February's L.A. Lunch was held at Sabai Fine Thai on the Bay, the CBD outpost of its original fine dining Thai restaurant at Takashimaya along Orchard Road. This is as classy as it gets for Thai food, with white table linen tableclothes, elegant plating accentuating the charm of honest-to-goodness Thai cuisine, and chic sophisticated digs painted in a faint baby blue hue, a purposeful reminder that you're at the water's edge.
We secured a private space, a mezzanine above the main dining area, but because it wasn't closed off, we were still privy to the din downstairs. It did allow for a gorgeous expansive view of Marina Bay waterfront though. Even if the water looked a disgusting murky booger-green.
In addition to the very extensive menu (there are at least 300 items on the menu!), I've noticed that there are always chicken or seafood or vegetarian substitutes for almost any dish, thereby accommodating most people's dietary needs. We feasted on about 13 courses in total, and halfway through lunch, I realized that I may have ordered too much. Never you worry, we still managed to finish most of the savoury dishes, and still had space for dessert. If you're like me, there's always room for sweets even if you're popping out of your pants, isn't there?
The breadcrumb-coated crispy prawn cakes, Tawd Mun Gung ($18.50 for 4) were dripping with juicy shrimpy goodness. Everyone was clamouring for the last piece of this.
The Khao Dtang Nar Dtang ($16), crispy plain rice crackers were set up beautifully against its lightly spiced chunky minced chicken and prawn coconut milk dip.
We got to choose between the prawn version of the Thai classic hot and sour soup, the Dtom Yam Gung ($8.50 per bowl), with succulent pieces of fresh prawns and straw mushrooms. Even if this was deceptively clear, it was spicy as hell, a sure-fire way to clear your sinuses.
Most preferred the seafood version, the Dtom Yam Ruam Mit Talay ($9.50) with added fish, mussels, and squid, all swimmingly fresh and plentiful, floating in a spicy broth flavoured with lemongrass, chilli, kaffir lime and galangal and lime juice.
No Thai meal is complete without their curries, the Gang Gwio Warn Gai ($19.70) is a thick fiery curry coloured green with the use of fragrant basil leaves and green chillis, chunked up with tender morsels of chicken breast, diced eggplant and pea eggplant.
Another staple in the Thai curry stable is the Gang Bpet Yang Pollamai ($22.50) a more traditionally red curry with roasted duck and sweet lychees. I like how the fruity sweetness of the lychees balances out the spicy red curry.
A relatively "unknown" and Malay-influenced Thai curry, the Gang Mussaman Gai ($21.30) a roasted peanut-flavoured curry with Malay spices, potatoes and chicken, thickened by rich coconut milk.
One of their signatures, the Pla Neung Manao ($36), is a whole seabass steamed in tom yum-based broth. The delectable soup is refillable, if you ask nicely, and the fish is really fresh and clear.We picked the bones clean off.
One of my must-haves is the Pat Gaprao Gai ($22) minced chicken stir-fried with holy basil, cut chillis and fresh peppercorns. I prefer the pork version, but the minced chicken was soft and tender and absorbed the flavours of the seasoning really well.
The Kai Jiaw ($17.90), a Thai-styled omelette folded over several times to achieve that fluffy doughy appearance, is light, but a tad salty and oily.
Of course we ate our obligatory greens, the Pat Pak Ruam Nahm-mun-hoey ($17.70), a medley of baby corn, kailan, broccoli, carrots, cabbage and tomatoes simply fried with oyster sauce. Colourful, sweet and yummy. If only all vegetables were this easy to down.
We also had another plate of greens, Pat Pak Gub Nahm-mun-hoey ($17.70) baby kailan stir-fried with garlic and chillis. Simple, crunchy and delicious.
We had a little carb, the gorgeously purplish Kao Op Namliap ($17) rice fried with fermented black olives and chicken topped with roasted cashews. I love this. Love love LOVE. Even the newbies loves this as well. A little salty, a little nutty, and packed with flavour, this was great fried rice.
The Ice-Cream Gati ($7) a scoop of coconut sorbet with a handful of attap seeds and jelly-coated water chestnut, was a refreshingly light way to round off the heavy meal.
Durian lovers should not miss out on the Kao Niew Durian Nahm Gati ($9.50), durian simmered in coconut milk served with sticky rice. Granted, it's a strong dessert not for the faint-of-heart, but it's sweet, rich, heady and creamy.
The most iconic of Thai desserts, the Kao Niew Mamuang ($14.50) is a whole fleshy mango served alongside sticky steamed glutinous ricewith a drizzling of sweet coconut milk.
Another refreshingly light dessert, Tap Tim Grop ($7), or what is known locally as "red ruby" is a little too sweet and rich, but the water chestnut provides a nice clear contrast to the creamy coconut milk.
Sabai Fine Thai on the Bay
70 Collyer Quay
#01-02 Customs House
Tel: 6535 3718
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11.30am to 2pm
Mondays to Saturdays from 6pm to 10pm
Closed on Sundays