Pichet Ong, he opened P*ONG a few years ago. Anyway, the fact that they have guest dishes is something I really enjoy. Right now, Speedy Romeo's in Clinton HIll is having guest chef's design pizzas, great idea. So, after the first page with perhaps 12 guest appetizers, the regular menu begins. There are noodles, salads, soups, appetizers, curries and noodles. A really complete menu. It kind of scared me to see how large the menu is and how large the space is.

              We started with three appetizers, two from the guest menu, one from the regular menu. We started with grilled pork jowl, beef tendon salad and a papaya salad. My wife is a huge fan of papaya salad so, we have to try it everywhere.

              The pork jowl was Delicious. It was slices of heavily marinaded jowl. Don't be bugged out by the word jowl, it just looked like sliced bbq pork. Served with a very strong and not so pleasant side container tamarind sauce, it was much better on it's own. I highly recommend this dish.

              The beef tendon salad was actually beef tendon. They were really careful about telling us this.. This and actually the last dish we ordered they were fearful of us ordering. They kept saying, people are returning the beef tendon dish because they didn't realize they were getting actual beef tendon. They also said, people were returning the pork dish we ordered because it was too spicy. People it's thai food, it's supposed to be spicy. The tendon were these little gelatinous balls of beef tendon. Served with toasted rice, red onions and lettuces. There was also a really nice spice to this dish. More spicy than you would expect.

              Lastly was the papaya salad. It too had a nice spice. Nothing out of the ordinary. A good version.

              Now, this is where things sort of went bad. It is always disappointing when the best part of the meal comes early and then it ends on a down note. This was the case here..

              We ordered the Pad Thai and the Spicy Pork with Eggplant Curry..

              The description of the Pork Curry was that it is possibly the hottest dish in NYC. Now, my prior experience to someone making this claim was at Brick Lane Curry house. Brick lane curry house is pretty spot on in their claim. That Phaal Curry is stupid hot. After reassuring the waitstaff that we were not going to return our dinner, no matter the heat, we were green lighted. We ordered the dish. What can I say, it was hot. It was not mind blowing hot. They used Bird Chiles. They are not really that hot. The curry itself was delicious. My problem was, the pork. They used little bits of pork. I wish they used larger pieces. Maybe even shoulder would have been better or just larger cubes.

              The pad thai was really the most disappointing dish of the evening. I never order pad thai. However, there was this write up on the menu about how they add sun dried shrimp and they make it super special here. I found the noodles were swimming in sauce. It was a heavy sauce. It kind of reminded me of Thai vodka penne sauce. There was some spice but, it was really too creamy.

              If we just stopped at the appetizers we would have been happy.. There are tons of other things on the menu i would like to try.. The space is dark and comfortable and really sexy. I think this would be great for a group of people. Definitely a fun date spot.

              We had a few cocktails. They were made well. The bartender came over after the first round and asked us how we liked our drink. He said, i can change it to your taste, would you like sweet or more sour or can i add more kaffir limes. As the food was slightly above your average spice level, they must have trained people on water. As my water was refilled every time before it go to a half a glass.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Daniel76

                That's really a shame, it's one thing to send back food that's improperly cooked or unhygienic, it's another thing to send back food because it's as described.