Som Saa. Smoking Goat. The Begging Bowl. Tem Ban Thai. Faring London. These are some of the best Thai restaurants/teams in London – no doubt about it. If you want that authentic heat and a Liverpool kiss of flavour these guys generally have your back. Here’s our original review if you wanted to read our original take.
Som Saa originally had a residency in Climpson Arch and made massive waves with their successful £700,000 crowdfunding campaign after a three month Hackney residency that proved so popular it lasted a year. Now they have opened on what was a dearth of a strip on Commercial Road in Shoreditch. Like all trends, they come in threes – and the guys taking a chance on the strip between Spitalfields and Aldgate now include Gunpowder (reviewed), Absurd Bird (reviewed) and now Andy Oliver’s Som Saa.
This review had been embargoed until the restaurant opens. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a Family and Friends night where we were the lucky guinea pigs to help get the kitchen, bar and floor up to scratch before they open to real life customers. The space is bang on perfect and we settled in with a pair of Old Fashioneds.
Just like at the arch, there’s going to be a wait, and the very cool bar space at he front of the restaurant is set up with high-tables and a couple of booths for people to wait in. Not yet sure what waiting system they will use and whether you’ll be able to duck off for a drink elsewhere during your wait. But if not I think you’ll be comfortable dropping some coin in the front bar.
Once you’re called to the plate you’ll be ushered around to the dining room. Right behind the bar you’ll find a housed kitchen and a couple of nicely segmented rooms all drawing on Thai inspiration to add a few creative sparks. Look above you and you’ll see four tanks of fresh Camden Town Pilsner beer which seems to be the option for many a new restaurant opening in the past 12 months to ensure the brews you get served are as fresh as possible.
A throwback to one of the dishes from the days back in the arch, Gai yang is a Thai style grilled chicken leg with tamarind dipping sauce. Lovely tender chicken cooked over coals and imparting a lovely smokey flavour. Definitely a great place to start off.
There’s certain dishes I judge a restaurant from – sweet and sour pork at a dodgy Chinese place, Hawaiian pizza from a pizza joint, laksa for anyone attempting Malaysian and som tam when testing out somewhere Thai. This Bangkok style green papaya salad with snake beans, dried shrimp, peanuts and cherry tomatoes is the same recipe as previous and why mess with perfection?
The dish that blew me out of the water – especially when I had no interest in ordering said dish? Yum hua plee – grilled chicken, banana flower and chilli jam salad. A really moorish dish that packs a boatload of umami into each and every mouthful. We smashed it so hard we completely missed the opportunity for a photograph.
We settled on tow different curries to see who was the meatiest of them all. First up was the gaeng hung lay, a Burmese style curry of pork belly and shoulder with picked garlic and fresh ginger. Deep flavours that we encountered through our travels through Myanmar last year adapted with an Thai twist. Definitely one for the pork fans out there (I pity your souls everyone else).
Also in our wheelhouse is the ‘Panang’ curry of braised saled beef cheeks with peanuts and Thai basil aka Gaeng Panang neua kem. Having lived in Malaysia for 2015 we tend to be picky about Penang dishes being attempted outside of the city – mainly because Penang is THE best food city in Asia. There’s dishes there that have not nor will they ever be attempted outside of the island – and with good reason. In other words – time to book those summer holidays guys…. Trust me.
Coming up the rear and finishing on a high with an Asian dessert (yeah I know, I just said there was a good Asian dessert), kluey thora nahm dan beep, another stallwart from the arch consisting of palm sugar ice cream with grilled caramelised banana.
There’s going to be a decent smattering of choice Thai restaurants opening in the capital this year and you’re going to have to try them all to find out which is your favourite. In the interim while Som Saa was setting up camp I would have to say that Tem Ban Thai residencies we’re doing the best Thai food in London right now (reviewed). Once Som Saa are open good and proper I will be back for an official visit to see who reigns supreme.
Contact: Som Saa – 43A Commercial St, London E1 6BD. Website.