Open just shy of a year, Saan has become a cemented favourite to Ponsonby residents and visitors alike. Step off the bustling street and let your senses come alive with the aromas of traditional Thai cuisine, filling the plush dining room from the open plan grill and kitchen.
The decor instantly transports you into the steamy city of Chiang Mai. Designed by renowned architect Nat Cheshire, the space is dressed in fifty shades of nude. The simplicity creates the ultimate tranquil setting to relax in while enjoying an authentic, gourmet Northern Thai banquet.
Plates are to share, and word to the wise: if you’re adverse to chili, go elsewhere. In saying that, Saan’s offerings are the creme de la creme of modern ethnic fare, so if you are indeed adverse to chili, you should probably train those taste buds in order to stand the heat!
From the Khang Thang or ‘small bites’ menu the caramilised pulled pork served on prawn crackers with chili oil and sesame set the scene perfectly. The wok fried cuttle fish proved tender, with a hit of fresh chili and lime, pickled cucumber and crushed peanuts adding texture. The Sai Ua is a housemade sausage; free range pork is minced and mixed with aromatic spices and a decent dose of kaffir lime and served alongside a young green chili paste.
Plates then move up a scale to medium size. The soft shell crab is a meat lover's’ dream—crab without the niggly hard shell—yes please. Fried to perfection its crispy outer contrasts with the soft inner body. Here it’s served in a milky bath of coconut sauce and tossed with freshly picked coriander and dill. While the Somtum Phu Plarah is certainly not for the faint hearted, for two reasons. One, it’s fiery beyond belief—just as you’ll find it in Thailand. Two, it’s authentic, so there’s a few picked crabs immersed within the long strands of papaya. But not just any crab. This crab has been pickled, so it’s turned back. And if you’re anything like me, it may freak you out just a tad. No mistake however, it’s one of the tastiest dishes on offer.
Mains, or Jarn Lak are also designed to share. The Kua Gai is a beautifully balanced chicken dish comprising of wok fried noodles, egg, preserved cabbage and sriracha which gives the otherwise sweet dish a welcome kick. If there’s a large group of you, should set your sights on the whole fish - deep fried to perfection and dressed with herbs, shallots, cashews and a sweet and sour dressing, we know… But don’t let the shared plates deter you if you are on your lonesome, the mains here are perfect on their own as a quick and tasty bite washed down with a cold brew.
If you haven’t tried Saan yet, we suggest you do. The service is knowledgeable and friendly, the cocktails are a must-try (and generous, too) but the fare is the obvious draw card—mind-blowingly tasty, authentic Thai cuisine that takes advantage of the bounty of fresh produce our country has to offer. What more could you want?
Want to know the location, opening hours and all the deets? Find Saan in the Directory.
Image credit: Lauren Matilda Matthews