It is, by my own admission, my fault that I have not been to Sabai Sabai in a long time. Some time ago, a friend of mine booked a large table there for his birthday. If my memory serves me correct it was unusually hot on the day, with the lure of a daytime beer proving too tempting. It is never one beer, not when the sun is out, and I may have turned up a little worse-for-wear. What a great guest I am. I approached the meal with the numbskull mentality of a drunk man, which is by ordering as little food and as many cocktails as possible. I don’t recall the food being memorable, but then again I seem to think that I was particularly humorous on that evening, so read in to that as you wish.
We chose the hottest day of the year thus far to return to Sabai Sabai. It’s not a building suited to these conditions. The slim dining room is dimly lit, mostly by candles that adorn the ornate tables dressed with thick black and gold decorative cloth. The heavy wooden chairs have a regal feel that serves to heighten the notion of tranquillity just yards from the main row of shops that are central to Moseley Village. We start with chicken satay, a dish too often relegated to the Just Eat default starter. Thick chunks of thigh meat, marinated and impaled on three skewers, full of flavour and gentle aromatics that seamlessly blend with a satay sauce, rich with peanut and coconut milk. By comparison it made the duck roll seem average, which it wasn’t. The roll, deep fried to a crisp, holding tender pieces of meat and the occasional shard of crispy skin. It needed the sharp side salad to offset the deep funk of the bbq sauce which was to be a close relation to hoisin.
We chose the same birds for main course, because we are ill-prepared and hungry. A red curry is a joyous thing full that successfully balances out the sweet and the sour, the heat and the salty. There is the background of kaffir lime and pungent notes of fish sauce. It speaks of the work of an experienced hand in the kitchen. The duck inside is well cooked, though it plays second fiddle to the sauce which dances around it. Pad Pik Khing has more of the chicken thigh meat with krachai and green beans. Its sauce is all acidity and unadulterated heat – a good thing; no, a great thing – which has little care for the western taste buds. We both mop up the last of the sauces with sticky rice that is the right side of claggy.
We opt to take liquid desserts in the pub around the corner, pay the bill and leave for the last of the evenings sun. Whilst putting the world to rights over a pint or three, we agree that Sabai Sabai exceeded expectations for the both of us. Its bold and authentic Thai food has been refined just enough to justify a price which sits just above similar restaurants. Regardless of whether or not you are familiar with the cuisine, I urge you to give it a go. Just do it sober. Food this good needs to be remembered