As I walk into Som Saa on a Tuesday evening at half past seven, the atmosphere is energetic and buzzing. There is something special about this place, the décor is very understated, in fact it’s an old fabric warehouse with exposed brick and a few lamps, plants and coloured bottles dotted about the place. It is a simple venue but somehow it embodies cosy, intimate and bold all at once.
For two persons or less this is not a restaurant you can easily book into, particularly at late notice, but if you take a chance and are prepared to wait a while you can take a seat at the bar and have some cocktails to start. With names like dragon’s milk, muay thai kick and la vie en rose there’s a surprise for everyone but I choose my favourite, a lime margarita on the rocks and it is made very well. My friend Eugenia opts for the bangkok calling, a thai rum and sherry concoction which is delectable.
The photo above was taken at closing time.
It’s an hour’s wait before being seated but that’s alright, three cocktails later and I am definitely ready for food. Ordering is fun, and on the menu for us tonight is the whole grilled horse mackerel with a peanut dipping sauce, herbs, rice noodles and lettuce to wrap – it arrives and not only is it impressive to look at, it is seriously tasty, an intense flavour explosion in my mouth. From the wok follows the southern style dry curry of minced pork, kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass served with fresh vegetables and some extra stirfry vegetables as a side. There are also two portions of the sticky rice that I am ready to inhale after one bite of fiery curry. Actually, just looking at my complete meal makes me wish I’d brought four pints of milk to relieve my inevitable burning tongue. Ah well, I will know for next time.
Admittedly these are not the most photogenic dishes I have ever come across, but the taste more than makes up for it. Flavours of thai basil, mint and lemongrass are inexplicably fresh and compliment the heat. Even from living in Asia, I can honestly say that I have never eaten thai food quite like this, a really unique experience for a foodie like me, albeit a foodie that cannot handle their spice. The plates exude interesting ingredients and you can feel the excitement in the air with restaurant customers in anticipation of their first bite. Be warned, in case you're expecting it, there is no pad thai in sight on this epic menu.
A restaurant that was praised by food critics in 2016, it has gone from strength to strength and I take my hat off to creators and chef's Tom George, Mark Dobbie and Andy Oliver for delivering such a modern and thrilling restaurant into the welcoming arms of Londoners and tourists alike.
Bring your colleagues, bring your friends, shout it from the rooftops. Som Saa may have started out as a pop up but this locale, it's here to stay.
Som Saa, 43A Commercial Street, London, E1 6BD