Finding myself hungry and in close proximity to the recently opened Sabai Sabai (@sabaisabaito), I had to drop by. The owners of this restaurant, located at Church and Dundas, have partnered up with Nuit Regular (from Sukho Thai and formerly of Khao San Road).
Since I’m a huge fan of the food at Khao San Road, I came in with high expectations. Mike and I arrived at Sabai Sabai just after 8pm on a Thursday evening. It was pretty busy but we were able to grab a seat at the bar. I recommend making a reservation.
The staff were all very warm and friendly and I loved the cool, laid-back vibe of the space. Since I was sitting at the bar, I felt I should order a drink and went with the refreshing Thai Mojito – lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, mint, coconut sugar syrup, dark rum ($7).
Sabai Sabai is open for lunch from 11:30am to 2:30pm and dinner starts at 5:30. While lunch options are entrée-sized, at dinner they switch to small Thai tapas plates which are meant for sharing. The dinner menu is broken into several sections – starters, curries, fish/seafood, vegetables and grill. Our server recommended ordering 2-3 dishes per person.
From the starter section, we ordered the Green Papaya Salad ($5). The spice doesn’t hit you right away but once it hits you, it’s quite spicy! The delay allows you to really taste the salad (unlike the one at Pok Pok where I couldn’t taste anything since my mouth was on fire).
This was the best green papaya salad I’ve had! The ingredients were fresh and the flavours were fantastic. It was a very light and refreshing way to start off the meal.
We also ordered the Grilled Northern Thai Pork Skewers – with nam chim dip ($6). It came with 3 skewers of perfectly seasoned pork which had a nice fat-to-meat ratio. They tasted even better when dipped in a bit of the nam chim dip (fish sauce, I believe). So far, so good!
From the curry section of the menu, we ordered the Braised Chicken Green Curry ($8). It isn’t a very thick curry as I found it to be on the watery side. I’ll be honest, after the first bite, I wasn’t sold. However, the more I ate, the more I enjoyed it. It was actually quite nice – just not the thicker green curry I’m used to. One more thing to add…don’t expect very much chicken. There were only 2 pieces of chicken in our order.
We couldn’t have curry without ordering some rice. At Sabai Sabai, you have the option of white rice ($2.50), sticky rice ($3) or Brown Rice ($3). We went with the latter.
For some veg, we ordered the Red Flame Morning Glory Stir Fry ($6). The red flame is in reference to the flames that come out of the pan while cooking the morning glory. The vegetables (also known as water spinach) were still crunchy and the sauce that it was cooked with was delicious. A very addictive dish and I would’ve gladly eaten another order of this.
The last dish we ordered was the Holy Basil Stir Fried Shrimp ($7), which unfortunately was my least favourite dish of the evening. The shrimp was stir-fried with their shells still on them and they sat atop a bed of thinly sliced veggies. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a bad dish but it just didn’t have the same flavour punch of the other dishes we tried.
So, how does Sabai Sabai compare to Khao San Road? It’s a little difficult comparing the two since the food offerings are quite different. Having come in with high expectations given Nuit’s high profile, I wasn’t disappointed. Good food, friendly service and a great vibe!
At a glance:
• Serving up Thai tapas for dinner; 2-3 dishes per person are recommended
• Restaurant owners partnered up with Nuit Regular (from Sukho Thai & formerly of Khao San Road)
• Favourites included the green papaya salad, pork skewers and stir-fried morning glory
• Located at Church and Dundas
• Takes reservations
• Warm and friendly service; great vibe
Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 4 stars
• Service: 4.5 stars
• Atmosphere: 5 stars