Saturday, December 26, 2009

Quick Visits To Sab-E-Lee, Santee (And A Donut @ Mary's)

A belated Merry Christmas! Sorry I've never been great at providing timely posts.

I guess you can say A Radiused Corner is never at cutting edge.. (har har). Like how I've been meaning to check out Sab-E-Lee (1) forever now after reading Kirk of mmm-yoso's posts (here, here, here and most recently here) but without any success.

Craving Thai Food for me may not come as frequently as other cuisines but when it comes it is a fierce force to be reckoned with. And so when I was primed for some Sab-E-Lee action and eager to finally try out some of the Isan (Issan, Isaan, E-Saan?) dishes I've been reading for so long, I decided to head out to the newer Santee location, often referred to as Sab-E-Lee 2. (Posts by Kirk here and here, and Cathy's here.) SBL-2 full menu here.

I remember Kirk mentioning to me in the past that the two restaurants while both excellent were different with distinctive characters. As far as I know the menu at the original Linda Vista location is a more pure Isan creation while the sister location in Santee is a bit more varied while still offering signature Isan dishes that SBL had grown to become known for. Please check out the many great posts linked earlier for more informative background on Sab-E-Lee and Isan cuisine on mmm-yoso.

The Sab-E-Lee Sausage was a great starter listed under the E-Saan entrees section ($7.95, described as Esaan Sausage - ground pork, rice, and curry paste). I've had Thai Sausage at least one other time a while back and both were great with the distinctive sourness that to me pleasantly complements the pork's fat. From what I understand the cured meat can be eaten without cooking but it was served quickly fried in oil and sliced. What sets SBL's apart was the accompanied garnishes. Cut cubes of fresh ginger, peanuts, chili peppers. When eaten all together while also nibbling on some fresh cabbage, it made the already enjoyable experience of consuming cured meat for me (ha) even more pleasurable.

I thought the Larb Duck ($8.95) was really fantastic.

A spicy chopped duck meat salad with a fairly strong but rounded citrus tartness combined with a little sweet/savory not to mention a whole party of flavors from mint leaves to the red onions and the rice powder. I chose spiciness level Seven which luckily turned out right at the limit of my hot spice sweet spot without passing it (most places I order a Nine for the same level of heat).

And I know not exactly the most iconic SBL dish to represent on my first post but of course I had to order the Garlic Rice ($3) after reading about it.. :)

With crispy fried garlic chips and onions, a total no brainer. I'm kinda glad nobody was around at the 10:30AM opening time I was there cause I may have devoured it embarrassingly a bit too quick.

My next visit was only a couple days after. Funny how when the scenery shifts on the 52 Fwy to large hills and power lines, time starts to feel like it's slowing down. But keeping a sharp eye on the clock it actually took me exactly 15-mins from starting my car at home in North Park-ish town to entering the doors of Sab-E-Lee-2 (albeit I live close to a freeway on-ramp). I know it takes me roughly the same to reach any lunch spot in Kearny Mesa and sometimes longer at La Jolla when hunting for parking.

A drive up the 15-North and 52-East. Exit Mission Gorge Road, make a left after off-ramp, pass Mary's Donuts (a post by Alice Q here) and look for the SBL sign to your right.

My second visit I tried to order a few dishes that I at least didn't remember reading about. Funny that I had the joy of previewing the Kra-Thong Tong ($7.95) after the super nice Koby had given me some reading material while I waited for my meal. :)

When it arrived I thought if it tastes half as good as it looked I'd be really happy. Pretty!

Little fried (rice) pastry cups filled with curry flavored ground meats (chicken and shrimp) and vegetables. The cucumber salad sweetened with a syrup made with coconut sugar was kindly explained and to be eaten with.

Popped these babies fairly quickly as well and had no trouble finishing the appetizer which I'm sure was meant to be shared. But anyway, again the nice flavors of fresh ingredients were the common thread.

I heard good things about the Tom Kah Gai, I think from a comment that Carol had made so wanted to try it. It's nice that you can choose a small or large bowl. Shown is the small ($4.50).

The version here is very mildly sweet and I could really taste the brightness of all the fresh herbs and ingredients. I had ordered this also at level Seven but the coconut milk must've really dampened the heat.

Lots of lemon grass and the floral flavors of (my newly learned ingredient that I'm eager to share, haha) Galangal was really nice. Had the texture of ginger but was much more floral in flavor and aroma. Very good and now I really look forward to any one of their curries.

By this time I was fairly stuffed and the Nahm Tok ($7.95) with grilled pork had arrived.

My humble description is that it is similar to the Larb I had but less citrusy and with more pronounced flavors of the chili peppers and rice powder. Was really good but if I had the choice I think I prefer to try another Larb dish in the future.

The steamed Sticky Rice ($2.25) I was familiar with the dessert with fresh mango and sweetened condensed milk but never had it with savory entrees. Quite glutinous where it reminds me of Japanese mochigome but these were a longer grain. I packed most of it and the Nahm Tok to-go and I was again kindly provided with advice of reheating the rice at home.

I'm totally ready next for a fish dish as well as one of their curries which I wanted to include here but I forgot SBL-2 was closed today for the holidays (reopening tomorrow, Sunday). I'll just save those for another post which I'm sure I won't be having any shortage of in the near future. :)

Fyi, both SBL-1 and 2 opens at 10:30AM and remains open into dinner which is great because I like dining during off peak hours whenever possible. I guess I don't have a reason now to not visit the Linda Vista location either (except on a Monday. SBL-2 is open seven days a week for the time being).

Happy eating and hope you all are having a great post holiday weekend. :)

Sab-E-Lee (Santee), 9159 Mission Gorge Road, Santee, CA 92071


K and S said...

happy holidays!

caninecologne said...

hi D- hope you are having a great road trip (if you're reading this by chance)to the pacific northwest. drive safe!

i like the new SEL-2 a lot! it's 20minutes (if i speed) on the 125. i live in cv and have that fast pass so i just exit from H st and i'm there in a jiffy.

the garlic fried rice was pretty good too...

as for the fish dish, there is the pinecone fish (halibut) which me and my friends had a few days ago. so good that was. like yoda i speak. we also tried another fish dish awhile ago (under Fave Raves) - the Spicy Seafood Medley. we enjoyed that as well.

The Issan sausage (#48 @ the original location) and #14 at SEL2 (under Thai E-Saan Special) is my absolute favorite. i order that almost every time i go.

cheers and happy early new year!

KirkK said...

Geez, I never thought I'd posted so much onthe place! Anyway, Happy Holidays Dennis.

Dennis K. said...

Thanks K&S, to you too!

Hi CC, I'm taking off tomorrow morning. Thanks again for all the recs. I can't wait to eat here again!

Hi Kirk, well I'm really glad cause I have a new Thai spot thanks to you! Cheers

Anonymous said...

Happy Holidays, Dennis! I'm glad you finally made it to SEL and enjoyed your meals. Hey wait, didn't you tell me once that your heat tolerance was low? And you ordered a 7? I feel like such a wimp! I'm dying to try the garlic fried rice the next time I'm at SEL-2.

Dennis K. said...

Hi CAB! When I'm in the mood I can go up to a Nine in most places but not all the time. I felt SBL-2's Seven was about that.. and isn't SBL-1's scale even higher? I better order a Five there to be safe! Wow the year's almost over! Have a good one yourself. :)

Cathy Doe said...

So glad you stopped at Mary's also. I had posted on it a couple of times, just as an aside. It is open 24/7. I can walk there and to SEL2 you know. My life is good. Happy New Year!

Dennis K. said...

Hi Cathy! I didn't know Mary's was 24/7. I loved the interior of the place but refrained in taking any photos. Well here's to another great year of writing about what we ate! he he. Cheers