Neighbourhood: St. Boniface, South Osborne
Address: 150 Provencher Blvd, 555 Osborne St
Phone: (204) 415-1001, (204) 284-8424
For a dozen years, Sawatdee’s beaming pink and blue neon sign has been a beacon in the hip South Osborne area attracting Thai food aficionados. In October 2008, the beloved restaurant’s second sign lit up—this time, on Provencher Blvd in a new St. Boniface location. New owner Linh Vo took over the Osborne eatery in 2007 and along with it, introduced a range of authentic Vietnamese dishes, a reflection of Vo’s roots.
The two cuisines are similar in many ways, using ingredients like fish sauce, garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, green onions, coconut milk and lemongrass. The main difference is the prominence of galangal and kaffir lime leaves in Thai cooking. Also, chile peppers are served on the side in Vietnam. By offering both cuisines under one roof, there are a plethora of flavours to explore in mild to spicy heat levels that, in many cases, can be customized to taste.
The two locations feature similar menus, although the Osborne location offers 10 exclusive dishes and stays open until 4 am Wed to Sun to satisfy late night cravings. Meanwhile, the Provencher eatery offers a lunch buffet on weekdays.
The decor of both restaurants pays homage to Thailand through traditional etchings, teak accents and golden religious statues. Diners familiar with the 86-seat, hard-wood floored Osborne location will find a more intimate experience in the 56-seat St. B space. A few tables line the streetside windows, but most are tucked into the beautifully decorated alcove in the back.
Brace your senses for tastes to come with an order of garden fresh Viet spring rolls. Sticky rice paper rolls tightly wrap around a mixture of chilled prawns, squiggly rice noodles, iceberg lettuce and julienne carrots. Fresh mint takes the filling to refreshing new heights. The house dipping sauce—a blend of fish sauce and chiles—is a sweet complement.
With a kaffir lime leaf here and sprig of lemongrass there, gigantic New Zealand mussels are steamed and infused with vibrant, tangy flavour. Extra heat is available in fiery lemon dipping sauce on the side.
Chiles continue to offer balanced sting in kang pred pineapple. This irresistable dish combines juicy parcels of pineapple and grapes, bell peppers, snap peas, zucchini and sweet Thai basil. Coconut milk gently soothes, taming the fire of this must-have Thai delicacy.
Noodles, a staple in Thai and Viet diets, are featured prominently on the menu. The golden sawatdee (pad mee sawatdee) awakens the palate with thin, slippery egg noodles infused with curry flavour. A hint of peanut sauce calms the heat. The dish is capped off with the hearty crunch of mixed vegetables.
Turning to Vietnamese tastes, seek out the chef’s specials section for saigon way (gung hanh) basa fish. Mint, ginger and green onions are sprinkled over perfectly steamed fillets. As a result of this traditional Viet preparation, the sharp tang of ginger and delicate soy-based sauce penetrates every soft morsel.
Treat yourself to a dish of deep-fried banana drizzled in honey at the end. The crispy coating breaks open to reveal hot, creamy slices of banana in this rewarding sweet and savoury treat.
Sawatdee Thai is open Mon-Fri 11 am-10 pm; Sat & Sun 11 am-midnight (St. Boniface) and Mon & Tue 11:30 am-midnight; Wed-Fri 11:30 am-4 am; Sat 4 pm-4 am; Sun 4 pm- midnight (South Osborne).
Ciao! reviewers visit each restaurant several times unannounced and always pay for their own meals.