Galangal sweeps taste buds off on a sensory tour of Southeast Asia with an exquisitely aromatic menu of rich Thai specialties and fresh Japanese sushi platters. Patrons embark on exploratory dinners under the benevolent smile of a bronze-colored Buddha, savoring the Golden Bag ($6), crispy dumpling skins bear-hugging a tender mix of puréed yam and minced pork. Under the lush light of sconces twinkling from exposed-stone walls, the exotic Mango Basket rice crepe bowl ($15) glows as it pampers herbivorous palates with morsels of shredded mango frolicking harmoniously with baby corn and mushrooms. Eager forks reel spicy pad kee mao drunken noodles ($18) from an ocean teeming with mixed seafood, bell pepper, and eggplant. While diners linger at glossy black tables to the sound of the restaurant's babbling waterfall, skilled chefs behind the sushi bar nimbly twist up a rainbow's worth of bright specialty rolls, including spicy coils of mango and fresh lobster in soybean paper ($15) and a kaleidoscopic array of à la carte sushi bites ($3–$5). Luscious desserts including nirvanic bites of ice cream melting over fried bananas ($7) finally reward sweet teeth for patiently waiting through the night's savories.
Sripraphai Thai Restaurant began as a small, struggling bakery. When owner Sripraphai Tipmanee switched to making roasted duck salad and crispy dried catfish, business took off, eventually moving to a new location and then taking over the buildings on both sides. Credit the critics; it's frequently cited in discussions of best Thai in New York, and Zagat recently rated it number one once again.
Wild Ginger's woven lanterns drizzle light on a wall-spanning triptych of paintings that blends modern abstraction with traditional Asian styles. Cherry-red banquettes cushion patrons as they dine on dishes that blend the cuisines of China, Japan, Thailand, and Indonesia. Sushi shares menu space with made-to-order entrees of chicken, duck, and scallops in curry and fruit-based sauces. While waiting on a wok entree to cool, patrons can try to down a frothy brew using only their chopsticks.
Little Thai Kitchen's chefs decorate porcelain canvasses with a menu of marinated Thai edibles presented in harlequin medleys beneath sprays of decorative bamboo. Stone and dark-cherry walls sprawl behind symphonies of silverware that clink gently like a robot with a rock in its shoe. Sticky sweet rice, veggies, and a variety of meats and seafood bask alongside spicy curries, including a green-chili concoction that the New York Times called "fierce and delicate at the same time." Frosted glass and brushed-steel lights spill warm light onto diners as they chat amid pastoral accents and artwork with Eastern influences.
Delighting food-loving locals, Thai Basil serves up freshly prepared flights of flavor that sport the spicy signifiers of authentic Thai cuisine. Cuisine classicists can sample the drunken noodles ($10/$12) mixed with any number of mouthwatering meats and tofus, or the pad thai, one of Thailand's most famous dishes, appetizingly augmented with stir-fried fettuccini noodles and steamed bliss ($10/$12). Adventurous patrons may pilot themselves toward the crispy red snapper ($20) or seafood jambalaya ($21), in which the beastly fire of choochee sauce courts the company of beauteous lobster and scallops made Cajun-style.
Ai's menus are replete with classic and creative plates. A selection of traditional rolls, such as tuna or salmon ($4 each), will fill the usual sushi strongholds, but for hardened appetite bunkers, call in the game-changing bombs of special rolls such as the rainbow (a California roll topped with assorted sashimi and rainbow caviar, $9.95). There are also hearty chef's specials, including mango passion shrimp (sautéed shrimp and mangos in a special Thai pepper sauce, $13.95), and dinner entrees, including teriyaki beef negimaki (thin-sliced beef and scallions in teriyaki or Asian garlic sauce, $12.95).