December 10, 2011

Neighborhood thai at Sawatdee

We were sitting out on our stoops one Saturday night chatting with neighbors when Bradd suggested we try the area's new thai BYOB, Sawatdee. Our party of five rolled down to 15th and South with a handful of beers and no reservation but the staff at Sawatdee didn't think twice about shifting some tables around to accommodate us.

Sawatdee turned Pico de Gallo's old corner spot into a little neon green haven of good food for low prices. In addition to dinner, they have a three-course lunch special for $9.95 and offer take-out. I recommend a reservation for dinner because it always looks packed when we walk by. It's probably not big enough for a large group, but is a fun spot for a party of 4-6 friends.

Shrimp Pad Thai
The appetizers we started with were all very satisfying: Ka-Nom-Jeep (chicken and shrimp dumplings), Por-Piah-Sod (spring roll with crabmeat, sausage and a lot of other stuff) and Satay-Gai (grilled marinated coconut curry chicken with peanut sauce). The dumplings were my favorite of the three - nice and light, not rubbery. While chicken satay always seems a little boring to me at parties, Sawatdee's peanut sauce was such a big hit at the table, I think some spring rolls ended up dipped in it, too.

I tend not to get very adventurous with thai food, mostly because I just love shrimp pad thai. Sawatdee delivered a solid rendition of the traditional dish (listed as Pad-Thai-Gung on their menu) so I cleared my plate and left happy.

Bradd and one of our companions both enjoyed the Pad-Kee-Mao-Gai, or stir-fried flat noodles with chicken, bell pepper, Thai basil, garlic and chili. It's marked as a spicier dish on the menu and lived up to it. In fact, when Bradd commented to our exceptionally perky waiter "don't be shy" on the spice, the kitchen loaded it on thick and had him sweating in his seat. Not my thing, but if you like that, don't be afraid to ask.

Our third friend ordered Yum-Pla-Meuk, the grilled squid salad with roasted chili paste, bell pepper, lemongrass and lime juice. He liked it - especially the lemongrass flavor - but the roasted chili paste was a little too strong for my liking.


Despite enjoying my pad thai, I was jealous of another companion's Hau-Mok-Poo. It comes with steamed crabmeat, curry, coconut milk, Chinese broccoli and kaffir lime leaves, all served in a banana leaf cup. I normally steer clear of curry and coconut milk but the combo of flavors in this dish was delicious. It was light, too - a good option if you want a unique, tasty entree but don't want to walk away stuffed (or you like to load up on appetizers in places like this).

For dessert, the waiter recommended black bean in coconut cream, which is exactly as it says: black beans floating in coconut soup. Despite this sounding weird, I had a hard time putting the spoon down. The coconut cream had a really light flavor and helped the rest of our food settle quickly.

If I haven't read other people's reviews before, I try to wait until after I have mine written so that they don't influence my opinions. In this case, I was bummed to see Adam Erace from City Paper wasn't all that impressed by Sawatdee but to each his own. Admittedly, I am not an expert on thai food but I do know that all five of us were very pleased with our meals, only had to pay $20 each and two of our friends even went back a week later to take others. The staff at Swatdee was also really cool about chilling and opening our random selection of 24 oz beers and wine.

Commenters on the Foobooz post were right that Sawatdee's appeal is, in part, convenience. It wasn't the greatest meal I ever had, but rather a good, affordable thai dinner in a fun little atmosphere within easy walking distance from home. Works for me! And probably a lot of you.
Sawatdee Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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