I am in love with Thai food. So much so that I am almost willing to overlook terrible service in hopes of receiving truly delish Thai food. I did say ALMOST.
That’s why it’s a shame that a restaurant with food as good as SriPraPhai’s gets overshadowed by its bumbling, incompetent staff. I swear, these people do NOT know what the word “hospitality” means. I’m used to brusque service at Asian places. But it was almost like being treated like cattle on the way to the watering hole or something. Like, hurry up and order bitches! Then the waiting game starts. Is that my food coming my way… no, it’s the table behind me, that ordered like 10 minutes after we did. Great.
Luckily, during my most recent trip there last Monday, it wasn’t as bad. We were seated in a whole new section of the restaurant I had never even knew existed, to the right of the entrance. Funnily enough, they seated me at a table that was right in front of a closed door, with the doorknob hovering right above the squished in table. Yeah, I definitely changed seats… eating right in front of a closed metal door with a knob in your face is not the most pleasant dining experience in my humble opinion.
SriPraPhai also has an outdoor area in the back that can be pleasant in warmer weather, but just beware of the little flies that might just make their way into your Thai ice tea somehow, some way.
Anyway, janky service aside, SriPraPhai does serve up some delicious dishes. They have an exclusive, extensive (green-hued!) vegetarian menu that never fails to make my mouth water just reading the descriptions. Damn them.
The perfect way to quell the impending assault of Thai-specific chili peppers on your tongue is to order this Longan Drink. Now, I’m not suggesting that this drink is any better than regular water for that job, but it does taste pretty damn good. Actually, it tastes just like the syrup you’d find soaking the longans in a can of the fruit, which I’ve never witnessed firsthand since I buy my longans fresh, always. I’m kinddd of a longan snob, so sue me.
Having said that, this drink is nothing special. Sure, it’s pleasantly sugary, and sure, it tastes like longan and even comes with 4-5 shriveled pieces of the fruit, also from a can. It’s not worth spending an extra $2.50 for, by any means. Just drink water to put out the Thai fire instead.
Fried Chive Dumpling –
I’m not usually one to order appetizers, but I just felt like eating dumplings that day. These definitely did not disappoint. The outside of the dumpling was a satisfying deep-fried cocoon of dough that really hit the spot… while the inside was a savory and flavorful melange of fresh chives. The dumplings were also a bit doughy in the middle, for that nice hard/soft texture contrast. Although it only came with three pieces, each was about the size of a small coaster, so it wasn’t bad for $5.00. It comes with a sugary, vinegary soy sauce dip that is pretty much perfection in a saucer.
I most certainly could’ve eaten a whole plateful of ’em, but then, I could also eat a whole pint of So Delicious mint chip ice cream, you feel me?
Mock Duck Salad – cucumber, tomato, red onion, ground peanut, chili and lime juice
Whenever I go to a vegetarian Thai place, I always want to try their version of mock duck. It’s probably one of my favorite mock meats to eat besides seitan. I really enjoyed this salad since it wasn’t anything like a traditional American house salad at ALL. The duck had a crispy fried dough outer shell which made eating the other refreshing components of the salad that much more enjoyable. As a counter-texture, the freshly and thinly sliced cucumber, tomato and onion worked perfectly and harmoniously with the savory flavor of the duck.
Pastries that kind of count as part of your dinner? Say no more, I’m there! This absolutely delectable curry puff has a buttery, flaky and savory deep-fried outer shell that melts in your mouth when you bite into it. And the filling isn’t too shabby either: seasoned potato, onion and corn make for a satisfying, filling little treat before your equally delicious entrée. Thank god it’s an app, since I could eat 10 of them!
If you are a big fan of coconut milk like I am, you will definitely adore this soup. A little bit sour and a lotta bit tasty, this soup combines the natural sweet creaminess of coconut milk with lime, green beans, fresh chili pepper for a kick, and silken tofu for a smooth, unique taste. One thing I love about Thai food is how simplistic the ingredients can be, but once combined, it creates an array of flavor you probably wouldn’t have been able to think of yourself if you never tried it out, and this soup certainly encompasses that school of thought.
I’m always up for some chow fun: it’s my favorite type of noodle to eat in a stir fry, hands down. This dish makes the most out of a properly-done chow-fun noodle dish: it’s filled with traditional Asian flavor, and does an amazing job of combining textures. The fried tofu scattered throughout are pillows of hunger-quashing plant protein, and combined with broccoli, thai basil and chili, it’s a delicious, cheap and thoroughly yummy-tummy dish to eat on any day.
I don’t really know why exactly it’s called “Drunken Noodles” though, since I don’t feel any more drunk than before I finish eating it, and there’s no alcohol in the dish at all. False advertising? Maybe it’s meant as a hangover meal?
Now we’re talking: this little curry is the paragon of Thai cooking. Tongue-abusingly, nostril-wateringly and sinus-clearingly spicy, it’s certainly NOT for the faint of heart when it comes to spicy food. However, I happen to LOVE spice-flagellation of my senses, so this curry was right up my alley.
When it arrived at my table, I didn’t think it would be that much food — but oh, was I wrong. Spicy food has the ability to get you fuller, faster, probably because your taste buds are doing double duty with all the different receptors it needs to process what’s going on with this dish.
Fried tofu cubes, Asian green beans, Thai eggplant, basil and bamboo was thoroughly drenched and soaked in a divine melangé of chili-infused vegetable broth. It’s completely necessary to eat this with some of their stellar brown rice, which comes with two types of brown grain and tastes much better than most brown rice sides I’ve ordered before, since it has a more chewable, soft texture. Hands down one of the most enjoyable curries I’ve had the great pleasure of frying my tongue with! Now, don’t mind if I spend the next few hours in the bathroom… kidding, kidding (not really)!
Now, how could I leave without finally sampling some of SriPraPhai’s awesomely cheap desserts? At $3.50 apiece, you could have seven desserts for the price of one Candle 79 fist-sized apple pie (no salt there, just have to steel myself for the financial blow after the meal).
Taro has always been a mainstay of my childhood: my mom made sweet taro soup for dessert when I was growing up, and lightly baked taro fries as a quick snack or appetizer in a pinch.
So it made sense that I really enjoyed this dessert. The taro was soft on the inside and a bit firm on the outside, a consistency that I felt went perfectly with the gelatinous texture of the sweet black bean topping. It was all drenched in a sweet coconut bath, and I detected a pinch of saltiness in the soup that I thought added dimension to the dessert.
My thoroughly American dinnermate did comment that he liked this dessert dish better than the Taro one, probably since taro is a bit of an acquired taste. This dish was just as scrumptious as the taro, just more straightforward in terms of taste: it has a uni-level sweetness that doesn’t make your mouth think too much, which is perfectly fine. Mouths need a break too after all that spice.
The stickiness of the baby-tapioca (the small, clear kind that I prefer much more over the bigger, black type) went well with the smooth, silky black beans, and like the Taro desert above, was soaked in coconut milk. No saltiness in this one though, just the creaminess of straight-up coconut.
Overall, SriPraPhai is the place to go in NYC for authentic, cheap and satisfying Thai cuisine. I think it’s about time I enslaved a Thai person to cook for me, day and night… but then, I’d probablyyy never leave the house. It’s better that way!