Sab E Lee holds a special place in my heart. Starting as the "little restaurant that could"....could do well making real deal spicy Issan style Thai Food in San Diego and thrive. It's been quite a ride for SEL, from the beginning, with Koby at the helm. It soon became part of our "rotation". Eventually, Koby sold the place to Maylee and company, and proceeded to open up Sab E Lee 2 in Santee, we now had twice the fun, as SEL2 featured a more Bangkok-centric menu, but the cooks were still form Issan. Koby then sold his share in SEL2 and disappeared into the ether......man of mystery, I've heard a couple of stories, but am still not sure what happened to him. The Linda Vista location rebranded and became "The Original Sab E Lee". Then in 2013, TOSEL opened a location in Rancho Penasquitos. Things have changed a bit over the years, TOSEL seems to have plateaued...there seems to be an ever changing cast of front of house staff and there have been times where the food did not live up to expectations and the service bordered on surly. However, back in November, i had a really good meal, and noticed that one of the old cooks was working the kitchen. A few days later I saw the sign on the old Bale location......"coming soon, The Original Sab E Lee....." Which is where we are now.
But last week, I finally did; twice. This spot is not too large, 11 tables, but probably three times the size of the old location. Still, it wasn't so large that they'd kill the kitchen.
Interesting mix; young Thai Kids, mixed groups, gringos ordering Won Tons and eating sticky rice with a spoon.
I did recognize one of the servers...he does double duty at the PQ location. Other than that none of the faces looked familiar.
The food? I'm happy to say, just about everything was pretty much spot on. You can read all my previous posts and get the lowdown.....
The Koi Soi - Koi Neua (Spicy Raw Beef) had been "cooked" too long in citrus and was much too sour and the texture wasn't right. It's usually a very refreshing dish. Over the years, my heat tolerance has gone down.....I can no longer get this as a "10" and these days settle for a "7".
Still, it was fine.
I once thought that SEL had no ceiling, unlimited potential. These days I consider it good grub, a place that makes me feel like I walked into a little restaurant in Issan and had a nice meal. And I'm more than happy to settle for that.
The Original Sab E Lee
6925 Linda Vista Road
San Diego, CA 92111