Keifel and I recently had the pleasure of an overnight in Memphis for his green card interview. Keifel is now an official permanent resident (Huzzah!) and we got to spend some time together without the interference of work and school for a brief 24 hour span. As our presence was requested at the immigration office at 7:30 AM and we arrived in Memphis around 4:30PM the previous day we had some time to kill, which we spent at the Ye Olde Pot and Pannery outlet, the Davis-Kidd Booksellers Memphis store and finding some sustenance. SC recommended a Thai place downtown by the Peabody, so after some debate about driving versus staying close to the hotel, we headed further west.
The front door to Sawaddii opens onto a very small reception area and bar. The restaurant was practically deserted on a Wednesday night and we were seated immediately. Brightly painted portraits of musicians of every genre line the muted walls and contrast nicely with the dark wood tones of the bar and screen separating the bar back from the restaurant. The tables are comfortable if utilitarian and everything else has the clean lines that one has come to expect of Asian restaurants. The lighting was a little bright for dinner after dark and the music was mostly okay except for a travesty that might only offend me: a bad cover of Van Morrison.
Our overly chatty waiter took our drinks order and disappeared briefly. Keifel and I both zeroed in on the duck dishes of which there were two. We decided to each get one and start with tom ka soup. The soup arrived very quickly steaming with the scent of lemongrass, one of the main reasons that I adore it. It was a bit thinner than I had had before but still with a good body. Overall the flavor was balanced between the citrus notes of the lemongrass and lime leaves and the earthiness of the mushrooms in their coconut milk bath. There is one caveat. The chicken was cooked to death and cut into sizes three times what would be politely manageable on a spoon.
Our duck dishes arrived as quickly as the soup had, in fact, we had not had time to finish the soup. Yes, rushing me through the courses is one of my very biggest pet peeves. Keifel had ordered the roasted duck with curry, pineapple and spinach. It smelled divine. I ordered the Sam Rod duck. Mine smelled pretty good, too. Keifel’s duck had marvelously crispy skin, was cooked perfectly with pink still at the center of the breast, and the curry pulled it all together. I could have eaten a bowl of the pineapple and curry over rice and been utterly content. In fact I should have. The skin on my duck was crispy, but the flesh was overcooked and liver-y tasting. The overly salted sauce didn’t help matters along and the sweet and sour sauce clashed and fought rather than counterpointed. I ate more of Keifel’s than I did of my own.
The server did not comment on my quarter eaten entree. He also took Keifel’s plate before I had finished pushing mine around instead of taking both plates at the same time. Another pet peeve.
Once we had decided that I should write a review, I decided I had to give the dessert menu a go. My choices came down to key lime pie and creme brulee, two of my personal favorites. The key lime pie was not made in house so I decided to attempt the creme brulee. Keifel looked at me with a great deal of scepticism and pointed out that this could only end in tears. I should have listened.
Our waiter disappeared, for a good while. It was the longest span he had spent away from our table and I began to worry that the stress of dealing with us and two other tables may have overwhelmed him, or more likely that he had gone for a smoke. He did finally advent with my dessert and cautioned me the dish was hot because he had just taken the torch to it himself. Really, it should sit for a few minutes after the flaming, to harden, and it shouldn’t get hot as the custard… well, you’ll see.
It was really far too large a portion for one person, which he had not mentioned, and there was a liquid film over the carmelized and burnt sugar topping. The custard was close to room temperature and badly curdled. I was crestfallen. Generally when Keifel and I go out, he always gets the better entree and I try to save the meal with a nice dessert. Not to be.
I tried one more route to dining happiness and ordered coffee. This was their last chance to save the evening as I firmly believe a crappy cup of coffee can ruin a perfectly good meal while a good after dinner cuppa can cover, if not a multitude, at least a few sins.
Sawaddii has great coffee.
Sawaddii Thai Cuisine
121 Union Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38103
I’ll remember not to visit them if I’m ever in Memphis.
This is the best Thai food almost anywhere, and I have eaten Thai food in every major city in the U.S. The writer’s pet peeves are are just downright silly.
Mr. Scott your comments are appreciated and interesting. Apparently I am not the only person who had a mixed experience at Sawaddii, Memphis Magazine’s restaurant reviewer had similar comments. I don’t have any desire to get in an I’ve-eaten-better-Thai-than-you pissing contest. Pet peeves are by their nature personal and irrational. I have owned up on several occasions to the fact that it is difficult for me to eat out without being disappointed because I have worked in restaurants as a cook and a server and I know that though it is demanding, it isn’t brain surgery and if one is going to do a thing, one should do it properly.
If you get a chance please try Chao Praya Thai, http://www.cpthaicuisine.com/
They have the absolute best thai food in Memphis. I almost all of the different thai restaurants but this one is my favorite.
I go to Sawaddii frequenly since I work downtown. Although I really like the food (I almost always order the curry noodle or the green curry noodle), the services has been getting increasingly bad recently. They had 4 servers on the floor today, an almost packed restaurant, and our table had the misfortune of having probably the worst server of the bunch. When she took our drink order, we asked if we could go ahead and order (since we had waited a few minutes for a table and were pressed for time since we only have 1 hour for lunch.) She refused, and did not return to take our order for 15 minutes – which left us with 35 minutes to get our order in and eat. It was pretty much a nightmare after that – she never brought water to those of us who ordered tea and water, she brought out one friend’s dish 5 minutes before the rest of us were served, etc.) It’s going to be a while before I go back – I might wait til they have had a staffing turnover…
I have not been to the restaurant. After the review I have read I may not make my presence there. My issue is with their website. I tried to go from one of the Bellsouth web sites to their web site and I was asked for a user name and password. COME ON! Just to visit a web site? When I tried to cancel out I lost the original site that I was working from. From what I have read and from my experience on the web, It does not sound like this restaurant can do anything right.
They do actually make good coffee. I was being sincere about that. : )