SriPraPhai ($7): Overtly fishy aroma from lots of dried shrimp, but not enough acidity, heat, or sweetness. The papaya was semi-limp, indicating that it sat shredded for too long before serving.
Chao Thai ($8.95): Bright, fresh, and balanced. It started out relatively mild, but had a slow heat that built up. Plenty of peanuts give it a nice, balanced savoriness.
Advantage: Chao Thai
SriPraPhai ($1.50) This is about as good as sticky rice gets, and it comes served in a cute miniature bamboo steamer basket to boot.
Chao Thai (Free) Not bad, but the bottom of the rice cake had started to turn to mush.
SriPraPhai ($8.50): After our experience with the Som Tum, we asked our waiter to make all of our hot dishes much hotter, which he said was no problem. Our Larb was whisked back to the kitchen and returned a few moments later, but even still, there was almost no heat at all. Without chilis to balance out the sweetness and acidity, the dish comes off as cloying. The beef, however, was extremely tender, and their Khao Khua was excellent.
Chao Thai ($8.95): Much more assertive in flavor than the SripPraPhai version, with ground chilis and whole toasted chilis garnishing the dish along with a sprinkling of fried shallots. Rather than ground beef, their beef is hand chopped, which looks nice, but comes off as slightly tougher. It was also heavier than the SriPraPhai version, with a strong, beef-fat flavor.
The ideal dish would have been the beef and Khao Khua from SriPraPhai with the aromatics and heat of the Chao Thai version. As it was, both were flawed.
Pad See Ew
SriPraPhai ($9): "Oh my god—this is like candied noodles," summed up our general impression. Despite the noodles being fresh and well-cooked, we couldn't take any more of the cloying sweetness after the first few bites.
Chao Thai ($8.50): The noodles were definitely older than those at SriPraPhai, a few of them crumbled and cracking, but the flavor was much better. Only lightly sweetened with a nice smoky char from the wok. A little heavy on the white pepper.
Advantage: Chao Thai
Green Curry With Shrimp
SriPraPhai ($9): Excellent—maybe the best green curry I've had outside of Thailand. With a rough texture, the paste is quite obviously hand-pounded. Complex and fresh with a very assertive heat (finally!). Crunchy green, seedy Thai eggplants are a nice authentic touch, though I could have done without the chunks of canned pineapple that inexplicably found their way into it.
Chao Thai (12.95): Totally run-of-the-mill with the smooth texture associated with store-bought or blender-made curry paste. Serviceable and decently spicy, but it paled in comparison to the SriPraPhai version. Chinese eggplant didn't work as well as Thai either—the eggplant got mushy in the curry.