It’s jolly hard to actually walk past the new Saba, on Lower Baggot Street. It’s the sort of space that practically calls you in, and suggests you cancel any other plans you had for the evening. Why not just pull up a chair for one of their cucumber Hendricks, and tuck in.
What draws you in? The gorgeous room, with its atmospheric photos of Thai royalty and family. The ace staff, so willing to advise and happy to showcase a style of food they love and believe in. Or is it just the punchy cooking: chicken minced up with hoisin and ginger which you can wrap within iceberg, carrot and red onion; salty squid to dip in sweet chilli; opaque stockings of prawn rolls with vermicelli noodles and an elegant papaya beansprout salad; marinated deep fried pork with a sriracha-style counterpoint.
Many are called in just to eat repeat the Massaman chicken, with its lure of coconut, peanuts and crispy shallot. Yum. Others might be called to experiment with their specials, perhaps panfried John Dory, scattered with ginger, lemon grass, kaffir lime, mint, chilli and cashew nuts. Yum. Me? I find it hard not to pull up a chair for their vegetable tempura dunked in mustard lime mayo.
All the staff display a sense of ownership about the place. They want you to share their passion and will steer you in the right manner of eating these dishes. One guy jumped over in my direction and gently chided me for disassembling the prawn pomelo - I was poking the betel leaves with my chopsticks and extracting the prawns and accompaniments. “No! he said, not like that! Take it all in one bite". I did and was so glad to have been corrected. A glorious explosion of ginger, tamarind and prawn wrapped up in the betel. Gorgeous!
Saba is now a brand, and one of Ireland’s favourites. Those distinctive pink S, A, B and A folded into each other in the clever logo is a treasured image that makes fans want to sit down, buy the book, takeaway Saba To Go, or queue up at Electric Picnic for the Massaman, one more time. Saba is one funky fun and delicious package, and the new Baggot Street branch is just as addictive.
Saba Baggot Street, 22 Upper Baggot Street, Dublin 4