Fi and I met through work, she lives in my home town but isn’t Glaswegian. We fast became firm friends, she’s the type of friend you could call at 3am and she’d be with you in the morning, but she’d equally tell you to put down the glass and go to bed and stop being an idiot, expect she’d use somewhat stronger language.
She arrived late and was starving, yes there is a theme here. She didn’t care what we ate as long as we ate, and why didn’t I have a list of suggestions already prepared?
Keen to catch some sun and drink wine we headed to commercial street because in an hour and 20 minutes Som Saa would open, and I was desperate to try it, I have only heard good things and I love, love Thai food. As they don’t take bookings for two my cunning plan was drinks nearby and arrived dead on 5pm, yeah pretty cunning!
Luckily the nearest bar is the beautiful Culpepper complete with rooftop oasis, you do need to book but we just added our names to the list at the bar and within 10 minutes were on the roof. The rooftop house the Culpeppers city garden and it’s beautiful, and so peaceful, the booking system is completely worth it because it’s not jam packed and everyone has a seat. They do have bar nibbles but we were saving ourselves, service was quick and friendly. Actually the service here is always lovely.
At 5.15, ( I know, the wine distracted me from the time) we headed to Som Saa. Originally a pop up, that then held a residency for a year in Hackney it finally put down root this April. The team behind it is formidable and it shows. The first thing that hits you is the incredible smell of lemongrass when you walk in to the front bar which is stripped back and light and airy.
We had some wine at the bar and were seated at 6.00pm, despite opening at 5.00pm no one seems to be seated then. Fi and I then had to come to a compromise on the menu choices, she was adamant no salad but I love Thai salads, filled with herbs as base not just an after thought.
The menu is split into sections and designed for sharing, which is one of the reasons I love Thai food, is the sharing and social aspect of it. With some help from Ben we settled on mu yaang, lon bpoo, gaeng parang neua kem, nahm dtok pla thort and from the specials board yum moo, which was yummy! We were told the appropriate amount of rice would come and we had some sticky and some jasmine.
We started with the dish I was most exited about, nahm dtok pla thort. This, whether intentionally or not has become the restaurant and chef Andy Oliver’s signature dish. A whole deep fried seabass with roasted rice and Isaan herbs, Isaan being the northeastern area of Thailand, the food here is famous for being packed with fresh herbs.
This is the type of food I dream about, the sort of dish I will learn for, I am already just thinking about it. The fish is crisp and slightly chewy on the outside but the flesh is perfectly cooked, soft, it falls of the bones and the bed of wonder in which its sits is so packed with flavour of mint and coriander and shallots and lime and fish sauce and so much more. We literally picked the bones clean.
Next came gaeng parang neua kem, a panang curry with braised salted beef cheeks with jasmine rice. The only way to describe this is melt in the mouth, the meat was sensational, soft, sweet and packed with flavour. The curry it was in was very good.
From the grill the mu yaang was tasty, a real dish to pick at as it is literally grilled park neck in a dressing and a great dressing. Personally I found it a little fatty and too chewy.
The one dish that didn’t work for me was the lon bpoo, a relish of crab and coconut cream that came with crudités to dip in. Now this is under soups so I probably should have expected it to be hot, but I didn’t. I love crab, but the hot not quite soup, not quite dip just didn’t work for me especially with the cold vegetables for dipping and I’m sad because, did I mention I love crab.
Overall I loved the food and the service was perfect friendly and efficient, without ever feeling rushed. I don’t expect to like everything I try and I think it’s good not too because it means chefs are trying our stuff rather than playing it’s safe, I mean how much fun would that be. If you are greedy like me you’ll probably wish the tables were a little bigger, it’s a squeeze and we ended up with our wine in the floor and water on the bench next to us. I’m definitely going back just to hang out in the bar and watch some of the cocktails taking shape as the one I did see looked amazing. And who am I kidding, like I’d go and not eat anything, especially given I didn’t get to try the bar snacks!
Go, Som Saa will make you happy, I’ll see you at the bar!