Two weeks ago I went to Sabai Sabai Kitchen and Bar with my friend Lynsey. Sabai Sabai (it would be awkward to shorten this to SS, cheap right?) is a Thai restaurant that offers small sharing plates, to mimic a tapas-style restaurant rather than your stereotypical giant bowls of noodles. The restaurant is by the same chef, Nuit Regular, who owns Khao San Road and her parents help run Sukhothai.
The restaurant is at the corner of Church and Dundas which is a sketchy area but don’t let that deter you from trying it. While I walked there I was accompanied by a lovely group of crackheads who were J-walking across Dundas despite one of them wearing a walking casting. They were also yelling profanities at the streetcar that had obviously done something to offend them. It added to the whole experience.
The restaurant looks small from the street but once inside, the space is quite expansive. To the left of the entrance there is a long, high-top table with seating for 8. A bar runs half the length of the restaurant and the rest of the restaurant is occupied by a combination of tables and booths.
We were seated at a small table halfway to the back of the restaurant. When we were seated the host said that they needed the table back for an 8 o’clock reservation. It was 5:30 when we were seated. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in a restaurant because a huge part of me vacating a table by the time you need it back is based on your service. Yes, I agree to not dawdle over the menu but you must also agree to bring me menus, drinks, food and bill in a prompt and timely manner. It also makes me feel rushed and anxious, like I have no right to enjoy my meal because someone far more important is coming soon.
We started off with a pitcher of Thai Long Island Iced Tea. Similar to your traditional Long Island Iced Tea (with gin, vodka, rum, tequila and triple sec) the Sabai Sabai version features homemade Thai tea sour rather than Coke. There is sweetness and a subtle herby taste to the cocktail and it drinks very easily. A pitcher split between two people will leave you a bit wobbly.
Once we were feeling the affects of our drinks we order three plates to share. First we enjoyed the freshly grated squash fritters with tamarin dip.
This is an item that features peanuts but can easily be removed as they are sprinkled in the tamarin dip. If you are worried about enjoying Thai food with a peanut allergy, I would recommend a visit to Sabai Sabai. Upon making reservations, the restaurant asked if there were any allergies, made note and advised that we tell our server upon arrival. When we told our server that there was an allergy at the table she assured us that it would not be a problem and that this was something they were very familiar in dealing with. The only moment of concern was when someone other than our server brought out the fritters and said “which table has the peanut allergy? Uhhh… yea, this is the one without peanuts.” Despite his lack of confidence he was correct and I have lived to tell the tale. The menu also features very few items that actually contain peanuts.
The squash fritters were crispy but not greasy or heavy. They retained the juiciness of squash and highlighted the floral undertones in squash usually only tasted in the flowers of the plant. I loved the simple, slightly chaotic presentation of this dish. The fritters are tangled up in each other, falling apart with ever pull of a delicious next taste. The tamarind dip adds a slight nutty spice to the fritters but doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavor or texture.
Next we enjoyed the housemade spicy lao sausage.
This is an amazing sausage. Sausages are typical heavy and greasy but this is light and fresh. The use of lemongrass and other spices/herbs add a light, citrus taste to the sausage. The sausage is served sliced and seared, giving nice crispy edges to every bite. The sausage is served with a dipping sauce which further highlights the citrus tones of the dish.
The Khao soi.
The Khao soi can be ordered with beef, shrimp or chicken but I feel like the curry sweetness works best with chicken. The bowl is loaded with broth that is sweet and creamy from the coconut milk and spicy from the curry. The noodles tangle at the bottom of the bowl and wrap soaked pieces of chicken in their netting. The crispy noodles add a needed crunch to the dish which breaks up the simple soft texture of the noodles and chicken and adds a depth of texture to the dish.
This is a hard dish to share as scooping tangle noodles and broth proves difficult but it is worth it – or you could have an order to yourself and no one would judge because it is so delicious.
Because we are greedy and glutinous we decided to order another dish after devouring our three. It was a debate between the vegetable spring rolls and the deep fried garlic shrimp. Our server suggested the shrimp, not just because there were no more springs rolls but because it was also one of her favourite dishes. The shrimp is incredibly crispy which is delicious but it doesn’t retain much of the flavor and texture of shrimp. As advertised, garlic is the only prevalent flavor in the dish which made it my least favourite (but still delicious) dish tried that night due to its simplicity in flavor and concept.
This restaurant is another hit by Nuit Regular. I definitely will be visiting again and hopefully this time with no run-ins from crackheads.