Many of you fondly remember the local chain of Thai restaurants known as Madam Mam’s. But the team behind those restaurants has dissolved, so to speak. Sap and Mam have divorced. Yeah, it happens in the restaurant business too. Which brings us today to the new Sap’s Fine Thai Cuisine at Westgate across from Central Market. Some of the menu names at Sap’s have been changed to reflect the new ownership, but the food here is as good or even better than it’s ever been. And to those who know Sap, well, that’s no surprise.
I always begin with an order of the Deep Fried Spring Rolls. They are stuffed with bean thread noodles and green cabbage bamboo shoots, and are crunchy morsels of essential Thai flavors. And also get the Tod Mun Chicken. This is ground chicken mixed with magrood leaf and chopped green beans. Wonderful flavors here. And the Chicken Satay is another treat! The chicken is grilled on a skewer (but still retains its tenderness) and served with a spicy peanut sauce. This traditional Thai appetizer is a must for any visit to Sap’s. Then try the Kung Krabueng. This is deep-fried rice paper (a treat in itself) stuffed with minced shrimp and pork. Served with a sweet chili sauce, this is an essential appetizer as well.
Another often overlooked aspect of Sap’s cuisine are his marvelous soups. The Guay Teaw Gai Toon is a chicken soup for the ages. It’s a simple soup comprised of flat rice noodles, tender pieces of chicken, Chinese mushrooms and the most marvelous chicken broth you’ve ever tasted. But the flavors are savory and unrelenting. I also love the stunning Napa Cabbage Soup. I last had it with codfish, cabbage, onions, celery and a mild yet very comforting and tasty broth. There are many more intriguing soups on the menu at Sap’s as well.
Thai noodle dishes are long on flavor and texture, and Sap’s has some great ones. The Pad Kee Mao is my favorite. This hot and spicy dish blends linguine with mushrooms, basil, peppers and spices. Each bite of this is so packed with flavor that one simply doesn’t want to put down the fork. I like it with pork. And the Lard Na features flat noodles with Chinese broccoli in a thick gravy with accents of soy. The gravy is always the right consistency, and the flavors are spot on. And the Thai classic, the Pad Thai is well handled at Sap’s. The mix of stir fried rice noodles with meat, egg, sweet pickled relish, bean sprouts, tofu and crushed peanuts is as faithful a rendition of this dish that most Americans try first.
Of course, curries are an essential part of Thai cuisine and Sap has several that resonate with me. The Green Curry or Keow Wan with chicken is about as tasty as anything I’ve tried in this genre. Beautiful accents and flavor profiles, and this is one dish where I’ll break training and eat the white rice because the curry is that good. If you’re looking for something milder, try the red curry or Gang Kua. This is a bit sweeter and less likely to make you break out into a hot flavor sweat (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Some of the entrees at Sap’s, indeed most of them, are so interesting that it would take three reviews to cover them all. But here are a few. The Prik Khing Catfish is a must order. This dish has small chunks of catfish with snap peas in a wonderful curry paste. It’s on the nuclear side but who cares? With taste like this a small sacrifice is in order! And the Amazing Green Beans are just that! This dish comes packing heat and I recommend the ground chicken and tofu to accompany. But the flavors are absolutely beautiful. Just take small bites. it’s also ridiculously healthy for you. The Tiger Cry is another dish with a great name and even better taste. Again, simplicity is the jewel here. Grilled beef with Sap’s special sauce and served on sticky rice with an amazing roasted Thai chili sauce. And if you like Tilapia, you’ll love the Pla Jian. The tilapia is fired with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce along with shredded fresh ginger, green onions and jalapenos. I have never tasted anything quite like this. The flavors come at you in waves in this dish and I’m almost addicted to it.
So welcome to Sap’s Fine Thai Cuisine. The name says it all. And in the Thai world, it is indeed as fine as anything you’ll encounter in the river city.