Sathorn's legendary Isaan restaurant is still going strong.
We don’t remember as far back as 1986, but we’re told from people who do that this restaurant was one of Bangkok’s first places to serve Isaan food indoors. In an age of Somtum Der and the Paradise Molam band, Sara-Jane’s garden, with its luk tung blaring and chunky wooden furnishings, feels weirdly on trend. The aircon indoor space, however, wasn’t given the memo about Isaan cliches being cool, and forges ahead with a look that’s more weekend in Hua Hin (white-washed walls and patio furniture) than adventure in Nakhon Ratchasima.
Still, the grilled chicken (B140) here is more rustic, more charred with real coal, more succulent and juicy, than any hipster joint we’ve come across—and beats many on the sidewalks, too. The restaurant’s efficiently ever-present staff say it’s still cooked up by the same lady who Sara-Jane’s began with 30 years ago. The somtam (B75-165) isn’t in quite the same league, lacking a chili kick and with flavors that taste a bit too clean—like a refurbished country cabin that lost its personality in the process. It also suffers from being right across the street from the awesomely punchy offerings of Tom Plapao.
This is not the case with all the dishes, here. The namtok moo (pork and herb salad, B125) smacks of minty, crunchy, herbaceous high notes, as do the laab moo tod (B135)—deep-fried flavor bombs of meaty spice, made to be had with an after-work beer (big Singha, B130). That’s what most of the crowd at Sara-Jane’s seem to come for, though our last two evenings here could have done with more buzz in the dining room. Another reason to visit: the lunchtime khaosoy (noodles in Northern-style soup, B70), which they ladle out in the garden from 9:30am until they run out (usually before 1pm)—a big hit with the Chong Nonsi office crowd.
Over time, Sara-Jane’s hasn’t really stayed true to its Isaan roots, adding more and more central-region classics, from green curries (B180) to pad krapao (B140). Both are fine, though no reason to go here alone. The menu even tries its hand at Italian. In the case of the salami pizza (B290), with miles-from-authentic results. In 2017, there are upscale Isaan restaurants whose somtam’s better Sara-Jane’s, but as a place to drop by on a not-too-scorching afternoon, chow down on the best grilled chicken around, or slurp up a bowl of noodles, it takes some beating.
This review took place in July 2017 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.
|Sara-Jane’s, 55/21 Narathiwas Rd., Bangkok, Thailand
|BB - BBB
|Mon-Fri 10am-1:30pm; daily 4:30-9pm; Sat 10am-2pm; Sun 10am-2:30pm
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