By Phyllis Stein-Novack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Jul. 19, 2012

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Sawatdee, which means “hello” in Thai, offers an array of ethnic options at its 15th-and-South-streets location.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

Something peculiar happened last week when I telephoned an Asian restaurant in South Philadelphia to find out if they accept credit cards, etc. The phone rang about 10 times when finally an automatic voice said the mailbox is full.

This was odd. The restaurant is dine-in, but also offers delivery. I did a bit more sleuthing and found a second telephone number for the same place. Again I heard the same message. I dialed several times and heard the same response.

Time to go to Plan B. Edward and I drove down South Street and decided to dine at Sawatdee, a Thai restaurant we passed many times.

The pretty corner restaurant is resplendent in green. Succulent plants and tall orchids dot the room. Highly polished wood tables are set with white china and sage green linen napkins folded to resemble a rosebud.

Sawatdee is BYOB. We brought a bottle of Harmony Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, which marries well with spicy Thai fare.

Here’s the problem. It was a hot summer night. The restaurant is air-conditioned although you would never know it. There are ceiling fans whirling over head but the front door was open. I’m not a physicist, but I do know all the nasty hot air, bus fumes, flies and critters flying about will be sucked into the restaurant. It was most uncomfortable. A tall glass of ice turned to water within minutes.

I enjoy Thai flavors because the spices are usually in balance. It is a visually pretty cuisine that makes use of colors and textures. This is where Sawatdee needs work.

One of the specials was a shrimp dish ($10) prepared with chili sauce. We received five small, lightly-floured pan-seared shrimp sitting naked on the plate. They packed a bit of heat, but I wondered why they sat alone save for a miniscule scattering of thinly sliced scallions.

The best dish of the night and a first for us were por-piah sod ($7.95). These were long, plump spring rolls fashioned with soft, cool noodle-like wrappers filled with scrumptious real crabmeat chunks, Chinese sausage slices, scrambled egg bits, tofu, bean sprouts and fragrant cucumber sticks set on a pool of tamarind glaze. The logs were sliced into eight portions and since the wrapper was so thin and transparent, the rolls appeared striped. The sausage was red and the thin peel on the cucumber was green. The balance of flavors and textures made this one of the most memorable appetizers in recent memory.

From the salads, we selected yum-talay ($9.95), which was a bit disappointing. I love cool seafood salads in Italian restaurants. This one consisted of a few lettuce leaves and slices of red onion that served as the base for small shrimp, squid, mussels out of their shell, lemongrass and cilantro that sat on a pool of chili-lime dressing. The seafood lacked flavor and I found the shrimp and squid overcooked.

Ped rard-prik ($16.95) would have tied with the spring rolls as a most memorable dish save for the fact the duck was a tad overcooked. The entrée consisted of one-half duck presented with tasty, crispy skin with baby bok choy and napped in a chili tamarind sauce. As we always do, Edward ate the leg and I tucked into the breast meat. It should have been moist and succulent although the spot-on sauce helped perk the dish up.

Unfortunately for us, the pork in pad-see-ewe-moo ($11.95) was drastically overcooked. This stir-fry dish was prepared with ribbons of flat noodles, which I liked, eggs, Chinese broccoli and garlic in a black soy sauce. This entrée was totally bland.

Large mounds of perfectly steamed fragrant jasmine rice came with both entrées.

Service was excellent. Two kind servers took great care of us and patrons inside the restaurant and those who decided to swat flies hovering around a hot pot of steamed fish outside.

The spring rolls were tops. I would return to Sawatdee and order a succession of appetizers and soup for dinner.

One-and-a-half tips of the toque to Sawatdee.


534 S. 15th St.

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Comments 1 - 2 of 2
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1. Anonymous said... on Jul 19, 2012 at 06:59AM

“For me, a restaurant that does not have a/c given the kind of summer the city has had, is a major turn-off.
I would maybe make an exception if the food was incredible, but this surely doesn't seem to be worth the trip. The food sounds very unappealing.”

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2. Angela said... on Jul 19, 2012 at 08:38AM

“I agree with the anonymous comment above. Why would you stay at a restaurant that was without AC and with the door open? I was wondering Phyllis if you ever change your mind once you get to a restaurant or do you muddle through once you have decided to review? I think if you are reviewing in an uncomfortable environment, it could effect the review.”


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