Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sawasdee

Location: Sawasdee

Rating: Very good
Meal:  Lunch
Price:  880 yen
Payment:  Credit Cards accepted
Dish:  Thai Basil Chicken
English Menu: Yes
Smoking:  No

Sawasdee is possibly my favorite place to eat lunch, so it was going to end up here eventually.  Rarely does a week go by in which I don't eat there at least once.  There are at least 3 Thai restaurants in Yokosuka, and while none of them is an outstanding example of real Thai food, for my money Sawasdee is the best.  I will try and review the other Thai places at some point in the future.

Sawasdee is located right next to Daie Mall, and is therefore convenient for the base lunch crowd.  In addition, their weekday lunch special menu is an incredible deal at 880 yen.  They have a simple lunch menu that changes monthly, so even if you go every week (ahem) you never get bored.  Want a green curry?  Got that.  Shrimp fried rice?  Done.  Feeling like soup?  There are usually 2 on the menu.  And there's always a weekly special that you can see right at the entrance where there is a sample of it cooked and on display (no fake food here).  Some of my favorite dishes over the years have been specials that I've only seen once and never again.  They are probably all on the dinner menu, but we rarely come for dinner as it is much more expensive.  Speaking of which, you can order off the main menu for lunch if you wish, which I do periodically when I have a discount to cash in (more on that later).  I'll usually splurge for a chicken satay (the pork satay is a bit dry) or salad rolls.  The main menu is very extensive.

Subject to monthly change...


The lunch specials themselves are...well...special.  They take the "teishoku" concept to an exquisite level, unlike any other Thai restaurant in Yokosuka.  There is always a salad, soup and dessert.  But you *never know exactly what they will be like*!  Usually inconsistency is to be avoided in a restaurant, but in this case it is a benefit.  The soups are slightly different, sometimes with or without glass noodles (which I dislike and never eat), or little meatballs, but with a delicious clear broth that would be perfect if you had a cold.  The salad can be extra spicy or not, garnished with pork or chicken or...was that duck?  The desserts range from the delicious thick coconut milk and tapioca balls I had to day, to a cake-like thing that I don't like much, to my personal favorite, kabocha (pumpkin) in coconut milk.  Regardless, you are sure to get a well rounded meal that somehow doesn't leave you stuffed to the gills but very satisfied.   All this for a shade over $7.  <edit>In reviewing this post, I realized I forgot to mention that you get a free drink with the meal too.  For 100 yen extra, you can get Thai iced tea...which may be from a can for all I know, but it is delicious and worth the occasional splurge</edit>


The spice is a dry chili that you can apply as liberally as you want.  It is *actually* spicy.


The dish I had today was the classic Thai Basil Chicken, a slightly spicy dish made of minced chicken stir fried with red and green peppers, green beans and basil.  It has a generous amount of savory sauce and is served with rice and a fried egg.  The fried eggs at Sawasdee deserve special mention, as other places I've been are rather lacking in this department.  When I see a fried egg in a menu picture, I have certain expectations...namely that the yoke will still be soft if not runny.  Hard, cold fried eggs are a great disappointment.  Now...considering this dish is considered Thai street food, it may be entirely more authentic to get a cold, hard fried egg on your dish served by the side of the road, but I'd much rather have a properly fried egg whose yoke can contribute all of it's yummy flavor to the overall dish.

Enough about eggs...let's talk rice.  For some people, if the Thai restaurant doesn't serve Thai jasmine rice, it's not worth eating at.  I am pretty sure you can get jasmine rice at Sawasdee, but it doesn't typically come with the lunch specials (not that I've asked...I should try that sometime).  You can order it special as a side dish, and it is a bit more expensive the Japanese style rice.  That being said, I personally love the Japanese style rice and have no complaints.  I've also had dry, unpleasant jasmine rice at other places, so maybe I'm just grateful for what it is not.

I could probably write a paragraph on all the different specials, but that would make for a very long review.  I do have to mention that despite the overall positive experiences I have had with the food quality, there is a slight variation in that qualities consistency.  Never enough that I have lost faith in them, but occasionally one wonders if the main chef is on vacation and I got second string.  That being said, it is a rare occurrence and next week it will probably be back up to snuff...and the week after that may blow me away.  Kind of sine curve if you graphed it...

Before I bring this to a close, I should mention the service and the point system.  First, since I've started going there (about 3 years ago), I have never had a bad service experience.  There are a mix of Japanese and possibly Thai or Chinese staff, and all of them have been efficiently pleasant.  I mention this because the experience at some other locations has been...otherwise.  Sawasdee in this manner feels more Japanese than Thai based on prior experience.  They do get quite busy some days, but somehow manage to get everyone served in rapid fashion.

Sawasdee used to use the stamp card system, and I wish they had stuck with it.  You got one stamp per lunch special and eventually got a free meal after it filled up (8 or 10 meals).  A while back they switched to an iPhone app made by a Japanese company.  I fumbled my way through signing up for an account and getting it all set up, and now after my meal I am given a QR code to scan in for my virtual "stamp."  After a while, there are little "discount" gifts I earn.   These can be redeemed at any time I desire for a 5%, 6% or even 10% discount.  But honestly I preferred getting the free meal...it was simpler.

I don't like to end on a negative note, but a word of caution about Wednesdays is in order.  On Wednesdays they serve a buffet lunch instead of the regular lunch specials.  I can't recall the price since I only went once a long time ago, but I'm sure it's upwards of 1000 yen.  If you just want to pile the cheapest expressions of Thai food on a plate and go back a few times for more, than this is perfect for you.  I was quite appalled by the low quality of the food and the poor selection of the dishes.  It is absolutely not worth the money or the time, especially compared with the alternative of just going on one of the other days of the week.  So...stay away on Wednesdays.

Well that's it for now.  I'll try and find something new (to me) for the next review.

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A little update today.  I went with my friend to Sawasdee and got the special on impulse.  It was a winner!  Green curry soup with shrimp and avocado (fresh!), rice, salad, a salad roll and soup.  It was fabulous.  Just an example of how they keep things fresh at Sawasdee.


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