Sabai Sabai

Sabai Sabai, Birmingham City Centre

Sabai Sabai seem to be spreading faster than Australian Flu. First Moseley, then Harborne and Stratford-Upon-Avon, now the city centre, on Waterloo Street in the bustling business district. The new building is beautiful, an old bank that lends itself to sturdy square proportions with a smart interior of neutral colours and geometric light fittings. It’s sultry and smart, ideal for the targeted clientele of dates and business accounts. It’s a very nice place to have dinner which explains why it is full a couple of weeks after opening.

This is an organised outing with other bloggers who all seem to be practicing the fake smiles they will wear when I win Best Food Blog again in June. We are given food and lots of it, too. Some I am familiar with from my local Sabai Sabai in Moseley and some I am not. It’s a larger menu here from a larger kitchen. This surprises me little as the kitchen in Moseley is so small you couldn’t swing a cat in there. Not that they would ever allow cats in the kitchen. That’s for a dubious takeaway around the corner to do.

From a platter of starters a few dishes stand out. Chicken wings come from a well reared bird, just like my girlfriend, softly braised until the bone slips out cleaner than the gnasher’s of a dental hygienist. It is a side to Thai cooking I’m not au fait with, a delicate cook over a punchy one pan blast and I like it. The flakes of meat and subtle spicing could easily be mistaken for French bistro cooking. A jaunty cut of duck spring roll is better for the proportion. Spring rolls are too often all pastry – here the casing serves as nothing more as a vehicle for a mass of soft duck meat with the occasional bite of al dente veg. Lamb chops have good quality ovine correctly pink whilst pork spare ribs are too saccharine. In every case the spicing whispers rather than shouts. The taste of the protein is king.

Now let’s talk beef short rib. Fat, unctuous short rib cooked so softly that the meat can be spooned cleanly away from the bone, in a mellow masaman curry rich with coconut milk. This is show stealer. The must order. It has contrast with every mouthful, real depth and fragrant high points. It is one of the finest main courses to be found within the city centre.

We look to other dishes once the bone has been scraped clean on the short rib. Pad Thai is all too familiar; silky noodles, soft chicken, the bite of peanuts and raw chilli heat. It’s a classic for a reason. Monkfish and aubergine comes in the most textbook of green curry sauces. All the fundamentals of Thai cooking are present; salty, spicy, sweet and sour, which happen to also be my four favourite Spice Girls. It has bags of personality.

We have Weeping Tiger, which contains zero tiger and serves only as a metaphor because it will leave you crying for more. The beef sirloin is accurately cooked to medium rare, coated in a toasted rice powder that punches with umami. I took to Twitter to say it was the best beef since Biggie and Tupac. I will never better that. It goes fantastically well with sprouting broccoli in a puddle of something bright and acidic.

This quantity of food leaves no room and we settle for a well made espresso martini to send us on our way. Sabai Sabai being good is of no surprise, both Harborne and Moseley cook to a very good standard, but this was perhaps the strongest meal yet. The decision to put both North and South Thai chefs in the kitchen has paid off: There are no dud dishes here, the Northern dishes kick with more fire, those from the South fresher. The latest instalment of Sabai Sabai is a brilliant addition to the city.

The meal was complimentary as part of an event organised by Delicious PR.

Transport was organised by A2B Radio Cars. Download the app here http://www.a2bradiocars.com

Sabai Sabai via Deliveroo

Given the shortage of good Thai restaurants in Birmingham, Sabai Sabai is the kind of place that I should be going to more often. Except I can’t. Because I may have upset someone affiliated with the restaurant by being a self-entitled arse on Facebook, and now I may be too embarrassed / pig headed to show my face in the little restaurant down the road from where I live. Will I ever learn? Of course not, being an arrogant arse is ingrained in my DNA.  But my stupidity is Deliveroo’s gain. When I am feeling flush it is my takeaway of choice. And sometimes its rescued me, like on last valentine’s day when it saved me paying for an overpriced set menu and allowed us to fake romance from the comfort of our own home.

It’s nearly always the same order; sweetcorn cakes, almost bhaji-like in texture and devoid of grease, to start, along with their crackers which are thick and crisp. We always order the Pad Thai noodles, silky and moreish, with perfectly judged acidity from the lime. We scatter it generously with both peanuts and chilli flakes and entwine the chicken with the noodles.  It captures the very essence of Thai food.

I’d written about the holy basil stir fry before, so I’ll spare you the finer details again.  It’s my favourite thing on the menu here – spicy enough to hold interested, with enough veg to nourish.  It gets even better with the addition of egg fried rice that soaks up the salty sauce and ensures the plate enters the kitchen clean.

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We both agreed that this was up their with the best we’d ever had from Sabai Sabai – proof that food can travel and still be as good.  The only thing stopping us from having it every week is the cost; both mains are about a tenner, starters around a fiver, rice £3.55,  and crackers a hefty £2.25.  Add that up and it doesn’t come cheap.  My opinion?  Treat it as a meal out – order it and crack open a decent wine.  Make a night of it. It’s worth it.

Deliveroo kindly provided the credit for this meal.  Sabai Sabai can be found in Moseley, Harborne, and Stratford-Upon-Avon.  For free credit on your first order please see use the code roo.it/simonc3898

Sabai Sabai, Moseley

I have a soft spot for Sabai Sabai. Its a place that I have rekindled a gentle love again for with frequent revisits at a period in my life where I seldom eat at the same place twice. I can walk there, eat well for a modest amount and stumble back home.  And I often do. The location in Moseley is small and comforting, with a waiting team who permanently look happy to be working there.  They must be fed a lot of the food.  Its serious cooking with its heart in the right part of the world and an eye on affordability.  There are other places to find Thai food in Birmingham.  None are as good Sabai Sabai.

I was invited to eat there to celebrate Loy Krathong, a festival that I am ignorant enough to know nothing about, which coincided with eating the planned Christmas menu, a festival I know a little too much of.  I have previously written about the virtues of the cooking here, so I will spare you the minute details and say that once again every dish served sparkled with the core principals of Thai cuisine.  A mixed platter started it off with the most handsome of chicken satay and unctuous pork spare ribs.  There were crab cakes, spiked with heat and tasting of crustacean instead of mashed potato, which reminded me that that in the right hands they can be a killer starter.  Best of all were perfectly timed scallops with garlic and peppers that had me emptying the last of the shells juices on to a prawn cracker.

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Seabass is served in a similar sauce to the scallops and is just as remarkable.  The delicate flakes of fish fold away from each other and more than hold there own against the gentle aromatics and more punchy hits of garlic and chilli.  Its about as good as Thai food gets.  Curls of monkfish hide green beans wrapped in aubergine.  Its the yellow curry sauce that lifts the dish with high notes of ginger and the comfort of coconut milk.

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I’m a sucker for duck meat.  Show me crispy skin and I am yours.  Honestly, you just try it.  Here is no different, with sweet meat and skin that cracks on impact.  Fried shallots and pak choi are there to provide both ends of the textural scale, with a tamarind sauce adding more sweet and sour interplay.  006

There was dessert, but I was too busy dreaming of the duck to take pictures or notes.  No usual score out of ten this time, as I only gave them the major thumbs up five months ago.  This time it just a major endorsement of what they have to offer.  The Christmas menu is £25 for three courses, which is incredible value for what is a far more interesting prospect than some overcooked turkey in a chain pub.  At this price it is not a question of if you should go, but when.  I’m already booked up to go in December, and so should you.

Sabai Sabai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I was invited on this occasion and did not see a bill

Sabai Sabai, Moseley

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.

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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.

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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

8/10

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