I hesitate to admit that I had never been to SriPraPhai, the acclaimed Thai restaurant in Woodside, Queens, until about a month ago. To those who swear by the joint, this gap in my dining resume might be practically disqualifying. Frank Bruni of The Times gave it two stars nearly eight years ago, and chowhounds were raving about it long before that. Let’s just say I have a long to-do list.
The experts have fallen out of love with SriPraPhai. Not long after the Bruni review, the owners took over the adjacent storefront, doubled in size, and surrendered some of the intimacy that made them so successful. Many of the chowhounders transferred their affection to Ayada in Elmhurst, which remains on my to-do list. Perhaps I’ll get to it before 2020.
We walked into SriPraPhai without a reservation at about 5pm on a Saturday evening, after a Met game. It was not terribly busy, but that would soon change.
The dining room had the cloying scent of leftover soy and garlic. It was a warm evening, and we happily took seats in the outdoor garden.
There are 144 items on the menu, and I’ve a sinking feeling that there’s a wide variation between the best items and the merely routine on any given evening. I did a bit of research before our visit, but the food boards are not in agreement about what to order these days.
I had to try the Roasted Duck Salad ($10.50; above left), a dish Bruni loved so much that he ordered it twice. Its charms were lost on us: the duck was cold and soggy. I rather liked the crisp tang of Salted Beef Fried Rice ($8.50; above right), but my son wasn’t fond of it.
Drunken Noodles ($10.50; above left) are offered with beef, duck, chicken, or shrimp (our choice), laced with hot chili and basil leaves.. The noodles themselves are a shade on the tough side, but still worthwhile. Sautéed Crispy Pork Belly ($10.00; above right) won’t be to all tastes, as the pork is so dry as to be nearly dessicated, but it was our favorite dish of the evening.
No one would come here for the wine, but to wash down dinner, $9 for a half-liter of the house red is not a bad deal. We weren’t wowed by the food, but at these prices you can over-order and it’ll still feel like a bargain. Dinner for two was $70, including tax and tip. Credit cards aren’t accepted.
SriPraPhai (64–13 39th Aveue between 64th & 65th Streets, Woodside, Queens)
Food: Good, but uneven, authentic Thai food
Service: So-so; not quite able to keep up with such a large space
Ambiance: Not the reason you dine here
Why? The chowhound crowd has moved on, and I can see why