i know there have been a ton of posts about this place. i just wanted to share my recent experience of returning to sripraphai for the first time in about two years. we had an excellent meal. we will definitely be back.
the meal consisted of:
spicy pork salad with chili and peanuts (basically this is like larb with peanuts -- i never can remember the thai name for this dish): phenomenal. really good quality ground pork in a perfectly balanced sauce of fish sauce & lime, with chilies, shreds of fresh ginger, glass noodles, cilantro, peanuts, scallions, other fresh herbs and seasonings. every bite different because of the profusion of distinct flavors, every bite spectacular.
sticky rice: as others have mentioned, this is the real thing. it arrives in a plastic bag inside a steaming basket, and it is damn sticky. perfect for shaping into little balls and dipping into sauces.
pad thai (made spicy): ordered on the waitress's recommendation. pad thai arrived with fresh AND dried shrimp, shards of egg, bean sprouts. noodles were the perfect texture and chewiness. served with fresh bean sprouts and a little dish of vinegar for drizzling on top (could have been fish sauce + vinegar, but if so the fish sauce flavor was not very apparent). my one criticism is that it was a little too sweet, even with the vinegar added on top. it tasted a little of .... could it be ..... heinz ketchup? i would probably explore a different noodle dish in the future, though this was good.
jungle curry with chicken (very spicy): this was a very interesting curry, apparently made without coconut milk, containing chunks of white meat chicken and many different vegetables (including authentic thai eggplants and completely inauthentic red bell peppers -- however, i like the taste of red peppers in thai curry despite the inauthenticity). the flavors of this curry were herbal, bitter, and tonic. definitely not your typical curry.
for dessert, thai black sticky rice with coconut (not spicy): this one is really good and will take you straight back to the nursery. it is thai black sticky rice with thick coconut milk poured on top, maybe some condensed milk too. it is salty and sweet at once. intensely smooth and creamy for the most part, with some grains of rice retaining a delightful chewiness. i think i have never eaten anything so viscerally childish before -- it almost made me feel a little uncomfortable. my boyfriend pronounced it one of his most favorite desserts of all time.
anyway, what was great about eating at sripraphai was that each dish had its own distinct flavor and spicing. all the dishes were fiery hot (much more so than spicy & tasty, by the way) but in such different ways. they had clearly been built individually from the bottom up. care had been taken to balance the flavors. and the food was not excessively greasy. (interestingly, the clientele was about 75% gringos. it didn't seem to affect the authenticity of flavors, ingredients, and spice levels though.)
the one gripe i have is about the menus, which have only thai script and english titles. i wish they had the thai names written in english script. it is hard to know, for example, which dish is "larb" (or laab) because there are about five different ground pork salads. and then when you order something and like it, you don't know what it's called, so it's hard to remember it so you can get it again.
i spent about a year of the past two years since i had been to sripraphai living in l.a.'s thai town. while, overall, l.a.'s thai restaurants are vastly superior to those in new york, i think sripraphai is probably better than anything i had in l.a.
now, if only we could get a decent thai market in new york ... but that's another post.