A few weeks back I had a day off of school so I decided to try and see how the “other half” lives. By that I mean the people who don’t have to leave their warm soup because one of their kids stole an ice cream sandwich or a parent needs to have a conference. The ones who don’t have to have a working lunch a few times a week in order to cover all the information that is being disseminated. I am also referring to the people who don’t have to wait in line behind six other people to heat their food because there is only one working microwave. Nope. For one day that was not me.
I went out to lunch. On a weekday. At an actual restaurant.
My intention was to meet J-Fur at Cilantro in order to experience their Indian buffet which I have only had the opportunity to do one other time (and I’ve dreamt about it since). I checked their website and found that they would be serving the buffet from 11:30-2:30. I picked J-Fur up and we headed over around 12:30. I casually walked up to the door and yanked it. Nothing happened. I tried again, still nothing. We walked around the side and saw that they were no longer open on Mondays. Starving, I mumbled something about it being nice if they had updated their website (which as of three seconds ago still insists they are open 7 days a week). Thankfully Sawatdee Thai was across the street. I had originally avoided Sawatdee because we had eaten Thai two days before but with Cilantro out of the way it would’ve been a long haul to anywhere else decent.
I do a lot of Thai. It goes back to my eating out only things I can’t cook. Thai is a challenge for me because I still have not mastered that damn brown sauce. Without a good brown sauce Thai is feeble and weak. Like a limp noodle. That’s what I get most of the time I attempt Thai, limp noodles.
One of the first things I noticed, upon entering Sawatdee during the daylight, was that they had a special menu called a “Lunch Menu.” I had always heard about such things but had never experienced one before. It was crazy. There were things on the menu that weren’t on their normally like free salads and tofu and little donuts. All at no cost to you. This was the life.
Our meal started with a bowl of soup and a fried piece of tofu with dipping sauce. Neither of these was spectacular but both served their purpose. The soup was light and full of veggies while the tofu and sauce gave me something a little more substantial until the main course appeared.
Thai Soup with Fried Tofu and Dipping Sauce
My normal Sawatdee (and Thai in general) order is the basil or the garlic. The basil is sauteed tofu with Thai special sauce (there it is, that damn brown sauce), basil, onions, bell pepper and bamboo shoots. The garlic is tofu, Thai Special Sauce, garlic, black pepper, carrot, cabbage and broccoli. Craving something different I decided to try the Panang Curry. With tofu, zucchini, cabbage, broccoli, bell pepper and basil in a base of coconut milk I was very impressed (more impressed than I thought a curry could ever make me). The sauce wasn’t overwhelmingly coconut (or overwhelmingly anything for that matter). The spices were gentle enough to allow the vegetables and tofu to shine through. It made me want to go home and make my own (which I just remembered).
J-Fur went with her old stand-by, the Pad Thai. This is what really sets Sawatdee apart from some of the other Thai places in Tampa. Thai Ruby’s Pad Thai lacks any taste at all. I felt like I was eating second hand chewing gum. Ploy Thai’s is just a bit too saucy. Lemon Grass overpriced theirs. Sukhothai overegged. Sawatdee (and the Buddhist Temple) are the only places that we’ve visited that consistently deliver a good Pad Thai to your plate. This pleases J-Fur.
The Pad Thai
All that was left was that free Thai donut. Having tasted Thai tea before, I figured the donut would be sickly sweet and too much to handle (worse than normal donuts). I found that it wasn’t as sweet as I expected but still a little too much for me. But it was free so I can’t complain.
The final touch
Sawatdee is reasonably priced, reasonably spiced and they have this amazing thing called a “lunch menu.” What? Everyone has those you say? I wouldn’t know.
The greatest pleasures are those little surprises that life offers. Things as simple as a good panang curry, a lunch menu or Dinosaur Feathers can make a lasting impression.