Restaurants & Bars

Sawasdee (Soquel) greets with Thai delights

Carb Lover | May 6, 200502:35 PM     1

Sawasdee opened up in Dec. 2004 right on the main drag of Soquel Ave. in Soquel. It stands out amongst all the antique shops on that strip. I heard about it from a review in the Sentinel (see link) and was intrigued by the description. I was immediately drawn to its unusual name, what I then learned as the Thai expression for hello or goodbye, since many Asian restaurants here usually have gringo-friendly names using orchid, inn, or garden. Sawasdee is refreshingly different...

Y and I decided to test it out for lunch earlier this week. In short, Sawasdee greeted us w/ open arms and fresh, flavorful food such that we'll be saying hello again very soon. This place perked up my faith in Asian food in this area. Leagues better than Real Thai, and has an edge over Sabieng for variety and heat factor.

Lunch menu is abbreviated and focused w/ a good variety of lunch specials, noodle dishes, and Thai noodle soups (what they interestingly label as "pho"). Specials come w/ soup and steamed jasmine rice. Some also come w/ choice of chicken satay or Thai egg rolls. Prices range from $6-8. Dinner menu is mind-blowingly large for a place this size in this area. Many creative dishes incorporating eggplant, pumpkin, pompano, sole, duck. Dinner entrees range from $8-15, w/ special seafood and meat dishes naturally deeming higher prices.

We ordered:
Red curry lunch special ($8). Chicken, bamboo shoots, red bell pepper, basil, swimming in a creamy coconut milk red curry. Medium heat, well balanced flavors, chicken was fresh and tender. Also came w/ two skewers of turmeric and curry-marinated chicken satay w/ a fresh peanut sauce and pickled cucumbers. Fresh and exotic flavors, but the curry was a bit soupy. Could stand to have more heat for my taste. Good but not great.

Catfish in chile paste w/ eggplant, green beans, bell pepper, carrots, and basil (pad ped pla duk; $7). This dish was the winner of the two. Wonderfully spicy and sultry w/ a complex chile paste streaming throughout the entire dish. Catfish was firm and caramelized. Eggplant was earthy and fresh. Very generous portion.

Each lunch special came w/ vegetable hot and sour coconut milk soup (tom kha) and two heaping mounds of rice. Soup had a nice kick from chile flakes, lemongrass, and galangal. Veggies were undercooked but fresh. Rice was large portion, but was on the wet side. For boba nostalgia sake, I ordered the Thai tea w/ black pearls to go ($2.50). Tea was good but balls were too soft and mushy.

Service was fast, attentive, and gracious. Very apparent that they care if you like their food. Hostess and server were both Thai, and I could hear everyone in the kitchen speaking Thai. Seems to be doing well, as the place was half full for being past 1pm. Y surprised me by saying, "you know the place is probably good since there were a few people eating alone." Hmmm...not always true, but seemed like a very houndly thing to say...

What I really like about this place is that they have standard dishes to please less adventurous palates, but also have more unusual ones to draw in hounds like us. And here's an ethnic eatery that seems to be taking advantage of the wonderful produce and ingredients in this area. Will return soon for dinner to try the pumpkin red curry, duck dishes, and large selection of seafood specials. Salads and apps sound great too. Hope other local hounds will go and report back!

5050 Soquel Dr.
Soquel, CA
Hours: Sun-Th 11-9; Fri & Sat 11-10

Link: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/arch...

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