Soquel’s Sawasdee earns great views at Casablanca Inn
I was looking forward to a Thai lunch, and an almost waterfront table overlooking the Main Beach surf on a pleasant day made this midweek jaunt even more tantalizing.
Walking a block down the Main Street hill from the designated free parking lot, the breeze bore the familiar summer scents of salt, sea and seaweed. Gulls closely followed dive-bombing pelicans in hopes of a catch, while a lone stand-up paddler glided atop the ocean’s smooth surface.
Elements of the previous Casa Blanca Bistro have remained at Sawasdee by the Sea, such as the dreamy sky blue ceiling with wisps of painted clouds. Of course the tri-level seating area which ensures a view from each table remains, but each brass bar-lined section now supports planters with arrays of attractive plastic gardens. Along two sides of the perimeter, bench seating has been added, upholstered tastefully in turquoise.
To acknowledge Sawasdee’s foray into a new neighborhood, I decided to take some risks myself, ordering dishes I had previously not tasted. Except for a half order of Fresh Spring Rolls ($3.95). Stuffed with threads of red and white cabbage, carrot, vermicelli and tiny sprouts, with spears of fried tofu and crisp cucumber, it was served with, so far, my favorite local peanut sauce; smooth, sweet , tart and a touch spicy.
For the salad course Yum Naem Sod ($8.95) is a ginger-lover’s dream come true. Long matchstick shreds of ginger were mixed with ground pork, bright julienne of carrot, thick slices of red onion, whole peanuts, cilantro and green onion. The thin dressing had a lovely lemony flavor.
My personal list of comfort foods includes Thai spicy green curry and Tom Yum Gai hot and sour soup, both of which are enjoyable at Sawasdee. But sticking to my mission of exploration at the beach, the second dish was a seafood stir-fry, Pad Ta-Lay ($18.95). Purple-tinged shoots of Thai basil were interspersed in the garlic, shrimp, fresh green beans, and squid, which had been scored in such a way that they became tubular when cooked. I added dried ground chilies and salty chili paste to spice up the dark fish sauce.
The BBQ chicken ($9.95) was healthy in both dimensions and ingredients. Turmeric-colored skinless chicken breast, was marinated in spices and grilled, and served atop lightly steamed vegetables. It was a bit dry by itself, as chicken can be, but it hydrated perfectly when dipped into the thin salty and citrusy herbed sauce.
Our server Bundit mentioned that Sweet Rice with Mango ($6.95) and Fried Bananas with Coconut Ice Cream ($6.95) were traditional Thai desserts. Having never tasted either, I was pleasantly surprised by the latter. A trio of warm, halved bananas, covered thickly with batter and fried was a sweet complement to the peanut-topped tower of ice cream. Sorbet-like with a mild coconut flavor and a mouth-feel that was icy rather than fatty, Bundit noted it was made with coconut as opposed to dairy milk.
Sawasdee by the Sea, 101 Main St., Santa Cruz., 466-9009. Full Bar. Open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Visit sawasdeesoquel.com.
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