There was a moment, between eating endive leaves piled with chunks of herbed tiger shrimp in sweet pepper tamarind coulis and cream of papaya soup with its exotic symphony of Thai seasonings and ripe fruit, that I became a believer. The foodie gossip I’d been hearing was true. From Thornhill to Forest Hill, Rosedale to Riverdale, they’ve been saying that Sasi is the best Thai chef in the city.
Now, this tiny chef with the big talent and her husband Allan, a gregarious and affable
chartered accountant turned restaurateur, have left their award winning, suburban restaurant Me Thai, and moved lock, stock and barrel to the next “about to be discovered”trendy area. Thai food fanatics and loyal clientele from all parts of the city are flocking to see them. Though there is usually street parking available, Allan, the consummate host says “Just leave your car and give me your keys, I will park it for you”
And minutes later he’s letting us smell the Mulberry tea leaves from tea plantations five thousand feet high at the top of Mount Maesalong in Thailand. And just to keep us busy, before dinner, there is an appetizer called Morning Glory which is Thai water spinach, flash fried with tempura batter.
Dining here is not an anonymous experience. We’re all treated as if we’re guests at Allan’s own private party. He introduces his guests to each other, many of whom seem to be Americans, and suggests we cross-taste dishes, just to try a little of everything. Who would not want to experience the explosions of flavour from Sasi’s Lemongrass Shrimp soup with exotic ingredients that include Kafir lime leaf, Thai ginger and sweet basil, tamarind and lemongrass. Clearly, no man has ever been more proud of his wife’s cooking.
And with good reason. Authentic Pad Thai noodle is plump with baby shrimp and tiger shrimp, chicken and the egg, and all the ingredients that make it a favourite. Still, it keeps getting better. My favourite taste thrill is roast duck braised with green grapes and tiny tomatoes in coconut curry sauce woven together with white wine top notes.
The inevitable question by everyone is, how does Sasi make all these wonderful dishes. This gives Allan the opportunity to tell us about his wife’s cooking classes. They can take an entire Saturday afternoon filled with cooking, learning and eating. A hands on cooking class and sit down dinner party is a priceless culinary adventure.
People in the know, just come in and order Sasi’s special dish, # 54, a combination of land, sea and nature, which she created for the televised Master Chef Series. Fresh lichee fruits are stuffed with savoury chicken, and surround a centrepiece of King prawns in milder spice, green curry sauce, and the world’s finest Hom Mali rice. (Thailand exports five to six million tons of Hom Mali around the world, every year)
Meanwhile, catering orders fly out the front door to be delivered; regular clients come in bringing groups of people to try Sasi’s cooking for the first time; and the large square room is alive with good feeling and the enjoyment of good food. Allan, at the centre of it all, is all smiles and information.
Dessert? After all these exciting flavours and textures, we’re happy just the way we are. Still, a tiny taste of coconut crÃ¨me sticky rice with mango is hard to refuse. And yet, it is difficult to leave without taking some culinary souvenir home with us. A jar of Sasi’s freshly made Lemongrass soup paste has brightened up my simple stir fries at home all week.
After dinner, Allan brings out his book of architectural plans for a resort and cooking school in Thailand. Sasi and Allan Lim are destined for success.