After some Oktoberfest action (beer drinking at Bierschenke) we debated where to go for dinner in Shoreditch. Sadly we are not in east London often enough and wanted something with a fun vibe and good food. We decided on Som Saa, the Thai restaurant that so many people rave about. We had gone for a Som Saa pop-up at Luiz Hara’s house and didn’t care for the food, but at the time we thought it was because it was not in their own kitchen, etc and wanted to try it properly, at the restaurant. By the way when Luiz cooks his own Nikkei food its the best supper club in London!
We didn’t have a booking so we were told the wait would be an hour. Not bad for a Saturday night so we settled at the bar with some yummy cocktails and some snacks. Sadly, at 8:20 on a Saturday they had already run out of laarb and the snack options were limited, albeit good if not too salty.
We were hoping to order some of the menu items with our drinks but that’s not allowed. Finally we were moved to our table and voraciously hungry at that point, we decided to order a lot and experiment. We all LOVE Thai food and have been to Thailand and maybe that’s why we weren’t too impressed.
The service was also very weak. When we didn’t like one of the cocktails, we were told they couldn’t remove it from the bill as it had been “sitting there” for a while which made it diluted. Yes, it had been, as we had told the other waitress and she ignored it and then we didn’t drink it.
What we ate:
Grilled banana leaf parcel of silver mullet with lemongrass, herbs and egg: a mushy mix of fishy mullet mixed with the rest. All you could taste was the very strong fish and it was visually unappealing and the taste was too strong. Thai tamale gone bad…
Bangkok style green papaya salad with snake beans, dried shrimp, peanuts and cherry tomatoes: Dorothy and I LOVE papaya salad but sadly not this one. The whole thing was so sharp that it almost burned your tongue. We left most of it behind. So disappointing.
‘Khua’ style red curry with mussels and pineapple: I liked this dish ok even though it could have used a higher seafood to sauce ratio. The sauce was nice and thick, and worked well when eaten with some sticky rice – which they also ran out of and we had to beg and implore till they scored us a bit more.
Dry red curry of crispy pork with kaffir lime leaf and snake beans: this was a fail. The pork was absurdly fatty and it was one big goopy dish where you couldn’t identify the various components.
Stir fried English and Asian vegetables: one of the best things we ate all night. A nice simple mix of cabbage and lots of mushrooms.
Whole deep fried seabass with roasted rice and Isaan herbs: this was the best fish of the evening. Fun presentation with the whole fish served crispy on the outside and tender on the inside and accompanied by a deliciously herby and fresh salad.
Salted palm sugar ice cream with turmeric grilled banana: the ice cream was creamy and good and the bananas were ok.
Duck egg and jackfruit seed custard with poached jackfruit and crispy shallots: Dorothy doesn’t eat dessert but as a chef, she thought we needed to order it to fulfill her curiosity. This was seriously the most disgusting dessert we ever tried. The custard had an odd not creamy texture and the shallots were just nasty. Even if this had been a savoury dish it would have been gross. The waiter told us: Do you know how hard it is to make a duck egg custard? Who cares, waste of time!
In sum: the meal was almost comical. They ran out of loads of things and the service was so disjointed. When we asked if it was a particularly bad evening as people probably didn’t show to work because the Thai King died and they were mourning they looked at us like we were aliens speaking gibberish. They had no clue the king died but why am I surprised, none of the staff seemed to be Thai, and since London doesn’t have great Thai food, probably that is why Som Saa gets raving reviews as people don’t know what to expect. I found the whole experience underwhelming and extremely salty.