Keifel and I recently had the pleasure of an overnight in Memphis for his green card interview. Keifel is now an official permanent resident (Huzzah!) and we got to spend some time together without the interference of work and school for a brief 24 hour span. As our presence was requested at the immigration office at 7:30 AM and we arrived in Memphis around 4:30PM the previous day we had some time to kill, which we spent at the Ye Olde Pot and Pannery outlet, the Davis-Kidd Booksellers Memphis store and finding some sustenance. SC recommended a Thai place downtown by the Peabody, so after some debate about driving versus staying close to the hotel, we headed further west.
The front door to Sawaddii opens onto a very small reception area and bar. The restaurant was practically deserted on a Wednesday night and we were seated immediately. Brightly painted portraits of musicians of every genre line the muted walls and contrast nicely with the dark wood tones of the bar and screen separating the bar back from the restaurant. The tables are comfortable if utilitarian and everything else has the clean lines that one has come to expect of Asian restaurants. The lighting was a little bright for dinner after dark and the music was mostly okay except for a travesty that might only offend me: a bad cover of Van Morrison.
Our overly chatty waiter took our drinks order and disappeared briefly. Keifel and I both zeroed in on the duck dishes of which there were two. We decided to each get one and start with tom ka soup. The soup arrived very quickly steaming with the scent of lemongrass, one of the main reasons that I adore it. It was a bit thinner than I had had before but still with a good body. Overall the flavor was balanced between the citrus notes of the lemongrass and lime leaves and the earthiness of the mushrooms in their coconut milk bath. There is one caveat. The chicken was cooked to death and cut into sizes three times what would be politely manageable on a spoon.
Our duck dishes arrived as quickly as the soup had, in fact, we had not had time to finish the soup. Yes, rushing me through the courses is one of my very biggest pet peeves. Keifel had ordered the roasted duck with curry, pineapple and spinach. It smelled divine. I ordered the Sam Rod duck. Mine smelled pretty good, too. Keifel’s duck had marvelously crispy skin, was cooked perfectly with pink still at the center of the breast, and the curry pulled it all together. I could have eaten a bowl of the pineapple and curry over rice and been utterly content. In fact I should have. The skin on my duck was crispy, but the flesh was overcooked and liver-y tasting. The overly salted sauce didn’t help matters along and the sweet and sour sauce clashed and fought rather than counterpointed. I ate more of Keifel’s than I did of my own.
The server did not comment on my quarter eaten entree. He also took Keifel’s plate before I had finished pushing mine around instead of taking both plates at the same time. Another pet peeve.
Once we had decided that I should write a review, I decided I had to give the dessert menu a go. My choices came down to key lime pie and creme brulee, two of my personal favorites. The key lime pie was not made in house so I decided to attempt the creme brulee. Keifel looked at me with a great deal of scepticism and pointed out that this could only end in tears. I should have listened.
Our waiter disappeared, for a good while. It was the longest span he had spent away from our table and I began to worry that the stress of dealing with us and two other tables may have overwhelmed him, or more likely that he had gone for a smoke. He did finally advent with my dessert and cautioned me the dish was hot because he had just taken the torch to it himself. Really, it should sit for a few minutes after the flaming, to harden, and it shouldn’t get hot as the custard… well, you’ll see.
It was really far too large a portion for one person, which he had not mentioned, and there was a liquid film over the carmelized and burnt sugar topping. The custard was close to room temperature and badly curdled. I was crestfallen. Generally when Keifel and I go out, he always gets the better entree and I try to save the meal with a nice dessert. Not to be.
I tried one more route to dining happiness and ordered coffee. This was their last chance to save the evening as I firmly believe a crappy cup of coffee can ruin a perfectly good meal while a good after dinner cuppa can cover, if not a multitude, at least a few sins.
Sawaddii has great coffee.
Sawaddii Thai Cuisine
121 Union Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38103