I have been to Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas and Arun's in Chicago, amongst others. While that is not an exhaustive list by any means, my favorite Thai restaurant remains Sripraphai (pronounced See-pra-pie) in Woodside, Queens, N.Y. It had been a while since I've eaten there, but I recently had the opportunity to stop in for lunch on my way out for a few days in the Hamptons. It didn't disappoint.
We started with some drinks, soups and appetizers. The coconut water was delicious, not overly sweet and quite refreshing. It also worked well to counter the tongue numbing effects of the Thai spice. The longan juice was tasty, but much sweeter, having a flavor strongly reminiscent of maple syrup. Both drinks had tasty chunks of the base fruit in the glass.
Well spiced, the soups were full of flavor and extremely well balanced. Both the Tom Yum Shrimp with Mushrooms in a hot and sour soup and the Chicken Soup with mushrooms, coconut milk and galangal had extraordinary depth of flavor with the acid, sweet, salt and umami in perfect harmony. The chicken in the soup was feathery, moist tender and packed with flavor. the soups were extremely satisfying.
Tom Yum Soup
An old standby, chicken satay sticks were expertly done and quite pleasing, especially to our ten year old son. Infinitely more interesting, though, the aggressively spiced (medium) Papaya salad with crispy catfish meat always astounds me with how perfectly crisp, greaseless and airy the catfish always comes out. Delicious, it is a protein that has been totally altered and unrecognizable in origin.
Papaya Salad with Crispy Catfish
The Larb is as well made and tasty as I have had, hiding a spice level that sneaks up to bite.
Our savories finished with Drunken Noodles with shrimp. These wide noodles were spiced more mildly, anticipating that our son would be more interested in them than the other dishes. This dish was flavor bound by one of my favorite Thai flavors – basil. There was enough to make a difference, but not so much as to hijack the dish. While the dish was built around shrimp as the main protein, they were somewhat ordinary, providing not much more than textural contrast to the noodles. With other dishes i might have been disappointed, but here, it simply didn't matter.
Drunken Noodles with Shrimp
For dessert we shared a generous portion of green tea ice cream. This was nothing extraordinary, but it was a comforting finish to the meal.
If planning on dining at Sripraphai, it is best to go with a group to sample more dishes, but be prepared with cash since they don't take credit cards. Fortunately, the prices are not exorbitant, making cash payment more approachable in this often cash-less world and still placing Sripraphai as an outstanding value for delicious and satisfying food.