Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Warm Welcome to Sawaddee Bistro, Saskatoon

Opening a new restaurant is a huge undertaking, but Paul Chantharyvong has what it takes – love of good food, respect for customers and enthusiasm.

Sawaddee is a Thai word for hello and welcome, and you will feel welcome as soon as you step into the cheerful yellow restaurant. Paul and his staff offer a traditional Thai greeting – as a sign of respect and a way to share their culture.

It’s obvious that Paul enjoys food and he wants his customers to enjoy it too.

Paul was born in Thailand, but his family moved to Regina when he was three years old. After high school, he moved to Calgary where he made sushi for four years. This awakened his interest in cooking, and he went back to school, graduating from the cooking program at SAIT. He then worked for a year at the Marriott Hotel in Calgary.

Bangkok and Northern Thai
Sawaddee Bistro serves only Thai food. Paul and his main chef, Jarat Chantanit, emphasize the authentic ingredients and recipes, but Paul says they are also trying to make the food as up to date as possible. “We want to prepare and present food that is more modern to people’s taste and eye,” says Paul.

Paul is particularly proud of his Phad Thai, and I certainly enjoyed the flavourful serving of vegetarian phad thai that Paul sent me home with (photo is of a customer’s serving with meat). “It’s an authentic Phad Thai,” explains Paul. “Not too many vegetables, with peanuts, bean sprouts and lime on the side. The sauce is key, and it depends on technique and recipe. You have to use just the right amount of oil and sugar. We use plum sugar.”

A customer received a complimentary serving of Tung Tongs, or golden purses. Paul describes them as a unique Thai dumpling, tied into a neat little package with a strand of green onion.

The Khao Phad Rot Fi is a tomato-based fried rice that comes with shrimp and crispy barbecued pork if it is available. “There are lots of barbecue stands in Thailand,” explains Paul.

Sawaddee currently offers three coconut-based curries, but Paul tells me that each of them has a different aroma, spice and feeling. “I tell customers to choose the green curry if they want to feel happy,” he says. “It’s a little sweet and has an amazing colour.”

Seafood and Spice
You can look forward to lots of seafood dishes on Sawaddee’s menu. “There are so many ways you can play with seafood,” says Paul, “but it will depend on what seafood I can get.”

Paul encourages customers to try the Phad Nam Pik Pro, mussels with onions, basil and sweet chilli oil sauce. And don’t forget to ask about the daily special – last week it was soft-shelled crabs.

Paul has fond memories of eating a really, really hot Tom Yum soup near the ocean in Laos, and he’s tried to replicate it for his restaurant. “If people like spice, this is the place to be,” Paul says. But it’s up to the customer, so your dish can be as mild or as spicy as you choose.

I have a sweet tooth so I was delighted to see that Sawaddee has a variety of intriguing dessert options. Paul says he was a pastry chef, and he thinks desserts are really interesting. “It adds to your meal,” he says. I’m looking forward to trying the Rommit (sweet coconut milk, shredded tapioca with sliced jackfruit) or the That Teim, which has a creamy coconut base, tapioca and ice. “It’s really common in Thailand,” explains Paul, “because it’s so hot.”

Auntie Keo
Sawaddee Bistro is located at 101-129 2nd Avenue North, where Keo’s used to have a second downtown location. Paul was planning to open a restaurant in Regina, but “my Auntie Keo inspired me to come here instead.” Paul’s aunt told him that she saw something in him and believed that he could be like her. “I really do respect her for giving me this opportunity,” says Paul.

Sawaddee Bistro is open from 12-2:30 and from 4:30-9:00. They are closed on Sundays.

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