Don’t be fooled by it’s humble exterior. Saab Wer is the home of extremely delicious Esan delights!
On the way to Saab Wer Thai Esan restaurant in Newtown on Sunday evening I receive a Facebook message from the wonderful Jason King from Spooning Australia with news that both he and Joseph Lloyd from Random Din Dins would be joining me for dinner. Together we’re dining on assignment for the Blogger’s Table feature in Ciao Magazine and I couldn’t be happier!
Arriving at the restaurant I know it’s one of those places I may have overlooked in preference for another venue, which is why I’m so glad we got to visit as part of our review. Don’t be fooled by it’s humble exterior. Saab Wer means “Extremely Delicious” in the Esan dialect – a region in Thailand’s North-East – and the food here definitely lives up to expectations.
Our hosts for the evening are the wonderful Noi and Bruce who own and manage the restaurant which has been in operation for about 2 years. Bruce regularly assists with deliveries in the local area, which run daily between 11 AM-4 PM and 5 PM-10 PM (10:30PM Fridays and Saturdays) and greets us at the restaurant with a gift – a bottle of red from Ciao Magazine which we have the pleasure of drinking together over dinner. If you’re giving alcohol a pass Saab Wer stock a variety of Iced Black, Fruit and Milk based Teas and Coffee ($3.50), Fresh Whole Coconut ($5.00) and even Lodd Chong ($3.50) – jelly “snakes” in sweet coconut milk.
There are so many incredible varieties of entree’s, soups, salads, bbq dishes, curries and more on the menu that I wouldn’t even know where to begin listing them down. That’s why I definitely recommend checking out the menu on their website here to get to grips with the eating pleasures you could be enjoying on your visit. An entire section of the menu is dedicated to Esan country-style food which includes Tom Super ($14.90) – street-food style chicken feet in spicy sour broth, Thai Esan Sausage ($8.90) – grilled fermented pork sausage with sticky rice and sliced ginger and Boat Noodle Soup ($11.50) to name a few. Upon reading the entries of many friends and fellow foodies including ForFoodsSake I’ve noticed that many reviewers prefer to go with a chef’s selection over selecting a series of dishes. Other’s prefer to ask the Chef for the best and most visually appealing dishes. I see merit to both of these strategies. I often find myself stuck trying to decide what to order from a menu and therefore don’t have any issues with having someone who knows the food inside-out choose for me.
With that in mind we leave our dinner choices in the hand of owner Noi who recommends we begin with a series of entrees: Saab Wer Prawns ($9.90 for 4), Golden Bags ($7.00 for 4) and Moo Ping ($8.90) – Grilled marinated pork skewers with a serve of sticky rice.
The prawns arrive wrapped in a crispy spring roll wrapper that have a satisfying crunch to them and hold a tender whole prawn. Love the presentation which shows off the prawn tail and the cute egg-noodle that holds the parcel together. I think I also managed to sneak the extra fourth roll unbeknownst to Jason and Joe – #sorrynotsorry.
The Golden Bags are Saab Wer’s take on traditional Moneybags and like the spring rolls are wrapped in a glassy, crunchy wonton wrapper. Far from the stock-standard pork and prawn offering, these are filled with a sweet, savoury and crunchy mix of minced chicken, corn, coconut and peanuts. Trust me…YOU NEED TO TRY THESE WHEN YOU COME HERE!
We also had a serving of Moo Ping or Grilled Marinated Pork Skewers but I have to admit I forgot to take a photo. They were marinated in a sweet, sticky glaze and were so tender in case you were wondering.
I cannot lie, I’m a green papaya salad freak. I dream about the day I can visit the Darwin Night Markets to sample the freshly-pounded salad there. Perhaps I’d even venture to the homeland one day? I couldn’t think of a better way to liven up the palate than with this humble offering – Son Thum Thai ($16.90) – of shredded green papaya, shrimps, peanuts, tomato, carrot, green beans with lime dressing and four grilled king prawns on the side. Noi tells us the best way to eat this salad is with sticky rice. You make a ball with the sticky rice and use it to mop up the spicy lime dressing. The salad is so popular that Saab Wer have six different versions made with everything from seafood to whole prawns and even prawn crackers.
Next up is Kana Moo Grob ($14.90) or Crispy Pork Belly which is my go-to favourite from any and every Thai restaurant I dine at. Prior to today I was a sucker for Chat Thai’s offering but what makes Saab Wer’s extra special is the crackling on the pork which is incredibly crisp, crunchy, glassy [insert other onomatopoeic adjectives here]… These morsels are paired with bright-tender Chinese broccoli and doused in a soy, garlic and chilli sauce.
We eat the Crispy Pork with a serving of the creamy Red Duck Curry ($16.90). It’s sweetened by the delicious lychees and pineapple and the duck just melts in your mouth. Don’t you just love the serving dish for the rice?
We’re halfway through our main when Noi’s eyes light up. Checking if we’re still hungry and have room for more (not gonna lie, I’m stuffed, but how could I say no?) he offers a special treat – mixed seafood with rice, chilli sauce, eggs, cashews, coconut meat, herbs and more served in a coconut shell. I don’t believe this particular dish is on the menu but it seems to be a fusion of the Saab Wer Pineapple ($18.90) and Saab Wer Fresh Coconut ($17.90) but I’m sure that the team wouldn’t mind recreating this for you. As an added bonus we even got to have a glass of fresh young coconut juice from the same coconut the dish was later served in!
We end our incredible meal with a serving of creamy Sweet Durian and Coconut Sticky Rice ($5.00). The tender rice is cooked to a porridge-like consistency and is served with a sweet yellow Durian puree which is unctuous and, for lack of a better word, just plain yummy. There’s no abhorrent odour, just pure utter goodness.
I really hope you get to take the journey to Saab Wer sometime soon. The team are incredibly warm and inviting and you’re in-store for an incredible evening. Sorry Chat Thai, I think I’ve found my new favourite Thai restaurant. I only wished I lived closer to Newtown to tuck in more often.
P.S. I have to say a big thank you to Ciao Magazine and Saab Wer for being wonderful hosts this evening. Big shoutout to my wonderful friends and fellow foodies Jason and Joe for their company and thanks to Jason for his lifesaving light.
Saab Wer Thai Esan
Address: 105 King St, Newtown NSW 2042 [ open in Google Maps ]
Phone: (02) 8580 1345
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Happy Cooking and Keep Smiling,