When I first met Susan and Chinnapong (Chin) Saicholpitak, they had just taken ownership of Thai Sawadee in Hilltown Village Center. The owner wanted to sell, and as longtime employees of the restaurant, they saw it as an opportunity for themselves and their young family.
The Saicholpitak's intended to serve the same great Thai cuisine that had already made it popular among local Thai food enthusiasts, with a few new additions of their own. Having tasted the Lemon Grass soup—with its fresh basil, mushrooms and tender bits of chicken—I vowed to return to see if their other offerings featured the same brightness and rich, exotic flavors.
I went in for lunch and as before, the atmosphere of the restaurant had a calming effect. I sat at the bar across from bartender, waiter and all around nice guy, Bennie Reyes, and placed my order.
My beverage of choice was Singa, a Thai lager with a bright golden yellow color and a sweet malt, grass and mellow hops aroma. It was crisp and refreshing with only a minor bitterness. Highly drinkable anytime.
Spicy Egg Drop soup ($5) was a little spicy but not overly so. It had a nice saltiness that helped to bring the flavors together to create a pleasant broth that served as a perfect starter and left me ready for more.
If you've never had Thai dumplings, understand that they are nothing like Chinese dumplings. Round with a very thin dough wrapped in a cylinder around the filling, Thai Sawadee's version—Thai Su Mai ($5)—featured ground shrimp, chicken and water chestnuts with roasted garlic on top. The taste was savory with a hint of sweetness, along with a delicious dipping sauce. Each flavor took its turn on my palate, and the occasional bits of crisp green onion were a nice surprise.
Similarly, the house-made Thai Beef Jerky ($8) is not to be confused with the shoe leather jerky you purchase in a grocery store. The jerky had been dropped from the menu due to its lengthy, detailed preparation, but it's been brought back. I'm glad it was. It had a deep, Thai flavor that was complex and savory served with a very hot dipping sauce. You could control the heat however, depending on how much you dipped the jerky into the sauce.
An entree of the signature Nam Tok Beef ($8.95 for lunch; $18 for dinner) was again only a little spicy, but you knew it was there. The beef dish with sliced sirloin tossed with red onions, chili powder and lime juice was served sprinkled with fresh cilantro on the top, which lent a garden freshness. The sirloin was chewy-tender perfect. My meal was served with both regular and sticky jasmine rice.
There was no room for dessert, but I finished with the popular Thai tea, made by combining strong Thai and Black tea, Half and Half and topped with whipped cream. Delicious. Creamy and refreshing that could satisfy any sweet tooth.
It should be noted that I was asked when I ordered how spicy I wanted my food, and I replied I just wanted it normal. It was nice to know I could have cranked up the spice if I desired, and that this fine restaurant doesn't shy away from accommodating individual diners.
Thai Sawadee is located at 171 Hilltown Village Center. Hours are 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday, 4:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday and 4:30-9 p.m. Sunday. For more information, to order carryout or see the menu, visit the Thai Sawadee website.
The Italians are Coming! Our friends at Feast magazine report that Filippo's Italian Kitchen and Bar will be opening at 120 Chesterfield Valley Drive sometime this fall in the former home of Tribeca Lounge. The family owns J.F. Sanfilippo's in downtown St. Louis. Chesterfield City Council okayed their liquor license this week.