Address: 160 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby
Sunflowers adorned the tables outside and as we walked through the doors, the presence of Thai aroma’s made our stomach’s do cartwheels. As we were led to our table, we passed by an open grill where the chef looked to be cooking satay skewers. Fresh fruit adorned the bar ready for the evening’s cocktail orders and we thought the restaurant was designed cleverly – there were separate areas which made us feel we weren’t sitting in one long room. Being the sister restaurant to Café Hanoi, we had high expectations and so far we were not disappointed.
The great thing about the menu was that it was short, easy to read and didn’t overwhelm us. It was presented simply on one page and consisted of grilled, smaller and larger dishes as well as side options. On one side of the menu there is picture with a caption explaining the background behind the menu (relating to the Head Chef and his personal life experiences), and the other listed the dishes on offer. There was also a separate “platter” option for $30 and this contained 5-6 dishes from the main menu. This seemed exceptionally good value except for the fact that it didn’t consist of the dishes that caught our eye on the main menu. Dishes were named as per their traditional Thai name however English explanations were provided underneath (luckily!).
From homemade pork crackling to wok seared pork spare ribs and tiger prawn cutlets with Thai glass noodles, the menu didn’t really feature traditional Thai dishes (as we know them) and this made for a unique culinary experience. It is worth noting that larger dishes are listed in order of spiciness – keep this in mind! Vegetarians are well catered for and tofu seemed to feature heavily. A dessert menu was presented following our entrée and main and this featured dishes including smoked Thai shortbread, sticky rice and an extensive list of dessert wines.
To start, we opted for the “kab moo” which was the homemade pork crackling followed by “miang pla” (grilled market fish on perilla leaves with vermicelli, peanuts, crispy shallots and nahm jim seafood sauce), and “lon phu nim” (fried soft shell crab with pickled crab and coconut sauce, dill and coriander). We followed our starters with “gaem wua sarm ros” which consisted of twice cooked beef cheeks with spicy pickle and tamarind sauce, and “mussaman gae” which was the classic Thai mussaman curry with lamb shoulder, kumara, pickled baby onions, peanuts and curry leaf. We complimented our dishes with sticky rice and a glass of the 2015 “Gotas de Mar” alberino.
Portion sizes were adequate and we could not fault the smaller and larger dishes we ordered. The homemade pork crackling was moreish however could have done with some added salt or flavouring. In our opinion though, the dishes we would recommend you try would be the market fish on perilla leaves, and the mussaman curry.
We were warned the mussaman curry would be spicy given it was listed towards the end of the larger meal section, however we were well able to cope with the heat and it was definitely bearable (coming from two people who aren’t fantastic with spice).
We couldn’t fault the service and the flavours really impressed us. Dishes were served quickly so if you’re in a rush or have somewhere to get to after your meal, Saan is a good option for you. The restaurant had a private dining room which would be good for corporate groups. The pricing is not what you’d pay at your local Thai takeaway – smaller dishes averaged $16 dollars and larger about $26, however as we mentioned above, Saan provided the best overall dining experience we’ve had this year. The flavours really wowed us!