I’ll be honest: I’ve been a bit underwhelmed by San Diego restaurants. Yes, I’m a total New York snob when it comes to food and yes, I’ve been lucky enough to travel internationally and eat my heart out for a whole year, but I did expect more out of the restaurants here. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found gems like Mama’s Bakery for Lebanese and Buona Forchetta for pizza, and of course the produce and Mexican eats here are way better than anything New York could dream up, but it’s taken work and a lot of trial and error to find my favorites.
That said, when I find something I like, you know that I really dig it. And that’s how I feel about Sab-e-lee a homestyle Thai restaurant low on frills and high on spice. (They offer a spice range of 1 to 10 and, to give you some perspective, when we ordered a 4, I woke up in the middle of the night with heartburn and a stomach ache — and I can handle my spice!)
The setting isn’t anything fancy and the location is completely random (tucked away in Linda Vista), but it feels like a Thai momma’s working in the kitchen. There are a lot of items we love — fried rice, green curry and Thai iced tea to name a few — but last night we shared a trio of tofu pad thai, chicken larb (our favorite dish from our time in Thailand) and beef salad. If you want the best mix of flavors, go for the beef salad, made with lemongrass, Thai eggplant, fresh chili, green onion and spicy lime juice.
Here’s a closer look: