I have not been happy with Sripraphai in Woodside for years now. The food is not the problem, it is still very good, and lives up to any hype put on it. But since they expanded from a small sweets counter that also served food to a medium-sized restaurant and then again to a multi-roomed Thai food factory, the problem is with the experience. Far from Thailand, it is nothing like the "land of smiles." They hurry you in and out, friendliness is not part of the process.
Since I first heard about their second location opening up in Williston Park, Long Island, I have wanted to give it a try to see if a better experience was waiting. Unfortunately, it isn't, but for different reasons. The staff is definitely more friendly, but still busy enough to not let a smile linger. The food is the biggest problem though, as the clientele is quite different out here. As with most of the city and western world, this translates to Thai food altered to western tastes. Certainly it is only a small degree of what you might find in the East Village or Columbus, Ohio, but they have to do what they have to do.
I did like their inclusion on the menu of half (small) size soups, so that you could enjoy a bowl before the meal without filling up too much. The tom kha gai ($4.25, above left) was the first indicator of the slightly watered-down food that was to come. It contained a couple hot red peppers, but these seemed more for decoration as their spicy interiors were already removed. The vegetable soup w/ ground pork, squid, and shrimp ($5, above right) was a little bland, but as its name suggests, full of good items.
Before our main course, we also ordered the fried bean curd with chili and peanut sauce ($5, below) which as expected was chili sauce with small pieces of peanut on top.
The pad kee mao ($8.50, below) was the best dish of the night, well-spiced and getting some beads of sweat to gather on our foreheads. The dish is popular in all westernized Thai restaurants, but here holds more sway than normal. The flat noodles were nice and thick, and a bit chewy, perfect texture for the dish that is often found on the streets for late-night snacks.
With a little time between courses to digest, I take a second look at the modern decor that could have been a warning. I would never go into a Thai restaurant designed with such minimalist tendencies in the city, but the Sripraphai name made it worth giving a chance, not to mention the long journey to get there.
Since the sticky rice with mango was seasonal, we enjoyed the black sticky rice w/ taro and coconut milk ($3, below). This might have been my favorite thing of the night, so at least we left on a very high note, satisfied by our sweets.