Sabai Fine Thai on the Bay throws a much-loved South-East Asian cuisine into the international mix of restaurants attracting diners to the Fullerton Heritage enclave. In keeping with its posh Ngee Ann City stablemate, Sabai’s Customs House outlet prides itself on serving royal Thai cuisine – and decidedly so, given its name, which translates to ‘fine’ in Thai. The restaurant’s decor plays up to this status through a stately interior dressed with wooden flooring, lowburning spotlights, starched linen tables and walls adorned by exquisite Thai artefacts. Much attention has been paid to the fine porcelain and regal presentation; unfortunately the cooking seems to have been overlooked in the process.
The appetisers started things off auspiciously enough, with a pot of tear-jerking and tongue-searing tom yum goong – a common litmus test for Thai cuisine. Served elegantly in a stainless steel pot with stalks of lemongrass, chillis, straw mushrooms and shrimps adrift in a clear soup, it was perfectly flavoured with a mélange of strong spicy and sour flavours. Apart from the soup, the next best palate teaser were the chicken wings that came stuffed with minced chicken, whose chunks of flawlessly enveloped meats, deep-fried to near perfection, packed a real punch.
But the rest of our meal was far from a showstopper. The green curry with beef fillet enveloped in a thick curry, streaked with wedges of eggplant and subtly bitter pea eggplant, paled alongside its deliciously savoury counterparts at Thanying, as well as the smooth and saucy one at Porn’s. A dish comprising shelled and baked crab claws crowned with parsley sprigs, and served in claypot with oodles of vermicelli, Chinese mushrooms, roasted pork belly and caramelised garlic, suffered from miserly, thumbsized claws which failed to cloak those rice noodles with rich shellfish flavours. Desserts offered a saving grace as we steered a safe course: the mango chunks come with sticky rice that is sweet and subtly crunchy.
Sabai is certainly a worthy consideration for Thai fare if you are in the vicinity of Marina Bay and looking for a kingly setting, but we wouldn’t make a detour here for any royal eats. Eve C