Welcome to mmm-yoso!!! -- Kirk's foodblog. Sometimes he lets Cathy post here, and today he's letting ed (from Yuma) post about a meal that you may have read about once or twice already.
On my last trip to San Diego, America's finest city, I fortunately arrived on the same day that Kirk, Howie, and Candice were planning a visit to Sang Dao, a Lao/Thai restaurant recently relocated on to El Cajon Blvd. I managed to finagle an invitation to join them there.
Like many good dining spots run by recent immigrants, it is located in a somewhat dicey neighborhood, between a gold buyer and a payday advance place: I never expected to post about the meal, but it seems that I took the most photos. Anyway, thought some readers might enjoy looking at more pictures of the food. But be sure to read Kirk's account of the restaurant and Candice's too - to get expert opinions.
First, the raw beef salad: In this case, my picture is not especially good although it does show the wealth of greens that accompany the salad. I thought it tasted fine and liked the slight background bitter touch of bile. It was was not as beefy and, mercifully, not as overwhelmingly hot as the version at Sab-E-Lee (prepared Thai spicy for Kirk) which he and I had enjoyed around New Years.
Next we were served spicy offal soup (anybody remember the name?): This was really good. The broth was deeply savory and lit up with chile spices. I kept shoveling various organ meats into my mouth, chewing them up, swallowing them, and going back for more. Even when I had no idea what I was eating: One dish that I wanted in particular was whole fish -- which I guess is kind of an obsession of mine. I thought that the tilapia arrived looking very pretty: The taste matched the look of the fish. The first flavor notes that hit my palate were touches of sweetness, but the sweetness was nicely balanced with citrus flavors. The sauce did not overwhelm the flavor of the fish. I was also impressed by the quality of the frying. Though the skin was crisp, this fish remained moist from head to tail: Next to arrive was the offal noodle soup: This soup was less enticing to any of us. The numerous slices of liver dominated the flavor of the bowl. I crave liverwurst sometimes, but this soup proved that I am not a true liver lover. The super soft noodles seemed OK, but added little. I would try a different noodle dish on a future visit.
My only other complaint about the meal - the sticky rice tasted a bit dried out.
Candice insisted we try a red curry shrimp dish that she had had before. I'm glad she did. As you can tell by the brownish color of the curry, the sauce had intense and complex flavors. It was so good I forgot to take a picture until almost the entire serving was gone:
I should probably add that I was the one who finished off the last of this wonderful curry.
The final item served was certainly one of the most impressive. It was a chopped long bean salad prepared with Lao spicing: In some ways, this resembles an extremely funky green papaya salad. Look at the color of the dressing. The pungent flavor of fish sauce (and/or fermented shrimp?) infused every bite of the salad. The diced chilies raised the spice level high. But even with all these other flavors, the intense green bean taste and green bean crunch stood out in every mouthful. A texture/taste treat. For me, this was an amazing and exciting dish. Nothing like it in Yuma!
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed more pictures. And I hope Kirk, or Howie, or Candice feel free to correct or add to this discussion. Compared to most Thai food, this seemed more in your face funky with more salty than sweet flavors. I, for one, appreciated the extensive menu (unlike Asia Cafe), which seems to invite return visits.
When the bill came, we were all amazed at the low cost for the all the food we'd eaten. No need to sell that wedding ring or borrow til payday to have dinner here.
Sang Dao Restaurant, 5421 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115, (619) 263-0914 :