Sabai Sabai is the new thai kitchen and bar helmed by chef Nuit Regular of the ever popular Khao San Road . The new 65-seat eatery sits just south of Dundas on Church in the space formerly occupied by Wimpy's Diner and more recently the Tropical Palms.
Co-owners Nuit Regular, Jason Jiang and Seng Luong are ready to offer a fast, filling lunches and an evening menu of small, modestly priced sharing plates to sample alongside a full bar menu that includes Beerlao (the national beer of Laos) as well as Ontario wines and Thai inspired cocktails.
The eclectic interior aspires to recreate the feeling of being in Thailand with brightly coloured collages of vintage graphics and oversized posters mounted on neutral toned walls. Comfortable booths offer relaxed seating for small groups and a private dining area in the back provides room for large parties up to 16.
Chef Nuit Regular notes that at Khao San Road patrons typically order the same dish again and again, but here she hopes to find an outlet to experiment and introduce Torontonians to Thai cuisine that goes beyond traditional Pad Thai and curry options.
Though the lunch menu features hearty a la carte options, the dinner format features a snack bar menu to encourage sharing, tasting and drinking. Sharing plates like The Grilled Northern Thai Pork Skewer ($5) offer four generous skewers of salty grilled meat so flavourful that it hardly requires the accompanying dipping sauce.
The Grilled Pork Salad ($5) sees crispy bite-sized pieces of pork lightly dressed and served with a simple Asian slaw.
The Steamed Curry Fish in Banana Leaf ($5) arrives alongside the Crispy Fried Fish with Tangy Tamarind Sauce ($6). Though the curry flavours in the steamed fish offer some nice spice, I don't especially love the fish-cake texture. The fried fish on the other hand is perfect and fried to a golden crisp that leaves me considering a second order.
The Morning Glory ($6) is an off-the-menu Asian green sometimes known as Chinese spinach. Here it is lightly sauced with chili, tamarind and fish sauce before being flambeed in a wok and served steaming hot.
For Sabai Sabai's three co-owners - who all hail from Thailand or Laos - the menu offers many authentic comforts from home. For me it is instead, all deliciously new and a welcome alternative to the standard Thai fare available throughout the city.
Sabai Sabai is open for lunch 11:30am to 2:30pm and for dinner from 5:30pm to 11pm. Reservations are accepted.
Photos by Morris Lum