As one who has defended Ubol's on this site in the past, I feel it is my civic duty to report on last night's thoroughly depressing meal. First off, the atmosphere is now (bizarrely) enhanced by two television sets running through a set of about 7 karaoke videos on endless repeat. This imbues what was once a charming, relaxed atmosphere with unnecessary kitschiness, and proved thoroughly distracting. The service, which to me has always hovered on the delicate balance between extremely friendly and overbearing, decidedly fell over the line into the latter. For instance, we were asked at least three times if we wanted another beer after initally saying no. As far as our meal goes, papaya salad was tasty, but ridiculously tiny - two of us shared an order and had about two bites each. The main courses we ordered were Kum Kee Mao (I think that's the name - spicy noodles with seafood) and tofu with broccoli. Although I love their fishballs, seafood items like shrimp and squid have never tasted fresh to me at Ubol's, and tonight they seemed as though they had come out of a can. There was copious old shrimp and fake crab, and precious little of my beloved fish dumplings. The dish was nice and spicy, but mostly done in by the palid seafood (which, at $12.95 for a noodle dish, seems to me unacceptable). The broccoli was basically a simple, Chinese foody preparation. Nothing terrible, but woefully dissimilar to Sripraphai's (I know this comparison is unfair) wonderful Chinese broccoli dish (which is decidedly un-Chinese foody). Because we had other plans for dessert, we didn't sample the mango sticky rice dessert, which I have often proclaimed New York's best (I have now had Sripraphai's banana sticky rice dessert many times, and this one kicks its ass - I swear), so I can't report on whether that too has plummeted.
I know Ubol's rep is that it's severely inconsistent, but after last night's depressing meal we won't be back for a while. I feel confident in saying that of the four Thai restaurants in the 30th Avenue area of Astoria, Ubol's is the worst. Of the other three, I still like Thai Angel the best, and I'm shocked by how underrated/undervalued it's been on these pages. The new take-out place across the street is also pretty good, and Thai Pavillion (which NEVER gets mentioned here) is also fine - and probably has the homiest atmosphere now that Ubol's has gone cheesy. In such a thriving Thai scene, there just isn't room for thorough mediocrity (and particularly palid seafood - the seafood at Thai Angel has always been supreme).