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Sabai Sabai Simply Thai, MSG-free Thai on Century Blvd in Germantown


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After my 3rd visit to this haven of Thai cuisine, I am prepared to declare Sabai Sabai Simply Thai the best Thai restaurant in Montgomery County. Bold words, but try it, and I think you'll be a believer.

My wife & I were thrilled to discover that Sabai took over the space formerly occupied by the somewhat lackluster (in our experience) French Quarter Cafe. The interior is tasteful and stylish, somewhat surprising for G-town, and a refreshing alternative to the psychedelic-under-the-sea-outer-space theme that's become de rigueur at quite a few regional Thai outposts. Service is friendly, and the wait staff is knowledgeable about the menu, and happy to offer recommendations.

But it's the food that'll knock your socks off.

Sure, they've got solid and flavorful presentations of the standards: Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles, Kra Pow, etc, but the menu offers quite a few surprises. 1/2 of it is "Simply Thai Classics," while the other 1/2 is "Very Thai Street Fare." According to the servers, everything is fresh and made in-house. So far, with the exception of a "meh" serving of "Jungle Curry," everything has been phenomenal...and at times, approaches Lotus of Siam level, IMHO. (The biggest disappointment is the absence of LoS's legendary crispy rice appetizer.) That aside, the Spicy Catfish (with crispy basil and perfectly prepared Thai eggplant), Pad Prik Khing, and Basil Pork Crisp have all been killer entrees, and the Thai beef jerky, Kanom Jeeb (with skins that taste like fresh pasta from il Pizzico), and Street Style Grilled Pork (OMG) apps are all solid bets. It's the kind of place that's had us giddily planning our next meal, while savoring every bite...joyous Asian gluttony.

As a denizen of the G-spot (as I prefer to call it...makes Germantown sound edgy and exciting), I couldn't be more thrilled to have such a fantastic Thai restaurant just across 270.

Cheers,
Scott

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This is interesting...certainly sounds worth a visit. Where is it located, exactly?

I'm intrigued that you have declared it the *best* Thai restaurant in MoCo. I'm curious which other Thai restaurants in MoCo you've been to -- Ruan Thai? Nava Thai? How does it stand up to them?

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This is interesting...certainly sounds worth a visit. Where is it located, exactly?

If it's the former FQC spot, this is effectively on the back side of Euromotorcars Germantown, one block northwest and paralleling Route 118. From points south and west, turn into the shopping complex at the light on Middlebrook Rd and continue along another block past the Safeway. From the north, turn off 118 just prior to Euro, then left at the first stop sign (after you pass 5 Guys and Cal Tort).

Street address should be 19847 Century Blvd., Germantown.

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If it's the former FQC spot, this is effectively on the back side of Euromotorcars Germantown, one block northwest and paralleling Route 118. From points south and west, turn into the shopping complex at the light on Middlebrook Rd and continue along another block past the Safeway. From the north, turn off 118 just prior to Euro, then left at the first stop sign (after you pass 5 Guys and Cal Tort).

Street address should be 19847 Century Blvd., Germantown.

Thanks for the detailed instructions! Just wondering, have YOU been there? Any thoughts?

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It's very good, and exceptional for MoCo. Be forewarned that they'll take you at your word if you ask for it Thai hot (although Gubeen was careful to tell them not Isaan hot!)

Our initial impression is that the northern dishes are really strong, while the southern curries are good but would benefit from a little tweaking. Flavors were bright and well-balanced for the cuisine. Their take on crying tiger is interesting and delicious; I'm used to the beef being sauced before presentation, but here the beef comes unadorned from the grill and the other flavors - particularly the sourness - have all been combined into the dipping sauce. The tom yum soup with shrimp was flavorful and strong. The small portion of som tam (shredded salad) had all of the right flavors and they were well-melded, although the version Gubeen makes calls for more long bean and dried shrimp. We were also impressed by the mushroom yum yum, a dish we've never seen on any other Thai menu, made with three types of mushrooms and dressed with a powerful combination of pounded chilis.

Their version of pad Thai is perhaps as good as Thai Basil's IMHO; the differences being that TB's has a slightly higher proportion of green vegetables, while SS's has perhaps the most perfectly cooked noodles we've seen - dense and with good chew. Whoever is whipping this stuff up in the kitchen has some arm strength to mix these together, unlike the soft and insipid noodles you normally encounter.

G tried the Penang curry with chicken and the sauce had a nice rich consistency, but she judged it a safe interpretation that needed more galangal (and something else which I've forgotten) to aspire to greater heights.

Overall, we liked the cooking quite a bit. And then there are a couple of things they've done that really set them apart from the herd. For one, the menu has an entire section devoted to vegetarian items, again something you don't normally encounter. Gubeen commented that this was a clever move, as it should appeal to the region's growing population of Indian vegetarians. Also, if you read the fine print at the bottom of the page, you'll see that they offer three kinds of rice to accompany your meal, including a sticky rice with garlic and ginger.

They've given the space a really nice makeover from when it was FQC, with a classy new entryway that evokes wood and water and stone, before the wall transitions to this white high relief wave texture. Will it go undiscovered in its obscure outer-suburban location? When we arrived at what should have been the peak of the dinner hour, there was only one two-top occupied. A couple of Thai families arrived, congratulated the staff, and took tables in the rear. But generally it was quiet...too quiet. Hopefully that will change, because for the moment this is easily the best table in Germantown.

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Ventured out to Sabai Sabai for lunch today. There will be more trips in my future!

We tried the Spicy Wings. These are marked mildly spicy, and even those who don't like spicy foods would enjoy these meaty, crispy wings. Smoked tea leaves adorn the plate, I could have done wtihout these as they tasted quite bitter if you accidently bite into one.

I had the Pad See-U (wide noodles with black bean sauce). I found the dish a little salty, but the flavor was great and the noodles were perfectly cooked. My companion had Penang Curry, marked very spicy on the menu. You could smell the curry as soon as the dish emerged from the kitchen. I really enjoyed the bite that I got, but the dish was so spicy that I wouldn't have enjoyed a whole order.

The Curry Puffs and Thai Battered Calamari that I saw go by both looked great. I can't wait to go back and try the Green Curry.

Appetizers run $6.95 to $8.95 and entrees run $8.95 to $18.95.

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A coworker and I had lunch there today. The Crying Tiger was something else - steak that had been marinated in lime juice then seared served with a chili-cumin sauce whose heat built until I was gasping for air. But it was in a good way - I may get that every time I go there. I also gave their version of Floating Market Noodle Soup a try, being a big fan of the version at Nava Thai. It's not as mind blowingly hot as NT's version, and there was a weird separation between the blood and stock. But it still tasted damn good. The pork rinds were extremely crispy and there was a lot of the nice, charred steak. The portion size was smaller than NT's, too.

The street food section of the menu is the one I'll be exploring more and more. Very nice atmosphere and attentive service. Finally a good Thai option near work in the G'burg/G'town area.

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This place continues to impress. In fact, I think they've gotten better each of my visits since the spring, including Saturday's takeout order:

  • Tofu Minced Pork Soup (With glass noodles and mushrooms in clear broth) easily made 3 full bowls. Noodles were perfectly cooked, even after the drive home. Tons of firm tofu cubes, pork, mushrooms and greens; barely room for the flavorful broth.
  • Yum Woon Sen (Seasoned glass noodles, chicken, shrimp & veggies) was tasty, but not spectacular. Nice kick, but too many raw onions kept the balance off.
  • Pad Thai (Noodles w/ egg, bean sprouts, peanuts, pork), as Dave mentions above, is spectacular, even in takeout. Wonderfully cooked noodles; all of the ingredients are in perfect proportion so that you taste them individually and yet they are better together.
  • Ka-Na Moo Krob (crispy 3-layer pork stir-fried with Chinese broccoli). Pork belly - need one say more? Nope.
  • Green Curry (With coconut milk, bamboo shoots, basil and chicken). For a one-star dish, this was packing plenty of heat. Great flavor.

Total about $50, dinner for 4 with leftovers. Super friendly staff, beautiful dining room., and lots of dishes that go beyond the standards.

Better than Nava Thai and Ruan Thai? Certainly in the ballpark, making it harder to justify a long drive if you live closer to Germantown (and since Ruan and Nava seem to have off days here and there, though I haven't been to Sabai enough to know if they also have bad days.)

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The sweet corn cakes - from the vegetarian menu - must have crack mixed in. They are that addictive.

They are like 3D funnel cakes with corn mixed in, with some spicy dips. The frying is light and the taste is sweet and corn filled but not overwhelmed. Just fabulous.

I'm looking for my next excuse to go to Blackrock for a show so i can dine here first.

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We keep coming back to Sabai Sabai because it has that flavor, and the several tables of Thai diners we saw tonight seemed to agree. The dining room was full at 8 PM on this Tuesday night, so we had to wait briefly for a table.

Are there any Thai translators in here? There is an additional menu card, written only in Thai, of additional dishes that they feel only Thai diners would be interested in. As explained by the table next to us, some of the dishes are minor variants of dishes on the regular menu (the addition of a salted egg to som tam, for instance), but others are fairly distinct. Unfortunately, the menu items are unnumbered, so a simple translation might only be of limited help. The staff did at least seem enthusiastic about our interest in these dishes; next time, I think we're going to ask them to pick some typically Thai thing(s) from that menu for us to try.

Meanwhile, I inhaled an entire plate of spicy catfish. Hot Thai peppers and whole strings of peppercorns light up a plate of crispy fried fish, fresh Thai eggplant, and crisp translucent fried basil leaves. Wonderful noms.

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I had dinner at Sabai Sabai a week ago with some friends. We loved our food which included mee krob (crispy noodles in sauce with shrimp and tofu), veggie mee krob, and lahb (minced chicken with herbs) for starters. The flavors were sweet and tangy and spicy and crunchy all at once. Our entrees were selected based on recommendations from Don Rockwell. In his February 15 review he declares his meal at Sabai Sabai "the best Thai meal I've had in years." We had the crispy duck with basil, crispy herbal fish, lahd na (chicken with wide noodles and Chinese broccoli in light gravy), and Sabai Sabai grilled chicken with papaya salad and sticky rice. The portions are nicely sized. The duck is peppery with hints of five-spice powder. It's topped with crispy basil. Delicious. The fish is cooked perfectly. There is quite a bit of burn in these dishes, but the smoky, sweet, and tangy flavors in the dishes offset the heat. The food was powerful but not overpowering. Each dish had intense flavors but were unique at the same time.

Don had a follow-up review where he found the food "incredibly mediocre." I hope this was on an off night, as my meal was within close proximity to his and was quite excellent. My full review is on my blog at http://beenthereeatenthat-foodobsessed.blogspot.com/2011/03/sabai-sabai-simply-thai-is-not.html

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We ate there this weekend and, in addition to a couple standbys, got the Red Pumpkin Curry (added pork) from the specials menu. The Red Pumpkin Curry was smooth and enveloping like a warm quilt. They have DC Brau (in cans) on offer which is beneficial because they're still kicking heat (when requested). I greatly respect the temperment and grace of this place.

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