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Sabai Thai, a small, new Delray Beach eatery, pleases varying palates in a big way

Sabai Thai is new to the Shops at San Marco in Delray Beach.

Located just off Jog and Lake Ida Roads in the Shops at San Marco shopping center in western Delray Beach, Sabai Thai is a spinoff of the like-named restaurant in Boynton Beach.  The atmosphere is casual, the service friendly and the food has wide appeal.

 By ALAN J. WAX

I half laughed when I saw the coming soon signs some months back for Sabai Thai and Sushi in the Shops at San Marco shopping center in western Delray Beach.

Just what we needed, I thought. Another restaurant serving up pad thai and rainbow rolls.

Boy, was I wrong.  This tiny, casual eatery, a spinoff of an identically named restaurant that opened in 2017 on Hypoluxo Road in Boynton Beach, quickly has become a favorite.

Filling the space once occupied by BurgerIm and before that a Subway sandwich shop, Sabai Thai lives up to its name. Sabai in the Thai language means comfortable.

The sushi bar inside Sabai Thai.

Seating just 44, including six spots at the sushi bar, Sabai Thai is done up in blue and turquoise with ketchy fish nets and colorful tropical fish wall hangings along with five-piece painted beach scenes. Tables appear to be topped with fake driftwood. Blackwood banquettes along the wall, though, are a bit too low for the tables. You can sit  on a grey chair at a center table, if that’s an issue. And, there’s a large flat-screen TV on the  wall above the sushi bar that seems to present a never-ending travelogue of food vendors on the streets of Bangkok.

Overseeing it all is Apple Darinrat, the slim, friendly, attentive owner, who can be spotted in the dining room attired in a floral Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans. She holds a degree in hotel management from Bankok’s Assumption University, according to Facebook. We witnessed her skillfully guide a couple at neighboring table to order food that would not inflame their taste buds. When I ordered my food to be authentically spicy, she said, “I told the kitchen to make it spicy like for Thai people.”  It was.

With that kind of attitude, Sabai Thai pleases all palates, albeit at prices higher than some nearby competitors. To be sure there are weekday lunch specials from $10.95 to $13.95.

Sushi appetizer.

A five-piece sushi appetizer at Sabai was $10.95.  At a Thai-sushi eatery elsewhere in the same Delray Beach neighborhood you can get six pieces of raw fish for $9.95. Nonetheless, the chef’s choices at Sabai were fresh and more varied: salmon, tuna, ebi (shrimp), escolar (white tuna) and, most surprising, strongly flavored mackerel.   Sushi in Thai eateries seems unique to Florida and the phenomenon was explained to me by a Sabai server that it’s a necessity to attract groups that may include diners who won’t eat Thai cuisine.

Orange duck sans vegetables.

Among the palates that Sabai Thai pleased was that of my spice and seafood averse spouse, who happily devoured the restaurant’s orange duck ($24.95), a crisp half bird that usually is served with steamed vegetables (left off at my wife’s request), orange sauce and orange slices.

My palate was excited by everything I tried at Sabai Thai.

Tom Yom soup ($4.95), a type of hot and sour soup made with chicken (also available with the more traditional shrimp), also contained mushrooms, tomato and scallions in a chili-flecked, creamy lemongrass broth that was intensely flavored and spiced to my liking.

An appetizer that I rarely see, mee krob ($9.95), crispy vermicelli noodles tossed with chicken and shrimp and a sweet tamarind sauce, could serve as a perfect introduction to Thai food.

Papaya salad.

Tom Yom soup.

Papaya salad ($11.95), a text book hot-weather dish, is a plateful of shredded green papaya, garlic, carrot, green bean, tomato and crusted peanuts mixed with tamarind sauce and lime juice, and spiced to a diner’s specification.

During a separate visit, I happily dined on the yellow chicken curry ($14.95), which contained a pleasing golden-hued mélange of onion, potato. peanut,

Yellow chicken curry.

Pork larb.

pineapple and crispy shallots with varied textures and flavors, and of course, enough heat to satisfy my palate, as requested.

On another occasion, I opted for pork larb a/k/a larb mhoo ($12.95), a salad made with finely minced pork, carrots, red onion, scallion and mint mixed with rice powder, fish sauce and lime juice. Wow, what layers of flavors! The heat pleasantly singed my lips and palate and during the course of finishing the dish, I consumed four pint glasses of ice water until April brought over a complimentary cup of sweet Thai iced tea made with sugar and condensed milk that she explained was the perfect counterbalance to the spice heat. It was. And I learned something, though I should not have been surprised since yogurt-based lassi is the perfect beverage to accompany spicy Indian food.

The relaxed atmosphere, the warm and friendly service and the palate pleasing varied cuisine will make it difficult for me to remain a stranger at Sabai Thai. I’ll be there often.

Sabai Thai

13900 Jog Road, Suite 205 Delray Beach, FL 33446

(561) 774-2612

sabaithaisushifl.com

 

 

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