Saturday, August 12, 2006

Stardate 60614.58 - Thailand in Queens

Hi everyone, this is Cheryl posting for once. One of the things we've missed since Loren was born is getting out of our neighborhood for great ethnic meals. She's always been very patient in restaurants but the effort to take baby & stroller on the subway to an outer borough was too much to justify just for a meal. This weekend the weather got cooler (anyone who's taken the NYC subway in the summer will know why this is a factor), and also we've reached an important milestone that makes restaurant meals a lot easier: Cheerios. So we decided to head out to Woodside, Queens for lunch at a Thai restaurant I've been meaning to try for ages, Sriraphai.

Thai food in Manhattan is almost uniformly awful. Admittedly I'm a bit of a Thai food snob, coming from the DC area which has great Thai restaurants. I find that most NY Thai food is sweet and gloppy, with large chunks of undercooked onion. I got some insight into the onion issue when we went to Thailand two years ago: in Thailand there are sweet onions that are delicious raw or slightly cooked. Apparently similar onions are not available in the US and the NY restaurants just substitute regular white onions to miserable effect. There is one passable Thai restaurant on the west side of Manhattan: Pam Real Thai on W 49th. It's not a destination place, but if we happen to be in the neighborhood we go there.

I've seen glowing reviews of Sriraphai in Queens, about 15 minutes out of Grand Central on the 7 train, and it was just rated one of the top 5 Cheap Eats in all of New York by New York Magazine.

The restaurant was pleasingly similar to many of the not-completely-touristy places we ate at in Thailand. A lot of the clientele appeared to be large Thai families. There was a supplementary illustrated menu with pictures of all the dishes (which I assume is just for tourists but it was a fun reminder of the Thailand trip). The food was served with phrik naam plaa, a condiment of fish sauce and hot chilies that is on every table in Thailand but that is not generally offered to Americans in Thai restaurants here. We ordered green mango salad with chicken, squid and shrimp; sauteed drunken noodles with chicken; and green curry with pork. Everything was excellent but the salad was the highlight. We did order it Thai spicy and I think they toned it down anyway (it was way below the spice level of the spiciest dish we've ever eaten, a glass noodle salad with pork at a bar in Chiang Mai). It still had an excellent level of heat and delicious, fresh flavors.

On the way back to the subway we stopped at V&V Italian bakery by the subway stop and picked up pastries for later: cannoli for Curt and an eclair for me.



CAPT_Sawyer said...

Sriraphai doesn't take credit cards, by the way, so make sure you have cash with you if you go. When we first moved to Manhattan in 2001 many places didn't take credit cards. Over the nearly 5 years we've lived her, most places started accepting credit cards in Manhattan, but lots of places in the outer reaches of the city still do not. Just a word to the wise.

-s said...

I love how NYC is one of the most technologically backwards places in the U.S. Luddites all :)

CAPT_Sawyer said...

I think it is more like profit margins are so small for little places like this (rent, etc. are pretty high) that they cannot afford the VISA/MC/AmEx fee on credit card transactions.

-s said...

I hope they would be smart enough to build the charges into their prices! A manager at a deli here told me once that it costs $1100/yr to have the machine and then 2% on CC charges.

If the place is always full, however, then it's probably not worth it. If they are running at less than full capacity though, the potential increase in customers (like me, who never carries cash) could provide an offset to the costs.

Anonymous said...

I also love Sriraphai! I also highly recommend, although they are closed on some weird days, so it helps to call ahead. (Sadly the Thai restaurant selection in Philly is worse than NY). SMY