As I have documented ad naseum on this site, I love Asian food. I have reviewed restaurants and food trucks serving Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Pan-Asian food. I have written articles on many different Asian cuisines. But only once, barely, have I touched on Thai food. And there is a reason. By and large I have not had the opportunity to eat much good Thai food in San Diego. Oh, there are plenty of Thai Restaurants in San Diego; even some with decent reputations. But most of them, frankly…they’re not all that good.
And then, last week, I found Sab-E-Lee. It is really good. It starts with the fact that Sab-E-Lee does not wimp out on its spices…and ends with the fact that the spices are not what you remember from your meal, the flavor is. Sab-E-Lee focuses on the cuisine of the native land of its chef, the northeastern province of Isaan, Thailand. It does so well.
Gwennie, our daughter, ordered the Pad Thai. It was the least interesting dish of the meal…but, at that, was a very good example of the dish. While it was not exciting there was exactly nothing wrong with it.
The pork larb was something else altogether. The balance between the inherent spiciness of the dish on the one part, the cooling mint on another, the acidity for one more and the deep, porky meatiness, put this dish into a complete balance of spicy, sour, sweet, salty and bitter elements.
The Thai Beef Salad was similarly interesting with a profile that, frankly, both matched and worked. While on paper this was, perhaps, not the most exotic dish, it was pretty darned hot, though not too hot to handle. Again, it was the exquisite balance of the flavors that made the entire thing work.
At an entirely different level of interest was the Red Curry Tofu, featuring large chunks of fried tofu with a bracing red curry sauce, bamboo shoots and eggplant. The tofu is one of the lasting memories of the dish. The cubes were fried to perfection with a caramelized exterior and an exquisitely light interior. This was slated to be the spiciest dish we ordered: a 7 on their 10 point scale. And it was hot. But that heat was so perfectly balanced by the other players that while it gave me the addictive sensation of a watering mouth, the heat never overpowered the remaining flavors.
If Thai food were always this good, I might eat nothing else.
2405 Ulric Street
San Diego, CA 92111