Over the last 7 years, Sabai Sabai, known for their intimate space, welcoming atmosphere and delicious recipes, situated on Moseley’s popular Woodbridge Road, has put Thai cuisine firmly on the Birmingham food map.
I have always been a fan of Sabai Sabai, ever since it opened, and right from the beginning have made it my first choice of meeting place for all occasions from birthdays and work events to romantic dinners for two.
Our interest was cleverly maintained by a Sabai Sabai Facebook campaign, sharing details with their loyal fan base of the painstaking conversion from concrete carcass into designer restaurant and wine bar. When, at last, we saw images of handmade furniture arriving all the way from Thailand into what was clearly an arresting interior, we were practically salivating with excitement. Of course, we had to sample this vibrant new venue.
What strikes you first when you walk through the door is the successful marriage of sleek East with chic West. The 270 degree panoramic floor to ceiling windows, so cleverly complemented by the elegantly lit “Birds Nest” centrepiece, are truly stunning.
I ask Torquil, the owner, to tell me more about the designer. "It’s Adam Tibbatts of Tibbatts Abel,” he says. “We chose Adam because as well as having an award winning portfolio he also has a wealth of experience in helping restaurateurs like Sabai Sabai aspire to new heights.
His latest London club won Best New Club 2011 and his Birmingham wine bar and restaurant won Bar of the Year 2011.”
Looking more closely, I notice how Adam and the Sabai Sabai family have meticulously planned every detail such as matching flower etchings in the glass with the delicate floral menu designs, all executed in their rich shades of pale oranges and purples. This boldness of vision, with so much achieved when still in their twenties, is really impressive.
Ciaran, brother of Torquil, is our waiter for the evening, and greets us with his seasoned Front of House mastery. Part of the Sabai Sabai story from the start, Ciaran handles every customer and table with grace and ease, making each guest feel welcome with his natural charm and subtle charisma. This restaurant has an altogether more open feel to its sister.
While Sabai Sabai Moseley is still the undisputed home of laid back funk, Harborne has stepped up into contemporary chic. Both are immensely well suited to their geographic locations. On surveying the menu, I am pleased to see that classic Sabai Sabai dishes are still being served, informing me that the authenticity of the original venture has not been lost. I am even more delighted to discover an array of new dishes Joint owners, husband and wife team, Torquil and Juree, have clearly invested time into searching for these, or investigating recipes passed down from Juree’s mum. It would be hard to find any dishes in the UK made with so much love and appreciation for the authentic ingredients.
And now for choosing; to start, my friend and I find it difficult to stray from two Sabai Sabai classics, a Satay Gai and the Tempura King Prawns. They come with mouth-watering dipping sauces, both pleasing to the eye and bursting with sweet aromas. Crafted to perfection, a light Tempura batter works deliciously with the fragrant plum sauce, coupling a delicate sweetness with aromatic spices for warming top notes on the palette. The peanut dip is an excellent accompaniment to the tender and buttery Satay Gai, and neither of us can decide which we like more. We drink Singha beer – the perfect refreshing tipple for washing down these intense flavours.
Choosing a main course is more than difficult. You can go for dishes straight from Southern Thailand through to Jungle curries, mixing a marriage of your favourite Thai flavours; the choice is endless. My friend decides to go for a duck platter and, as he is on a low carb diet, decides to opt for a hearty side order of broccoli stir fry instead of rice.
For my main, Ciaran gives me some help, as I am finding it hard to make up my mind, and, to be honest, I could eat everything on the menu quite happily. Ciaran recommends a Kratiem Pik Thai Pla – a seabass dish.
The duck arrives on a welcoming sizzling platter, complete with onions and topped with dried shallots. My friend comments on the delicateness of the palm sugar flavoured with tamarind, giving the tender slices of duck a warming sweetness overridden with sour. My sea bass is a triumph on the taste buds. Although sea bass is a delicate dish, the texture is still meaty. It’s like a hybrid between meat and fish, and I love it. This comes cooked in a pepper and garlic sauce with fresh red chillies, onions, baby corn, mange tout and spring onions. When the fish is all gone, I devour the rest of my coconut rice with gusto, mixing it with the remaining sauce left on my plate.
We are so full up,sadly we have no space left for desserts. Over two good cups of coffee, we discuss The Birmingham Gazette’s next excuse to come back for seconds; more please!
Visit www.sabaisabai-restaurant.co.uk or to book a table call 0121 426 2688.