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Sripraphai... how spicy you want it ?... right or wrong direction ?

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Sripraphai... how spicy you want it ?... right or wrong direction ?

Chicago Mike | Feb 17, 2005 11:27 AM

I've noticed at our last few dinners at Sriraphai that the dishes are becoming decidedly more "Ameri-Thai mainstream" than hard-core authentic Thai.

One very clear indicator of this trend is the wait staff's question "how spicy you want it". In an authentic thai kitchen it's just not realistic to expect the chef to be "calibrating" every dish low-medium-high. Authentic thai cuisine requires a certain presence of peppers and other fiery / pungent ingredients that can't be adjusted like a rheostat.

I think as the popularity of this place has exploded and the floor space tripled, the owners have made the decision to "cater to American tastes" which means introducing the "heat rheostat".

Last Summer when it was still the old floorplan I was surprised to hear "how spicy" asked almost as an afterthought by the waitress. Then this month we find the waiter asking "how spicy... low, medium, high ?" in a very dutiful manner as he's writing our orders.

This said, Sripraphai still offers a tremendous RANGE of dishes that might not be equalled by any Thai restaurant in the country, I just wish they'd go back to pure Authentic Thai recipes and drop the attempt to adjust heat levels to what they think is "the American palate"....

Anyway, with that ranting in mind we dined there this month with the following impressions of the dishes:

1) TOM YOM SOUP (w/ shrimp): Fair. Not particularly authentically prepared. Very few whole fresh peppers, mostly annoying dried red pepper flakes which have no place in real tom yom. 1 or 2 small pieces of Galanga rather than nice thick "galanga coins". Just very meager portions of herbs and almost no fresh pepper. Still even mediocre Tom Yom is fair.

2) PAPAYA SALAD: Virtually no fresh garlic. Could also have used more bright fresh lime sauce and small whole lime slivers. Very few peanut chunks. Still fair but nothing resembling the fire-extinguisher fully-flavored salads that we had here routinely in 2003.

3) PAD KRA POW (Basil Chicken). A very poor rendition of this benchmark thai dish. Insufficient fresh peppers and almost no fresh garlic... in authentic thai cuisine ??

And ALL of these dishes after we distinctly told the waiter "we want it HOT... Real Thai Style..." and he nodded his head in assurance.

I just wonder if this place still has it as it's just been progressively less authentic with each visit. Would still return, but in no hurry and in the meantime would sure welcome another truly authentic Thai Kitchen anywhere in New York.

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