I was recently asked to organize a double-date and had heard a lot of good things about Sabai Sabai… a much-needed new Thai restaurant on Church between Dundas and Queen. Arriving way too early, I sit at the bar and converse with the owner, Seng Luong, over a couple of Beer Lao.
Now, I haven’t had one of these since I lived on the other side of the world, so this was a really nice treat. Seng told me that he was born in Laos but moved to Canada at an early age. Returning recently for the first time since childhood, Seng’s S.E. Asia trip inspired him to return to Toronto and open up a restaurant. With menu consultation from legendary chef Nuit Regular (Sukho Thai & Kao San Road), Sabai Sabai opened in late 2012 to many warm reviews of their Thai Tapas. By the time our conversation ended, Seng and I agreed on a chef’s tasting menu… allowing us to try a bit of everything on the menu without actually ordering anything from the menu.
The first plates to arrive were great for sharing. Crispy Shrimp Chips come with a sidecar of Tamarind dipping sauce; a Green Papaya Salad is full of crunch and gets surprisingly spicier with every bite; a Grilled Pork Salad marries hot & cold… so good that we quickly demand another; and Chicken Wings are grilled and tossed in what tastes like a Sweet Chili and Soy marinade. We wash everything down with a few Thai Mojitos (a virgin one for my Wife), and things are definitely off to a good start.
The second course of tapas start rolling out as soon as we finish our Mojitos. We switch to Beer to beat the heat. Crispy Fried Fish (our table’s favourite taste of the night) is drizzled in a sticky Tamarind and Chili sauce. Then comes a large bowl of Khao Soi (Egg Noodles in a rich Coconut Chicken Curry) followed by a Vegan Red Curry full of Veggies and Mock Fish that was so tasty, you’d swear it was actually Grouper. Shrimps are then served to us 2 different ways (in a Panang Curry and in a Spicy Stir Fry). Finally, a couple servings of Stir-Fried Morning Glory (Chinese Broccoli pictured below) taste like they’ve just come off the BBQ. There is literally no more room on the table or in my stomach, so I am glad to hear that’s the last of it.
Too stuffed for dessert, we opt instead for Whisky and Tea… a mellow ending to one heck of a meal. Good value, too: $40 per-person (tax, tip & drinks included). In Thai, Sabai Sabai means “peace, tranquility, and a sense of well-being.” Thanks to their hospitality, food and atmosphere, we can’t help but agree that this is a fitting name for a special place on Toronto’s lower-eastside. Thanks for a great group dining experience, Seng Luong. We’ll see you again soon… next time to try the lunch menu!