280 Hillside Ave. Williston Park, NY 516-280-3779
A branch of the Woodside Thai restaurant revered as tops by the metro area's food cognoscenti is now serving its tom-zap and gai-kua noodles in Williston Park. The new SriPraPhai is a handsome spot with a clean, contemporary look in a springlike green. Prices are amazingly low, the level of spicing true: hot is mouth-searing, medium is palate-tingling, mild is mild.
How adroitly the kitchen balances the hot, salty, sour and sweet. Case in point: larb, a blend of ground pork with mint, chili and lime that explodes across the tongue. (A cool glass of milky-sweet Thai iced tea will soothe it nicely). The same trinity of chili, lime and mint sparks BBQ pork tenders dusted with spices. A standout is the multitextured salad of crispy Chinese watercress with chicken, shrimp and squid. I also like how the fruity, sweet papaya salad with dry shrimp and peanuts is shot through with saltiness, crunch and fire. At lunch, I'm enamored of a beef noodle soup with rich dark broth made with beef blood, meatballs, beef liver and tripe (available before 5 p.m. only). Tom-zap with Cornish hen is a compelling hot-and-sour bowlful (careful of the tiny bones); stewed beef tendon soup, fragrant and soothing. Both drunken noodles with ground chicken and gai-kua noodles with chicken and squid offer comfort with kick. And crisp-skinned barbecued chicken is beautifully spiced, juicy. For home-style satisfaction, there's softly stewed beef over rice.
AND YET . . .
While there's zing and color in a green curry with beef, I'm waiting for nuances that don't materialize. A fire-eater at our table asks the waitress what the spiciest dish is. She suggests "southern" curry, which we get with pork. Lots of heat but no complexity. I find the tom kha gai (chicken coconut lime soup) overpoweringly sweet. Did I go on the wrong days?
No doubt, this is the genuine Thai article. Yet when a place attains legendary status, expectations can outpace reality. Based on what I've eaten, I see almost (but not quite yet) three stars.
SriPraPhai is located at 280 Hillside Ave., Williston Park, 516-280-3779, sripraphairestaurant.com