Sawasdee Thai

Restaurant: Sawasdee Thai
Cuisine: Thai
Last visited: December 22, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Riley Park/Little Mountain)
Address: 4250 Main Street
Bus: NB Main St FS E 28 Av
Price Range: $10-20

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!

Food: 2
Service: 2.5
Ambiance: 2.5
Overall: 2
Additional comments:

  • Thai owned/operated
  • Extensive menu
  • Cheap lunch combos
  • Family friendly
  • Good for groups
  • Accepts credit cards
  • Mon-Fri. Lunch 11:30am-2:30pm
  • Mon-Sun. Dinner 5pm-10pm

**Recommendations: n/a

I’m really not sure what happened to Sawasdee Thai. My Thai friends used to recommend this place to me years ago, and I finally tried it. It can’t be the same place they once knew. I’m not sure if it was because I went for lunch, or if chef was off duty (which neither qualify as excuses), or if the quality has just gone downhill, but as an award winning Thai restaurant in Vancouver, BC, I was a bit disappointed. It does get better than this, although Thai food in Vancouver isn’t necessarily something to brag about… it’s stronger than our options for Latin cuisine though!

I think I’m going to get a lot of hate for this because I know it’s a neighbourhood favourite and beloved Thai restaurant, but the quality of the dishes I tried were just not up to par and very average at the most. I won’t even compare it to authentic Thai food in Thailand, but even in the context of Vancouver, there is more authentic than this. Even just on Main Street I would say Bob Likes Thai Food is more authentic, although the menu is much smaller. I would rather have less dishes on a menu done really well anyways, but this is uncommon for any Asian restaurant.

The food isn’t inedible and I didn’t hate it, but it was catered for Western tastes. Even for Western tastes, it wasn’t that great though. The passion and care in the food just wasn’t there and the quality was sacrificed. I think I am just let down since I had high expectations going in. The chefs and staff are Thai, but I’m almost confident that this isn’t what they’re eating on breaks or serving their families.

On the table:

Larb 2/6 (Okay)

  • Choice of minced chicken, beef or pork seasoned with lime juice and chili $9.95
  • This is one of my favourite Thai dishes that I always order, but it was only okay here. It’s best with pork.
  • It is often overlooked since it’s under “salads”, but it’s basically a Thai lettuce wrap that is very traditional in Thailand.
  • It was served on chopped romaine and it should be whole leaf romaine leaves.
  • The pork was chunky and it should be very finely ground and almost crumbly, but not dry and chewy like it was.
  • I tasted a hint of toasted rice and it was heavy on the lime juice, but I couldn’t taste the mint and the meat was just overcooked.
  • It also has fish sauce and sugar so it’s a bit sweet and savoury, but the dish was rushed and the meat didn’t absorb the sauces.
  • I asked for it hot, but the hot wasn’t very flavourful and the roasted chili flakes seemed stale. It was definitely hot, but only hot.
  • A better larb is the one from Khunnai Chang Madame Elephant Thai Cuisine – see Lap Gai.
  • Just for reference, this is an authentic Larb Moo from Tuk Tuk Thai Restaurant.

Gai Phad Bai Kra-Prao3/6 (Good)

  • Stir fried chicken with onion and fresh basil leaves $8.75 (Lunch special price served with spring roll and satay)
  • This was an off-menu request. It was the Gai Phad Bai Kra-Prao with added chilies and garlic and we asked for it hot.
  • This was actually pretty good and the portion was good for the price too.
  • It was basically a stir fry and a Chinese-Thai style dish. There is a lot of Chinese influence in Thai cuisine, so it doesn’t make it “non-authentic”.
  • The chicken was moist and it was very aromatic with lots of basil leaves, garlic and onions.
  • It was nice and saucy with a good balance of sweetness, tang from lime juice, and spice, but it was still flavourful and not just hot. If anything, it was more on the sweet side.
  • If you like this, I will also recommend the Kra Pau Moo at Pink Elephant Thai. It might sound like an unexpected recommendation, but when I had it, it was great.

Green Curry2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • Green curry with bamboo shoot in coconut milk and your choice of pork, chicken or beef $12.50
  • This was from the regular menu and there were lots of ingredients which was nice.
  • A Thai green curry typically comes with eggplant, but this one had green and red peppers and bamboo shoots.
  • I found the curry sauce a bit watery, but I could taste the lemongrass although it was missing aromatics and more basil leaves would have helped.
  • I liked the crunchy bamboo shoots and the chicken was tender, but the sauce just lacked the depth and texture of a quality homemade curry paste.
  • It wasn’t bad though, but I prefer green Thai curries elsewhere.

Roast Duck Curry3/6 (Good)

  • Red curry with roast duck, pineapple, tomato and bamboo shoot in coconut milk $12.50
  • I recently had the Duck Curry at Bob Likes Thai Food down the street so it was still fresh in my head. I’ve had variations of duck curry before so it’s not a new dish for me, but I do like it.
  • This duck curry actually had duck flavour infused into the curry sauce and the one from Bob Likes Thai Food didn’t really.
  • The curry was so rich in duck flavour that I didn’t even have to eat a piece of duck to know that there was duck in it.
  • This one also had fresh pineapples and some peeled red grapes which is common in South East styles of duck curry, but the one at Bob Likes Thai Food had fresh pineapples and lychee which is a bit more interesting. The lychees are canned though so I just prefer the grapes.
  • The red curry sauce was a bit thin again and the sliced duck was quite dry, but I did like the generous amount of crunchy bamboo shoots and I found the ones at Bob Likes Thai Food too soft.
  • The texture and flavour of the curry seemed like they only used coconut milk and it should be made with coconut milk and coconut cream. I had the same issue at Bob Likes Thai Food, but it was more obvious here.
  • Again the sweetness, tang and spice was quite well balanced and there were a lot of ingredients which I appreciated.
  • I actually liked the quality of some of the red curry based dishes better at Pink Elephant Thai and the one at Bob Likes Thai Food seemed a bit richer too.
  • I liked the duck curry equally at Bob Likes Thai Food, but for different reasons.

Phad Thai 1.5/6 (Poor-Okay)

  • Stir fried rice noodles with tofu, prawn, egg, peanut, green onion and bean sprout $8.75 (Lunch special price served with spring roll and satay)
  • Really? Ketchup? I haven’t been to a Thai restaurant serving ketchup Pad Thai in a long time. It’s almost the red flag for “non-authentic Thai food”.
  • To be honest, I actually don’t think ketchup Pad Thai tastes bad, but if you’re claiming to be an authentic Thai restaurant, then I think it’s misleading to sell ketchup Pad Thai.
  • The authentic Pad Thai uses tamarind sauce and not Ketchup. Ketchup is an American thing, but even as an Americanized Pad Thai this one wasn’t great.
  • The noodles were overly sauced and almost wet and soggy and I saw no sign of peanuts.
  • There was very little egg, 3 crunchy shrimps, and very little tofu.
  • For an authentic Pad Thai, I would suggest the Pad Thai from Bob Likes Thai Food if you’re on Main Street craving Thai, but otherwise the one from Khunnai Chang Elephant Thai Cuisine in downtown Vancouver, BC is the one I prefer.

Sawasdee Fried Rice3/6 (Good)

  • Thai Style fried rice with your choice of: crab meat and shrimp, chicken, beef or pork $8.75 (Lunch special price served with spring roll and satay)
  • It was good fried rice, but not really authentic Thai style fried rice.
  • The rice was actually quite wet and almost saucy, but it had good flavour and it was a bit sweet too.
  • I ordered it with pork and the pieces were quite dry and there were a couple roughly chopped tomatoes in there too and there should be more.
  • I hoped for more egg and bean sprouts and typically there should be some fresh chilies, but I think you just have to request them.
  • Some cilantro, green onions and basil fried into the rice wouldn’t hurt either for more aromatics.

Thai Spring Roll1.5/6 (Poor-Okay)

  • Deep fried spring roll stuffed with noodles and mushroom ($7.50 a la carte)
  • Each lunch special came with a spring roll and it wasn’t great so I wouldn’t recommend ordering it a la carte.
  • It was almost all vermicelli noodles and very little mushroom and the quality was not there.
  • The good things were that it wasn’t dry or over greasy and the roll was still crispy.

Thai Satay 2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • Marinated in mixture of spices, broiled and served with peanut sauce. Pork or chicken. ($8.25 a la carte)
  • Each lunch special came with a chicken satay stick and it was okay.
  • It was a bit sweet in the marinade, decently charred and served with a creamy smooth peanut sauce.
  • Malaysian satay sauce has peanuts in it, but authentic Thai satay sauce is smooth in texture, so that was legit.

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Sawasdee Thai on Urbanspoon

24 Comments

  • Loxy says:

    We went recently and I was underwhelmed. It was still just enough to give a thumbs up on Urbanspoon, but just barely. Frankly had the service not been good, the food probably wouldn’t have been enough to get my vote.

    Even though it is like fast food thai, I’d rather pay less at Pad Thai at Main and Broadway.

  • Bow says:

    Dunno why we don’t support Thai cuisine in Vancouver…if it’s good, it’s very good. Sawasdee never impressed me, nor did the Thai House. In North Van, the Krua Thai on Lonsdale , just south of 15th, near the bus stop, is very small…a hidden gem. Menu isn’t extensive but the price is right. The best Thai places I ate in are alas, gone…once I took a friend to the defunct Boua Thai and when we entered, he said..”Wow, I could live off the smells, it smells terrific !” Haven’t found it’s equal lately.

  • marko65 says:

    Glad to hear it’s not only me that is uninspired by Vancouvers Thai restaurants. I moved here this summer and tried Sala Thai on Cambie.
    The worst Thai food my wife, son and I had ever had. Not really horrible but since this was supposed to one of the best places in Vancouver we haven’t tried any other Thai restaurants since then.
    The real shame is that we were introducing our young neice to Thai food and she wasn’t impressed with the flavours.

  • Linda says:

    o my my… i think even thai away home has better dishes than this place – how come the lunch looks a bit skimpy? the larb looks a bit sad only because it seems kind of oily – i wish they served this with rice so those juices would be put to good use!

    i always pass by this place when i’m roaming around on main street but everytime i look in, it;s either dark or empty or both… yay for Loxy for knowing Pad Thai.. haha fast ok thai meal for less than $7 for lunch 🙂

    i always know your meals aren’t great when you don’t even stay for dessert!

  • LotusRapper says:

    We don’t do Thai nearly as often as we did in the ’90s (which was not exactly an enlightened decade for Thai food in Vancouver). Can’t recall exactly when we last ate at Sawasdee (early ’00s ?) but it was meh. And speaking of Salathai, they’re worse than meh, IMHO. If anything I think Thai House has better consistency and more generous with their ingredients (quantity and quality) than either Salathai or Sawasdee.

    A few others I recommend:

    – Thai Basil (Thurlow)
    – Green Basil (Kingsway)
    – Wimaan (Broadway)

    Neither will knock your socks off, but IMHO they are better than the two aforementioned.

    LR (who still has to go to BLTF !)

  • Sheryl says:

    Another I recommend:

    Aree Thai on Kingsway.

  • LotusRapper says:

    ^ Great catch, Sheryl. Many local Chowhounders rave about Aree.

  • yeppers says:

    My old favourite was Montri’s. He was a fun guy and didn’t compromise. When Montri packed it in I could never find a suitable substitute. I was always disappointed. Hard to believe that nothing in Vancouver could even hold a candle to a food court in Thailand (love MBK). I second whoever said that Sala Thai on Cambie is horrible.

    I’m kind of a food snob about Thai food. I get irritated when people don’t hold the fork in the left hand and spoon in the right. Oh, I’m a purist about eating Thai food with plain jasmine rice. It’s the Thai way to eat a spoonful of plain rice before the meal to show reverence. It kind of irks me the same way when I go to HK cafes and see people holding their knife at an almost 90 degree angle. It’s bizarre. Anyway, sorry to vent, I digress.

    Good news though, I’ve discovered Aree Thai on Kingsway. It is awesome. Aree is fantastic and her food is as authentic as it gets in Vancouver. She actually makes the food spicy. Service can be leisurely, but her food and hospitality makes up for it. It’s a weird space, but the one side is very cozy. I wish more people would go there. I don’t want Aree Thai to fold. Anyway, I highly recommend it. I love the Tom Kha Gai, Som Tum, Massaman Curry, Pad Prig Khing and her homemade Thai Iced Tea ice cream (don’t you love ice cream? It’s free!). Give her a try! I swear she’s not paying me. Yelp loves her too.

  • fmed says:

    Aree Thai’s owner was waiting for her the visa application of her sister (who is a Thai chef) to get approved last year. Due to delays in the immigration process, she had to open without her in the kitchen and had to resort to hiring other cooks. Some local Chowhounders went and gave it some mixed reviews (I personally haven’t been there.) If yeppers thinks it is good, then perhaps the sister is finally cooking in the back. Time to check it out.

    Yeah – Sawasdee Thai had seen better days. Actually – Vancouver’s entire Thai scene had seen better days. It was much better in the 80’s and early 90’s…then slowly, it all went downhill has the Ketchup-Thai joints started to open and take over. This overly sweet, bland stuff is what Vancouverites started to expect out of Thai food. It has become a monoculture – virtually subsuming any attempts at real Thai. Even places like Bob Likes Thai Food have had to make adjustments. Tai, the owner, was adamant that he was going to serve the real deal.

    Sorry for the rant…I’m not trying to be the “authentic police” here….but this is the kind of thing that happens when the dining populace does not really care about the authenticity of food. “As long as it is yummy” they will say. So it’s great that a blogger with influence such as yourself will state the facts.

    I’m looking forward to my next trips to LA and PDX to have the real deal. In the meantime, Tai (at BLTF) will accommodate those who prefer the food truly Thai – you just need to ask for it. Bo at Bo Laksa King (who grew up as a Burmese refugee in Northern Thailand) will do the same. You just need to have a relationship with the proprietors.

    -f

  • KimHo says:

    Fernando, unfortunately, as you must well know, at the end of the day, a paying customer is what pay the bills, not whether food is authentic or not. Granted, there will always be corner cases (Kimura comes to mind); however, if the general population do not appreciate subtleties of a dish or strong flavours, how can you support your business? For example, in Vancouver, people say they “love sushi” but people keep ordering rolls and dunk them in a that wasabi/soy sauce mix. But, hey, it pays the bills and people keep coming in… For people like Mijune, Sherman, you and me, it is a matter of finding that little place that will remind expats of their homeland so we can enjoy their food the same way they enjoy it…

  • fmed says:

    Absolutely Kim. If you re-read my rant, you’ll see that it is not directed at the restaurants, but the dining public. It is “our” fault that we are in this situation. We “deserve” this. The restaurants have to do what they have to do to stay open.

    I give kudos to restaurant owners who are willing and able to serve you the real deal (BLTF, BLK et al). In terms of Thai food, the majority of restaurants will not be able to deliver the goods. If these places flourish, we have nothing but ourselves to blame….and the Vancouver ethnic scene will continue its slide into the abyss.

  • LotusRapper says:

    Hi Fmed,

    Other than BLTF, do you have other recommendations for authentic (or as close as you think gets in Vancouver) Thai restos here in town ? I’ve not been to BLTF yet, nor Thailand itself (yet), so going to anything better than our typical lacklustre Thai scene here would be a treat for me. Thanks !

  • fmed says:

    Bo Laksa King has reasonably good and (dare I say it) authentic Thai items. Even in Thailand you will see Burmese food in menus. Bo’s Burmese Pork Curry ( which is called Gaeng Hungleh in Thailand and is often mistaken to be a Thai dish) is pretty good. He has a tiny Pan-SEAsian menu so it is slim pickins. Remember- Bo has eaten Northern Thai food most of his life so he knows what it is supposed to taste like. Ask him to make it “Thai” and he will oblige.

    Outside the places already mentioned upthread, I am unaware of other places….my Thai radar is quite rusty from disuse. I have seen far too many small holes in the wall open up with so much promise only to have them fizzle out in frustration.

    Save it for you next trip to Portland, or better yet LA or ultimately Thailand.

  • LotusRapper says:

    Excellent, I will hit BLK !

    Portland ….. you referring to the (now) famed Pok Pok ? Which I mentioned somewhere else as my must-visit place if/when we go down to Portland this year.

  • fmed says:

    Pok pok for Northern Thai, Mee Sen, Chia, Red Onion for Southern Thai. A bunch of moms and pops on Sandy Rd which is like our Kingsway. Lots of good Thai dotting the city. Each little place is run by Thai FWIW.

    I forgot Las Vegas: Lotus of Siam which was a hole in the wall at one point. Now world famous – perhaps the most famous Thai in North America.

  • LotusRapper says:

    Read on Fmed’s forum that Salathai is to be closed and replaced by another venture called “U & I Thai” by a new management.

  • Mijune says:

    @Loxy – yeah I thought it was just rally average. I still haven’t been to Pad Thai, but commenter Linda said it does the job. Sounds like a good cheap eats!

    @Bow – Thai House is more the “main stream” Thai food that’s slightly more Chinese. It had it’s market, but I’m not in it either. I need to check out more of North Van!

    @mark065 – wow really? I’ve been to Sala Thai on Burrard and I remember the pad thai being good, but that’s all I remember. Again that was over 3 years ago now.

    Yikes! Oh no!! The worst is starting at a not so great place to introduce someone to new cuisines… my friend went to a horrible Chinese place for first time Chinese and now he’s scarred. I’ll keep checking more Thai places out for you and see what I find! Try Khunnai Chung on Denman though… or even Thai Basil on Davie.

    @Linda – Larb is never served with rice though since it’s a salad, but this one still isn’t great. The lunch options are more affordable so probably why they look more skimpy? They’re were pretty big though. Lol hahahah I love your last comment… or if it’s an Asian place I’ll usually pass since the desserts are never that special for me.

    @LR – Thai House is very Chinese-Thai though. Ha! Thai Basil is one I recommended too! I heard Wimaan isn’t good, but it has excellent rating on Urbanspoon… I better try.. or maybe they’re inconsistent?

    @sheryl – I drive by Aree Thai all the time! Haven’t been! Thanks!

    @LR – Sherman said Aree was okay though…

    @Joseph – I wrote about this and mentioned it in this post too! It’s on my Thai places I like too.

    @yeppers – Didn’t get to try Montri! It’s okay to be picky… I mean you are the one paying for it. Food is personal. Vent all you want.

    Damn Aree Thai I need to try! I never once thought you were being paid lol.

    @fmed – Aree Thai date?

    Wow Fernando, I’m honoured by your comment!! You know more about Thai food than me though. PDX has GREAT Thai scene and I didn’t even get to make a dent!! I want to go back! It’s funny to see the staff as all non-Thai though… happened on several occasions, but I’m sure not all the Thai places are like that.

    Writing from a perspective of a regular diner do you have to have a relationship with owner for the real deal though? Or can you simply request it without having the relationship?

    @KimHo – I see your point. Although the wasabi thing does open the palate for sashimi regardless of how fresh it is. Yum!

    @fmed – I love that you reply and thank you for your valued comments. OMG Pok Pok in Portland and Lotus of Siam in Vegas are the 2 that come to my mind as well if you ask me for those cities!! Saladong in LA comes to mind, but I haven’t been either!!!

  • LotusRapper says:

    Fmed & Mijune, you been to Mali Thai on Main (next to Lucy’s Eastside Diner) ? If so what do you think of them ?

  • fmed says:

    Surething Mijune. PM me!

  • fmed says:

    @LR Mali isn’t worthy.

  • LotusRapper says:

    Thx Fmed.

  • Yu says:

    I highly recommend Maenam on W. 4th, it is on the pricier side for Thai food but it has great service and the food is great. Although I recommend going at least twice to compare. My first time there the food was too salty but dessert was great, my second time the food was great but dessert wasn’t as good. They’re still doing their Dine Out Vancouver menu until Feb. 3 and lunch has plenty of spots, just dinner is filled! I feel that their dinner is better than their lunch and I’m not sure if the chef changes…or not.

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