Amazingly, after years of reading rave reviews in the NY Times and other magazines breathlessly proclaiming Sripraphai as the "best Thai restaurant in NYC", it had never occured to me to take the #7 train out to Woodside to sample their dishes. And whenever I was in the area, it was to dine at Perlas ng Silangan or another of the Filipino restaurants nearby. So to make up for lost time and satisfy my taste buds, I made plans to meet outside Sripraphai with G. and J., both long-time patrons who were only too happy to describe what I had been missing all along. Stomach growling, I could hardly wait.
The first thing I noticed was how big the restaurant was. The original dining room was spartan and small, but with their popularity Sripraphai has expanded and now has two additional long, narrow and more alluring dining rooms, as well as a spacious garden decorated with hanging flower pots and flanked by water fountains. In short, the place is now glammed up. And crowded. Our party managed to land a table in the garden (the dining rooms were all packed), which was probably the best choice on this pleasant late summer night. I deferred to both J. and G. in choosing the dishes, only nodding my assent from time to time, as I busied myself studying the wine list (another recent addition) and pictures menu.
The chicken pad thai was tasty, without the overly sharp tangy aftertaste I find in other Thai restaurants. G. and J. insisted on ordering the soft-shell crabs with chili garlic and basil leaves, and after a bite I understood why. Normally not a fan of crab, I would definitely come back for this especially tasty dish. We only had it medium spicy, but the heat was sufficient for me. Perhaps in the winter months we can turn the heat level up to "hot". The other dish we shared was a fried whole red snapper with lemongrass sauce, which was also good but could benefit from a little more sauce. As the picture shows, we devoured most of it anyway :-) Although the tables around us were mostly occupied, the noise level was still manageable and didn't drown out our conversation. And after a glass of wine, you'd be hard-pressed to believe you're in Woodside, Queens.
As we prepared to leave, G. and J. were still discussing Sripraphai's Cinderella transformation, but at least a few things haven't changed: the prices are still reasonable for this reliable outpost of authentic Thai cooking, the service is still just adequate, reservations not taken, and credit cards not accepted. Not enough reasons to deter me from hopping on the 7 train again soon.