Som Saa’s been around for a while now. Gone is the excitement of one of London’s favourite street food vendors opening up its very own trendy restaurant in Shoreditch. However, people still love it and you have to be organised to get a reservation. It’s also just retained its position in TimeOut’s coveted annual top 100 restaurants in London (although it’s slipped down to 27th place). It’s fair to say Som Saa has absolutely smashed it. And well done to them.
But is it worth all the hype?
What I ate:
Gai Yaang – thai style grilled chicken leg with tamarind dipping sauce (£8.75)
These were seriously tasty. Melt-in-the-mouth, marinated chicken legs with a tremendously tangy tamarind sauce for dunking. I’d definitely order these again, but there’s nothing overly clever or creative about these – this is flavour all the way.
Gung Pao Nahm Phrik Mapraow – coconut and shrimp paste relish grilled in a coconut husk served with tiger prawns (£10/£12)
I’m really sorry to say that I strongly disliked this dish. The shrimp were good, but everything that came with them either made me want to spit out my food or caused me to look at it in bemusement. What do you expect me to do with a whole stem of lemon grass? Chew on it? Maybe, but I had no idea. And I don’t really understand dumping a ton of herb leaves on the side. If this was a curry or a steaming bowl of pho I’d understand and know what to do – plonk them in the liquid. But with a dry dish consisting only of grilled shrimp? No thanks. However, the worst thing about this whole plate of food was the coconut and shrimp paste relish. It really was unpleasant. I don’t enjoy having my taste buds commandeered by something so pungent that I need to drink a litre of wine to get rid of the taste. And it wasn’t just me – the others I was with didn’t like it either. A bemusing, strange concoction never to be ordered again.
Pad Phrik Thai Dtam – black pepper stir fry with lamb sweetbreads, oyster sauce, ginger and chive flowers (£10)
Thankfully, this was absolutely fantastic. This is where the creative juices behind Som Saa really work. Soft, succulent, buttery sweetbreads infused with the punchy taste of black pepper is a really, really wonderful thing. And the slight saltiness of the oyster sauce and the power of ginger throughout the sauce worked brilliantly. Good job.
Som Tam Thai – bangkok style green papaya salad with snake beans, dried shrimp, peanuts and cherry tomatoes (£9.75)
This was a great Thai salad packed with the flavours of fish sauce, fiery chilli, citrus and sugar. It was solid and pleasant to eat, but nothing “wow” about this plate of food.
Pad Ped Pla Thort – stir fried gurnard with southern style curry paste, snake beans and apple aubergines (£10)
Another slightly odd one. For me, it was too overpowered with chilli for me to be able to taste properly what was going on. There were also a load of leaves and peppercorns in the dish that I kept having to prize out of my mouth. It tasted quite good, but I didn’t overly enjoy eating it. Perhaps this kind of Thai food just isn’t for me?
Mu Hong – southern style soy braised pork belly served with pickles (£14)
This was seriously tasty and made a lovely change to having my head blown off by spice. The pork belly was gloriously fatty and had taken on a wonderfully deep flavour of soy. And when paired with the pickles on the side, it was a true joy to eat.
Gaeng Kua Jay – mild red curry of winter melon, dtok kajorn flowers and betel leaf (£12)
This was a rather interesting red curry, the like of which I’ve never eaten before. It wasn’t overly spicy and had a strong flavour of Thai herbs throughout. I quite liked the winter melon too. Would I order this again though? Sorry, no.
So, Som Saa is a rather mixed bag for me. I’m slightly worried my palate isn’t sophisticated enough for their version of Thai food though. I really do admire the creativity and am pleased they’re doing so well, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing back any time soon. It’s way too expensive to keep going back in the hope one day your taste buds will all of a sudden roll over and allow themselves to be assaulted by a wave of shrimp paste. I do think however, this is a place that divides the crowd. Some people love it. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.
Should you go to Som Saa?
If you love adventurous non-stereotypical Thai food, I think it’s worth giving a go. Be warned though, the food at Som Saa is not for the fainthearted.
How much does it cost?
£30-£45pp with drinks
|Overall:||(6.7 / 10)|
|Flavour:||(4.5 / 10)|
|Creativity:||(8.5 / 10)|
|Presentation:||(7.5 / 10)|
|Service and Ambiance:||(9.0 / 10)|
|Value for money:||(4.0 / 10)|