Sabai Sabai Simply Thai is not Elementary

I went to Sabai Sabai Simply Thai in Germantown recently with some friends, including a woman that I went to kindergarten with in Detroit.  This is an incredible story and one that I must take a moment to tell before I get to my review.

This woman had been an acquaintance for several years.  We were at a large event for a local women’s organization and she was lamenting that sometimes its hard being from out of town because she doesn’t run into people from her past.  “Where are you from?” she asked.  Although I had lived in Detroit until I was eight years old, I simply responded that I was from the DC area.  “What about you?” I asked..  “Detroit.”  I then explained that I was originally from Detroit.  We compared notes.  Same elementary school.  Same kindergarten teacher.  Same age!  Wait a minute, did you know so and so?  “She was my best friend,” I said excitedly.  We didn’t remember each other, but the next time we were together, I brought photos from my birthday party when I was seven years old.  She looked at the photos and shrieked “I’m sitting next to you!”

I tell this tale often.  You never know when and where someone from your past will pop up in your life again.  I only hope the rest of you have better memories than my kindergarten pal and I do. Okay, on to my review.

Sabai Sabai is on the list of Washingtonian’s 100 Best Restaurants for 2011.  It was also just reviewed on DC Dining which includes restaurant reviews from one of DC’s most respected food and wine experts, Don Rockwell.  (Check out his other site at  It’s the place to interact with some serious foodies, as well as chefs, restaurant managers and owners.)

The restaurant is packed on Sunday night of a holiday weekend.  There is a line to the reception desk and some people are expressing their annoyance about long waits for a table or their take out orders.  We have a reservation and are ushered immediately to our table.  It takes awhile for someone to take our order, but there are lots of great choices on the menu and this gives us time to make some tough decisions.

The food does not come out quickly, but it is worth the wait. We start with mee krob (crispy noodles in sauce with shrimp and tofu), veggie mee krob, and lahb (minced chicken with herbs). I am a fan of both dishes, having had them in a more than a few restaurants around town. The flavors are sweet and tangy and spicy and crunchy all at once.  This is exciting food, which I am pretty certain I wouldn’t have appreciated as a five year-old back in Motor City.

veggie mee krob

Our entrees are selected based on recommendations from Don Rockwell. In his February 15 review he declares his meal at Sabai Sabai  “the best Thai meal I’ve had in years.”

We have the crispy duck with basil, two orders of crispy herbal fish, lahd na (chicken with wide noodles and Chinese broccoli in light gravy), and Sabai Sabai grilled chicken with papaya salad and sticky rice.

The portions are nicely sized.  The duck is peppery with hints of five-spice powder. It’s topped with crispy basil.  Delicious.

The chicken with noodles have a wonderful smoky flavor that makes you want to go back for more.  The grilled chicken combines sweet and spicy.

The fish is cooked perfectly.  There is quite a bit of burn in these dishes, but the smoky, sweet, and tangy flavors in the dishes offset the heat.  The food is powerful but not overpowering. Each dish has intense flavors  but is unique at the same time..

As we finish our meal, my friend seeks out the owner to tell her that a food blogger is in the house and will be writing a review in the near future.  Embarrassing!  But the owner seems impressed and sends over free desserts.  I promise this does not affect my rating.

My food preferences have come a long way from the hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and tater tots I was likely eating back in my elementary school days.  Likewise, Sabai Sabai Simply Thai is not your basic old school Thai cooking.  A dining experience there is definitely higher education. 

Warning– I just went back to Don Rockwell’s site for a quote and there was a follow up review.  He returned to Sabai Sabai last week and declared the food to be “stunningly mediocre.”  Oh well. Restaurant quality varies night by night and dish by dish, which is something to keep in mind when you rely upon reviews.

Sabai Sabai Simply Thai, 19847M Century Blvd., Germantown, MD

My rating (on a 1-5 scale):   4.2

Washingtonian Review
DC Dining Review
Washingtonian, 100 Best Restaurants 2011

Sabai Sabai - Simply Thai on Urbanspoon

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