Sabai Sabai has done away with their original Church Street location in favour of one near Yonge and Bloor. The basement space, once The Spotted Dick, has been redesigned by Steven Fong Architect and is outfitted with lanterns, mirrors, banquettes and art on the walls.
We start with a green papaya salad ($7). The long thin papaya slices are crunchy and very spicy. Dried shrimp on top gives this salad a very fishy flavour, so don't expect a purely fruity salad if that's what you prefer.
The satay chicken ($12.50) is a classic appetizer and this is a great version, chunks of chicken marinated with turmeric and coconut milk. On top is a cucumber vinegar salad, and there's peanut sauce on the side.
The beef khao soi ($13) could be said to be the signature dish here, as tasty as it is visually appealing. It's very tender beef brisket on top of egg noodles swimming in a golden curry, topped with crispy fried egg noodles. The noodles done two ways add a fun texture.
The recommended accompaniment for all this is Beerlao, described to me as "the Dom Perignon of Southeast Asia." They import this jasmine rice beer specially and its sweet, mild flavour goes well with spicy food.
Minced pork lettuce wraps ($12) are the national dish of Laos. Lettuce leaves are presented with dry sauteed minced pork with toasted brown sticky rice and fried shallots, and cucumber slices on the side.
The shrimp panang ($15, $12 for chicken) is a simple red curry with coconut milk, kefir lime leaf, and small slices of red bell pepper with coconut cream on top, slightly more spicy than the khao soi.
The beef salad ($13.50) has apparently been refined at this location, angus beef striploin quickly seared on the grill, sliced thinly and seasoned with lime and fish sauce, resting on a bed of crunchy shredded lettuce.
Sabai Sabai also serves fun cocktails like the Tom Yum Yum ($12) which riffs on the ingredients of Tom Yum soup.