I have three food-related events on this week. On Sunday there was The Auckland Seafood Festival and on Tuesday I indulged in a night of tasty Thai food, kitschy cocktails, and foodie conversation. I have one more event up my sleeve this week. More on that later.
My fellow reviewers, bloggers and the lovely ladies from Zomato converged on Sawadee, a Thai restaurant at the K’ Rd end of Ponsonby Road, across from the sunken buildings at Western Park. It’s been around for about 20 years so I was embarrassed to admit that while I love Thai food, I had never been to Sawadee before.
Sawadee is much larger than you might expect from the street. The decor is inviting, well lit and flowers and electric candles set the scene.
Sawadee’s special summer cocktail menu is all retro tiki-bar. I tried the Crying Tiger (brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice, rimmed with sugar). I picked this because it seemed like the sensible choice out of the very flamboyant list of cocktails. It was perfect. Not too sweet, no crazy colours or frilly garnish. I noticed some of the men at the table ordered Crying Tigers later on.
My second cocktail (hey, it was a Tuesday) is one of my favourites, a Mai Tai. While this rum based cocktail tasted about right, it was more jazzed up than I remembered. I think because when The Koala was a bartender, he never carved cute shapes out of an orange. No way!
The others had a combination of very purple, very pink, and very red cocktails and the most popular mocktail was a mango number that was topped with foam. It’s nice to see a good selection of mocktails.
Now that I’ve set the scene of the drinks, let me know introduce you to the food.
Here’s a run down on what we ate:
Northern Thai Style pork sausage (Sai aua) filled with lemongrass, shallots, chili and kaffir lime leaves. This reminded me of the deliciously fragrant sausages The Koala and I ate around Chiang Mai and Laos. These are seriously good. A slice wasn’t really enough I could have eaten more. I absolutely adore lemongrass and this flavour-packed bite was my favourite appetiser. This is a dish I’d love to try and make at home.
The marinated pork skewer (Moo ping) was mild, if a little safe. An easy one for everyone to get into. Everyone enjoys meat on sticks.
No visit would be complete without some form of spring roll and Sawadee’s chicken and shrimp fresh spring rolls were perfect. They came with 2 types of sauce. Great if you are a sauce fiend.
I have to admit, at this point, I was thinking our chefs were just giving us safe dishes for an easy pass. While everyone had varying levels of Thai food experience, I really wanted to try something new. I needn’t have worried because the next 4 out of 5 dishes I had never tried before. I’ve travelled to Thailand more times than I can remember (more than 5 times I think…it starts to become a blur).
The crispy snapper flakes salad (Yum pla foo) was an off-menu special whipped up just for us. Crunchy and light, it reminded me a bit of the deep fried fish skin my dad would make as a snack when we had easy access to a big deep fryer. Sawadee’s version came with a large bowl of a sweet sauce that packed quite a punch. Though this item is not yet on the menu, we were happy to be taste testers.
Next up, whole baked prawns in a clay pot of glass noodles (Goong ob woonsen). This dish proved challenging for some, but I happily twisted off the head and sucked out the goods like a pro. To me, this dish was comforting and mild and reminded me of various Chinese clay pot dishes.
My favourite main dish of the evening: Hormok talay ma praw orn: a Thai curry seafood custard. Presented in a young coconut, a mixture of seafood swimming in red curry paste, Thai herbs and steamed egg. The egg was custardy and silky. The whole dish a creamy delicate delight. Paired with jasmine rice, this was right up my alley. I would do this again on my own.
A stir fry prawn dish snuck onto the table, but didn’t cause much fuss due to more interesting dishes. Maybe that was unfair. The prawns were succulent and plump. A classic.
To our amusement, one reviewer (I won’t name names) tried their very first prawn with a bit of fanfare and hilarity. Considering 4 of the 7 dishes had prawn in them, I guess this was quite an introduction.
I was a little surprised that no hot curry made it to the table, but in hindsight, it gave the chef a chance to show off their other delights.
Finally we were served dessert. An experiment in smoke and texture called “Rubies in Coconut Milk” (Tup tim grob). A refreshing chilled dessert of smoked coconut milk with tapioca, young coconut flesh, water chestnuts, sweetened (to our own tastes) with a shot of pandan sugar syrup. The smokiness hits you first and takes just a moment to get used to. The textures: crunchy, chewy, springy, squidgy, milk were fun to eat.
Here’s a quick glossary of Thai terms you might find useful:
- Aroi = Delicious
- Gai/kai = Chicken
- Moo = Pork
- Neua = Beef
- Goong/koong = Prawn
- Pla = Fish
- Khao = Rice
- Khao neeo = Sticky rice
- Dudes say: Kop kun krap = Thank you
- Ladies say: Kop kun kaa = Thank you
While I didn’t get a change to chat with everyone, I got to meet and sit beside Georgie from Georgieats and it was great to finally meet Audrey from Rice & Kai. Other bloggers that were there and some who I met briefly were Madeleine from Madicattt, Laura from Laura Laura, Tony from Two Dark Coffees, Arietta from Knot Just A Scarf, Ari from Ari Eats and Ben from LifeMutt.
We dined as guests of Sawadee and Zomato. A huge thank you to Sawadee for having our rowdy asses. Theresa, the owner dined with us and the staff were always happy to answer our bewildering and amusing questions. I’m sure after the cocktails it got a little rowdier, but being a Tuesday, we were pretty well behaved.
I’m looking forward to my next visit to Sawadee and also my next Zomato meet up. Kop kun kaaa!