Som Saa, Spitalfields
Originating from an arch in the depths of East London, such was the popularity of Som Saa's North Eastern Thai food (from 2009 Masterchef finalist Andy Oliver) that they managed to crowdfund their way to this proper restaurant in just three days and £700,000.
So, it's of little surprise that the new Som Saa is a bit hard to get into.There are reservations - amazingly - but just try and get one. Your best best is to turn up in a smallish group on a weeknight and be prepared to sit it out for a while in their (lovely, non-crowded, table serviced) bar. Nobody could possibly mind this, especially as there are some great little bar snacks to be had here. We turned up at 6.45pm on a Tuesday and waited maybe 35 minutes (having been warned of an hour), happily sipping coconut water and resisting the bar snacks with our eye on the dining room prize beyond. Fine.
Don't come here expecting tourist trap favourites like pad Thai, massaman etc. It's not that. What you do get instead is so much better and so much more authentic - and naturally, so much spicier.
The menu is divided in to sections like 'curry', 'soups' and 'salad' and you're encouraged to choose a mix of each. Here's what we had; I'd recommend the lot.
Title pic - Mu Yaang, or, grilled pork neck. Lean, sour and tangy thanks to its refreshing nahm jim dressing. I need to know how to make this immediately.
Then this - kind of fancy puffy pork crackling with a very mild green salsa, crudites and an egg. Apparently useful for cooling down if you need it.
This Som Tam Bangkok-style (aka green papaya salad) on the left was one of my daily favourites in Thailand, and this was thankfully as fresh, zingy and superhumanly spicy as they would serve it there. Not for the fainthearted.
On the right there's a kind of stir fried chicken dish with chrysanthemum leaves and whatnot. It was fine but unremarkable.
Also, this Gaeng Baa Plaa (jungle curry of fish) was great - rich, sweet, hot and fragrant. Everything comes with cute little pockets of either jasmine or sticky rice at £2.50 per head.
By then we were stuffed but sad not to be able to fit in an order for their signature whole deep fried sea bass - search for it on Instagram and see how epic it looks. Funnily enough, we could just about manage to share a pudding though and went for the sticky rice with coconut poached jackfruit - we'd completely lost the light by then though.
This tremendous Thai feast cost us around £20 each excluding drinks. You can't argue with that.