There are few things worse than a restaurant describing itself as having a party atmosphere. Invariably this means there will be some sort of live music performance, a neon light display that gives everyone a lime green hue, and kooky, fun dishes to share - cheeseburger spring rolls anyone? It’s the worst kind of attempt at organised fun, so please don’t call this kind of place a party restaurant. A real party restaurant is big, dark, and a bit loud. It’s one where 8pm turns into 9pm, and 9pm turns into 10pm and another round of drinks and some more of that chicken. This is what Som Saa is.
The food here is northern Thai influenced, meaning it’s influenced by street foods from the north of Thailand, which means, basically, it doesn’t mess about. Dishes like the tamarind grilled chicken or whole fried sea bass are full of flavour without being mega-spicy, but a lot of the dishes here thrive on spice. Papaya salad or jungle curry are certified headblowers. The former is refreshing. The latter is a little bit of an endurance test.
Ideally, you’re coming to Som Saa in a group. There are big tables and big booths, and the menu is made up of lots of things you want to try, including the cocktails which are serious business here. They’re spicy, sweet, sour, and strong - just like the food. In fact, get a couple of Muay Thai Kicks down you at the bar before being seated, and you may well find yourself slightly anaesthetised against some of the spicier elements of the menu.
That’s the kind of restaurant Som Saa is. One where you have a few drinks before even looking at the menu, get a bit loud, share a load of Thai food, then cool down with a round of grilled bananas and palm sugar ice cream. It’s not at all serious, and that’s a good thing.
Not everything here is completely individual and worth ordering though. The pork belly curry is your nightmare life partner: mild, indistinct, and lacking any oomph whatsoever, while pad pak is a pretty standard mixture of vegetables you’d find elsewhere. These milder dishes aren’t what Som Saa is all about. This is a restaurant where you come to have a party - at your table, and in your mouth.
Grilled Chicken Leg With Tamarind Dipping Sauce
Not fiery, but very flavoursome. This is an easy sharer for the table, unless you’re meat averse.
A Papaya Salad
These are all fiery and refreshing. Like when you drink cold water after chewing some gum, with a tone of chilli in. Like that.
Whole Deep Fried Seabass
It may look like a casualty of the zombie apocalypse, but it tastes as fresh as anything.
Pork Belly Curry
Fine. Imagine being described as fine by someone. It doesn’t sound fine, does it?
Some green vegetables. They’re fine. They’re nice. They’re green vegetables.
Ice Cream With Turmeric Grilled Banana
You’ll try making this at home afterwards. It won’t be nearly as good.