Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Original Spice Market: Sripraphai, 9/27/05

Last fall my friend Kimberly scored us a Saturday night table of 6 at Spice Market during its height. Fun, yes; spicy, no. It is only fitting then that last night we had dinner with Kimberly and Matt, her almost-husband, at Sripraphai, the oft-lauded Thai restaurant in Woodside, Queens. It is indeed the original Spice Market.

Now most of us don't ordinarily travel to Queens for dinner, but Sri. is ALWAYS mentioned as the best thai place in NYC. So we had to go.

Its actually quite close to Manhattan, maybe two miles over the Queensboro and just a few stops on the 7 train. Oh and they have parking there if you have a car.

We were expecting a hole in the wall type place. But they must have recently renovated to have a relatively trendy dining room and a large back garden. They've also changed their alcohol policy which was BYO and is now BYO with a $10 corkage fee or drinks from the menu. We had schlepped the bottle so we sprang for the $10.

Ordering was a challenge. The menu is huge making the choices endless. And it is supposed to be authentic so we decided not to order pad thai.

We ordered a duck salad, a mango salad and chicken pot stickers to start.

Starters were tame. The duck salad was sweet and delicious. The pot stickers were ordinary in a good way. Then hilarity came with the mango salad.

Matt is a current vegetarian. He asked for no meat on the mango salad and was told he could have tofu. He agreed happily. He bit into his tofu and it tasted like meat. JB and Kimberly tasted it and could not discern the taste. It wasn't chicken that was for sure.

The waiter came over to tell us it was "Mock meat". The way she said it we thought it was either a thai word for chicken or an Egyptian's name. After about five times, we figured it out and Matt continued on.

Main courses included two orders of drunken noodles (one w/chicken, one w/out), a duck and eggplant dish and a chicken curry. JB also ordered a side of rice.

Two bites into the main course, we all wished we had ordered rice.

JB and Kimberly almost immediately surrendered. Matt and I plowed through. Everything was spicy, really spicy. We had to take breaks. While each dish was different they all had the same net effect - WHOA.

And so it leads me to the question. Are my tastes too Americanized for authentic food? Or is everyone just trying to be a food-elitist with the outer-borough restaurant find?

Most food critics complain that you have to go to Queens for real Thai food. I think I'll stay right in Manhattan.

Until we eat again, KLB

PS -- If you love Thai food but not spice, go to Chicago. Best Thai food I've had.

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