Behind this door supposedly lies the best Thai food in the city. (Photo (c) Vidiot)

Behind this door supposedly lies the best Thai food in the city. (Photo (c) Vidiot)

Brooklyn, I love you. You have more gustatory delights than an urbanite could ask for: Italian, Japanese, Beer (which counts as a cuisine for any real Brooklynite), Pizza (which counts as a cuisine for any real New Yorker). But you still haven’t nailed Thai food. Long Tan is okay for take-out, but for authentic noodles and curries, you’ve left me wanting.

I’ve been trekking to Pam Real Thai in Hell’s Kitchen for my beloved pad see eew, but I figured, if I’m already on the train, I might as well take an adventure. Why not track down the best Thai in the city? The name that kept coming up was Sripraphai (pronounced Sree-PRA-pie) in Queens, so together with my friends Max and Alisa, we boarded the 7 train to Woodside, hoping to find the best of the best Thai awaiting our arrival.

Instead, what we found was a 10 minute wait for a table, then a 15 minute wait for menus, followed by a 30 minute wait for our order to arrive, terminating with some mediocre food. We ordered two dishes that were starred by the big shot New York food critics (drunken noodles and crispy pork), one random dish (catfish with Chinese eggplant), and one standard control (beef pad see eew).

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Drunken Noodles (sorry about the shadow)

The drunken noodles were the clear standout, but completely unmemorable. In fact, I can’t recall any particulars about their taste, so pardon the brevity.

Unfortunately, I am unable to forget the other dishes. The pad see eew was better than what you’d get from your round-the-corner Thai joint – there were no misplaced carrots or other errant vegetables getting tangled with the Chinese broccoli – but it was much blander than Pam Real Thai’s version, my gold standard. And they skimped on the egg, which is my favorite part of the dish.

The crispy pork was…crispy. That was only thing any of us could say about the fried nuggets, which mercifully came on a bed of green beans.

Max took a bite. “Well, it’s…crispy all right.”

Alisa sampled a piece. “Yeah, it’s definitely crispy.” She abandoned the pork and concentrated on the vegetables.

I popped a square into my mouth and almost broke a tooth.

But the worst was the catfish.

Catfish with Chinese Eggplant

Catfish with Chinese Eggplant

The eggplant was firm and fleshy, but with lots of little seeds, almost like a peeled kiwi. The catfish was mushy and tasteless, and the entire thing was swamped in an overbearing, thick red chili sauce. Maybe our American palates are simply unaccustomed to traditional fare, but neither Alisa nor I could stomach it. (Max, that lucky duck, didn’t try it, since he doesn’t like catfish to begin with.) We couldn’t eat even a quarter of it, and neither of us would take back the leftovers.

On our way out, I noticed the beautiful (and jam-packed) backyard seating area – complete with a lighted fountain – and I realized that this place must have gotten too popular for its own good. The reviews were all outdated, written while the restaurant was still an unrecognized, drab Thai joint. Instead of keeping the focus on the cuisine, the owners must be focused instead on appeasing the growing clientele. But I would take a great meal over pretty decorations any day.

Maybe it was an off-night for the kitchen, or maybe we ordered the wrong dishes, but the food we had was not worth a return trip, especially when I know I can get consistently delicious Thai in Manhattan.

So Queens, you lost this round, but don’t worry. I’ll be back for Greek and Chinese.

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