Sawadee in Thai means 'hello,' and Sawadee Thailand restaurant is the ideal introduction to the cuisine of the Land of Smiles for the uninitiated
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., June 24, 2005
5517 Manchaca, 383-9908
Monday-Saturday, 11am-9pmSawadee in Thai means "hello," and Sawadee Thailand restaurant is the ideal introduction to the cuisine of the Land of Smiles for the uninitiated. Opened nine months ago by the Chareonsakviroj family (Marylou and Ray, for the tongue-tied), Sawadee is a laid-back casual spot at the northeast corner of Stassney and Manchaca roads. It would be difficult to find a more gracious and friendly pair of hosts, or a more accommodating couple to guide your discovery of the joys of Thai cuisine.
An ideal introduction is their lunch buffet ($6.99, Monday-Saturday, 11am-3pm). You can sample the two classic soups, tom yum and tom kah; choose from four to five different appetizers and six to eight entrées; and several desserts and fruits are offered each day (with plenty of options for the vegetarians in our midst). The buffet option takes all of the pressure off of menu decision-making: Try it all and see what you like.
The menu at Sawadee holds some treasures. Among the appetizers, our faves are the Tod Mun Fish Cakes (three for $3.99), the Garlic Chicken Wings (six for $3.99), and the Thai Toast With Pork (six for $2.99). Sawadee really shines with their salads: All are excellent, especially their version of Laab ($6.99), a tart and spicy blend of just-cooked minced chicken with mint and ground roasted rice. On our last visit, we ordered Som Tam ($5.99), shredded papaya with green bean, tomato, and onion, served with sticky rice for mopping up the dressing. Marylou offered the classic fiery Issan (northeast Thai) version, made with fermented fish paste. Delicious and very authentic, but the milder and less pungent style is also available for the neophytes.
All of the classic curries are available ($5.99 to 7.99), and they make them in the proper soupy style, not the thick gloppy versions found at less authentic venues. The tastes are well-balanced and complex. Sawadee's noodles are first-rate: The Pad Thai ($5.99) is pleasingly tart and rich; the Pad See Ewe With Chicken and Broccoli ($5.99) is savory and intricate, the pasta perfectly cooked. A street vendor specialty, Lard Nah ($6.99, large flat rice noodles topped with a thick soy gravy, meat, and veggies) is a delight.
We've tried many of the entrées, finding ourselves quite fond of the Pla Lard Plick ($6.99 gets you ample amounts of tilapia filet with an intense topping of chiles, Thai basil, and veggies in a sauce with a hint of tamarind). The Royal Chicken ($5.99, also available with beef) is more a warm-composed salad than stir fry, tossed in a flavorful peanut sauce with braised chicken meat, mushrooms, snow peas, and red bell pepper. The sauce is assertive enough to be served on noodles, and that's how we'll have it next time. The Pad Kaprow ($5.99, chicken with Thai holy basil, chiles, peppers, and onions in a spicy sauce with a kiss of fish sauce) is very nice. Every dish we've tried has been a success.
The crowd at each visit has been primarily young and artsy, looking like they might live in the local neighborhood. Service has been exemplary, and management will bend over backward to make you happy. Marylou says they are still tweaking the menu, adding some items if they are repeatedly requested (and if they have the components on hand, they'll try to make on-demand dishes). If we had a gripe, it would be to have more pork on the menu. In Austin, Sawadee means good food at great prices served well.
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