So I've long been a fan of the Sab-E-Lee restaurants. So much so that I went opening week to the Santee location and recommended countless friends and coworkers to both locations and nobody I had heard from had ever been disappointed. However the Santee location being in Santee, I found it had been over 6 months (last time was around June 2010 I think) since I was last there. Over the holidays, I had some friends that had been to the Linda Vista location and loved it, so organized an excursion to Santee and invited me along so I could recommend the great dishes.
Boy were we disappointed.
The first thing I noticed was that Koby was missing. I'm not sure if it was because it was the holidays or if it was because it was during lunch, but he was noticeably absent. The other owner was there and he did recognize me (and made it a point to serve our table instead of the waitresses). We ordered many dishes, but among the ones I would like to comment on: Larb Ahi Tuna, Volcano Fish, and Spicy Raw Beef.
Larb Ahi Tuna: The tuna in this dish was rancid. I took one bite and could taste the bitterness, and it took all I had in me to actually swallow vs spit it out. We had to send this dish back, and we insisted not getting a replacement.
Volcano Fish: This is my favorite dish that is offered at the Santee location. I've tried their other special fish dishes, but I always liked the combination of the showmanship with this dish as well as the combination of flavors. The first thing that got messed up with this dish was that they decided to light the dish on the pass and then bring it over to the table. By the time the fish arrived, it was no longer flaming. In the old days, Koby would always bring the dish over and then light it tableside to get the entire showmanship.
Furthermore, before even tasting the dish, I started looking towards to kitchen to see who was in there. Gone was the single young chef with the immaculate chef whites and tall chefs hat, and he was replaced with 2 older gentlemen of asian descent with aprons tied around t-shirts.
The reason I looked towards the kitchen was that instead of getting a nice thick piece of halibut that was perfectly cooked and moist in the center, the halibut was instead exactly what you would expect from a hole in the wall thai joint in Santee where the filets had been sliced in half so they were thin and they made damned sure that they killed the fish a second and third time before serving. The further worsen this dish, the balance of the sauce was completely lost as the ratio of coconut milk was too high and the coconut flavor easily overpowered the other flavors.
Spicy Raw Beef: I've always found the Santee location's execution of this dish to be superior to the Linda Vista. There is generally more care in the slicing of the beef so that the meat is more tender. This quality was completely missing from the dish this time. In fact, the spicy raw beef I had 2 weeks prior in Linda Vista was far superior to this dish. The beef just tasted a bit bland.
Anyway, I'm willing to give them another chance since there may have been some mitigating circumstances to cause this horrible experience but I've just been wondering if any other hounds have been to the Santee location recently and if so was the experience inferior to prior visits.
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