Sunday 16 November 2014

Som Saa: worth the wait!

I love a queue. I really do. I see a restaurant surrounded by baying "foodies" and I want to go. I will stand in the rain, the sleet and the snow, just to get whatever it may be: a burger; some ramen perhaps. I waited 2 hours for a burger from #Meateasy, as they then were, in New Cross Gate. Call me boring, but the great thing about a queue is that it is orderly, you may be climbing the culinary equivalent of Everest, but the summit is in sight: you know how many breathless steps you have got to go to get there.

Men with clipboards, however well meaning, are a slightly different prospect. You are assured of 45 minutes, that comes and goes. Others, who arrived after, seem to be sitting down earlier (perhaps the joys of eating in a three). One table, almost empty other than for a few portly gentleman, offers hope, a false dawn; no that is the owner who needs nine seats for him and his chums. An hour arrives, still no luck. Another quarter, nope, still waiting.

We get to 1 hour 35 and at last we sit down, a little weary, murmurings that "it had all better be worth it". But see that's where Som Saa, the latest pop up at Climpson's Arch, gets you. Because it is. Despite the disorderly seating system, the mislaid snacks which turned up 30 minutes late and the general lack of organisation, the food is, in the main, very good indeed. You have traveled through purgatory and arrived in heaven: a heaven heavy-laden with chili, drenched in fish sauce and full of lime-smacked smiles. In London it is perhaps only second to The Heron in delivering that collision of flavour that only Thailand can.

Some snacks got us through our wait, cashew nuts tarted up with Kaffir Lime and chili, some fermented pork, sour and spicy. There is the usual som tam, here served Bangkok or Isaan style (a little heavy on the salt, but vibrant).

Grilled pork neck makes the most of the wood-fired oven at Climpson's Arch - hot, sweet, sour, and salty in equal measures, it is everything Thai food should be.There is a curry which, to my palate tastes similar to a Massaman, although it is given a much more interesting name here.

Juicy prawns are simply grilled, served with a dipping sauce in which to get your fingers grubby.

And fish, perhaps the scariest looking sea bass you ever will see - I was waiting for fireballs to roll forth from its nose! It may look overdone, but the flesh was perfect, the skin crispy. A triumph on which to end.

The wait and the queuing system at Som Saa may be frustrating, the food is anything but. Head early or late, gorge on some of the best Thai food around and leave laughing. I'll be the one at the bottom of the clipboard, waiting for my hit.

*Thanks to the kitchen for the extra serving of prawns to make up for the wait, much appreciated!

Climpson's Arch on Urbanspoon

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