London is a city full of hypes and queues. It’s crazy that people would spend hours to queue for sweatshirts, shoes, H&M, buns, curries, steaks and everything in between. Luckily Som Saa is one of those rare things where there was hype, no queue and even more shockingly, the food was actually bloody fantastic. Shocking, I know, but when was the time you listened to hype, ate the food and thought “well, that was really something else…”. For me, it was probably homeslice, and that was probably 3 years ago by now, lightyears ago in the world of London gastronomy!
I’ve been trying to visit this place ever since it opened but Grant wanted to come too and he doesn’t like queuing; so we could only go if we could book, which was only for 4+ people. THEN, on the day we were only 3 anyways and he won’t let me be an arsy Hong Konger (and lie) AND Bella was late so we ended up waiting anyways. Mainly for Bella, but by that time we’ve lost the table and god knows what that girl did to get us seated straight away.
Lucky for you, this meant that Grant and I had ample time to sample the cocktail menu, and sadly we both thought that the majority of them were way too sweet. There was Ode to Ada that was compared to a negroni (but entirely unlike it), the Krahang Old Fashioned (I did appreciate the distinctiveness of palm sugar coming through but old fashioned are not sweet drinks) and possibly the best of the bunch, the Muy Thai Kick, which was long and refreshing (so distracted us from the sweetness). Our bar snacks did much better and we enjoyed both the wrapped up ball of pork crackling and veggies as well as the more traditional fermented pork do-dah.
Once sat down on the corner of a long communal table, Grant commented that his hubby won’t like it. Well, actually if we had got the table we booked for, we’d have a booth. And there are 2 tops a plenty if you’d prefer some romantic dining, though I’m sure the wait might be longer (so you can enjoy more cocktails). Our waitress was friendly (though her recommendations didn’t help as she preferred veggies and the menu was dominated by meat dishes).
At the end of a long discussion, we ordered 6 dishes between the 3 of us and 2 rices. This left enough room for a dessert each (and you definitely should leave room for the dessert). There were some great dishes and some… slightly less amazing ones.
I’ll come out with it and be controversial. I didn’t care for the famous deep fried seabass. Que Viet does a much better fried fish dish and the sea bass was tiny considering the price. I thought it was slightly overcooked as well and it’s not easy to eat if you’re not an experienced fish filleter (thank god that’s the first thing they train chinese kids- filleting fish and deshelling prawns). I would say this was by far the most disappointing dish for me, as was the guinea fowl soup- too much crap (no self respecting person from Hong Kong really eat the meat or the veg. I mean I eat the veg because I’m an oddity- you’ve boiled the shit out of the stuff already, why would you eat it?) and too little soup. Both were visually exciting but a let down once you got past the thrill of instagramming your food.
In between are the green beef curry (so succulent and well balanced, but not a heap of meat), the crispy pork belly curry (I really enjoyed it but I think the other 2 thought it was a bit bland) which was a great contrast of texture and flavours. All 3 of us loved the pork neck (very spicy but so flavourful) and the cloud fish cake salad- a super light deep fried fish cake under a heavenly mix of thai salad- must order again! In case you didn’t notice, my favourite savory dish was definitely the fish cake salad.
Sadly, my favourite sweet dish wasn’t my own salted caramelised palm sugar ice cream. It was… salted caramelised ice cream with a light palm sugar twist. SO BORING (silly me) unlike Grant’s duck egg and jackfruit custard, which I would have happily killed him for if he was less funny. The custard fell into the latter category of the grand tradition of asian desserts being either so sweet it’ll give you diabetes just by looking at it or so unsweet that it’s more a palate cleanser. It was unctuously rich, slightly savory and the fried shallots completely elevated it to a whole new level. Hmm… on second thought ,maybe I should have murdered Grant with the fork and took his dessert… it was a communal table, no one would have known it was me, right?
Would I be back? Absolutely. I thought Som Saa was probably the best thai I’ve had in London and next time I’m definitely getting the duck egg custard all to myself.
(I have lots to say about the rice but I realise most people aren’t as finicky as I am. Perils of being raised in HK I’m sure. These guys hail from Nahm and unsurprisingly I was affronted by their rice craft as well.)
43A Commercial Street, E1 6BD
Food: ★★★★☆ (The fish, the soup and the rice brought it down)