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Aug 9, 2008 11:16 PM

There is good Thai food in San Diego

There is a new place at 2405 Ulric in Linda Vista called Sab E Lee ('sep e lee'). Forgive the spelling. Since the Thai language has 28 vowels and 44 consonants, there is no transliteration, and the owners didn't put an English name on the menu, business cards or the signage. The blue awning outside says 'Linda Vista Food'.

Anyway, it's been open since Monday, and I've eaten there four days in a row. (Yes, I am obsessive.) I love Thai food, and this is the best I have ever eaten in San Diego in a restaurant. Nobody can match my wife's food- she is from Chiang Mai - but she is in Dutch Harbor at the moment, and I must fend for myself.

It's a tiny place with maybe six or seven tables. There are 135 items on the menu, and many I haven't seen in San Diego before, like Northeastern Sausage (#69), Northern Sausage (#70), Catfish Larb (#71) and Spicy Raw Beef (#68).

To me the benchmarks of a Thai place are the Larb and the Som Tum, or the Papaya Salad. Here the bossman Koby scored points when he asked if I wanted my Som Tum Thai-style or Lao-style. I prefer Thai-style; the Lao is a bit murky, or thick for my taste. This was very good. My nose ran, my mouth burned and I was sweating in my hair, so it was nice and spicy. There were more peanuts than I would have wanted, but lots of the chewy dried shrimps.

I had the Larb Beef today. I loved it. Often Larb here in the States is just ground meat with rice powder, lime juice and chiles. A feature of Larb in Thailand is parts. You can be happily eating your meal when you find something in your mouth you can't identify. 'Please let this be from the animal', you think. "Do I pull it out and lose face, or soldier on?' There were no mystery parts today, but I did find nice slices of liver and tripe to mix things up. It was moist, spicy and just about perfect.

My favorite,however, has been #44, or Spicy Mint Leaves with Steamed Pork Leg, another dish I haven't seen in San Diego before. I eat this every chance I get in Thailand. The pork is steamed with cinnamon, I believe, and it becomes so tender you can pull it apart with your fork and spoon. The juice leaves the rice so, so . . , Man, I need to go to Adjective School. I just don't have enough words. Be warned, however. You get just as much fat as meat here. And it's just as tender, and just as wonderful.

I'm getting hungry again. Check this place out. They are open from 9:30 to 9:30 seven days a week. Telephone 858 650 6868.


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  1. Dude, What a find and what a wonderful post Uncle Lefty!

    Is the pork leg stew called something a long the lines of "ko kah moo" ? Thats my favorite thai dish and the way you describe the rice seems to fit the bill but I have only had it at a songkran fest.

    I am getting there asap. Thanks so much

    3 Replies
    1. re: kare_raisu

      That pork leg with spicy mint leaves grabbed my attention too. Definitely need to try this place soon - thanks for the tip!

      1. re: kare_raisu

        Dude. I appreciate it. I eat out at least once a day, and I owe probably 90% of my rotation to Chowhounds in general, and people like you in particular.

        I don't remember what the dish is called in Thai. I just don't have an ear for the language, and it's probably called something different in the North, Bangkok and Isaan. I listen for the tones and the syllables get by me. I know the 'moo' is correct. (Rising tone, I think.)

        Was your Songkran festival in Thailand? If so, how many buckets of canal water did you take to the face?


      2. It was pretty good when it was "Thai by Tara" when I went there in about March of this year. At least they kept the cusine the same in this rendition...gotta try the location yet again. Thanks for the report.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Cathy

          Whoa - this sounds like a great tip - thanks! It's gotta be good for me to drive, but this might do it!

          1. re: Cathy

            You're welcome, Cathy. I liked 'Thai by Tara' a lot. It was the closest Thai place to my home, and my wife knew the owner.

            I thought their Beef Noodle Soup (I asked for 'Boat Noodles') was the best in San Diego. They had a small menu, but everything was very good. A couple of times they even had 'Khao Soi', the ultimate Northern comfort food.

            I was really disappointed when they closed, but I think this new place is even better. The menu is much more ambitious and the food is less geared to us non-Thais.

            1. re: Uncle Lefty

              Good Call Uncle Lefty - Tried this place out on is the real deal! The Som Tum was excellent.

              1. re: KirkK

                I wanted add a bit more but got called away.

                The Owner is Issan - so is the cook, who can really cook.

                No Issan style sausage the day we went, and no raw beef salad.
                The Pad See Ew was well done, cooked perfectly, I enjoyed the balance of sweet and savory. The one thing that impressed me the most was how the noodles were cooked, there was "wok hey' present! We got the Som Tum "Issan style"...quite spicy, with the nice pungent flavor of salted crab.

                When I asked about the name of the place, he wrote down "Sab-E-Lee" on the business card.

          2. this is great news. Thanks!

            1. oohhh we live near there and I saw it being worked on, so I am excited to give it a try. I am a bit confused: do you mean the menu doesn't have anything in English, or they didn't put the restaurant name on the menu in English? I would love to check it out but if I can't read anything it will be hard to order heh heh. Thanks for the heads up!

              1 Reply
              1. re: MrKrispy

                The menu is in English and Thai. They didn't put the name of the restaurant on the menu, the business cards or the signage outside in an English script.



              2. As most long time SD Chowers know, LA style Thai Town restaurants have not been present in our berg. This is no longer the case. Sab E Lee is an outstanding Issan food resource. I had the Koi Soi (raw beef with serious heat and complex flavors), the Bamboo Shoot Salad, and the Pahd See Ewe. It was all excellent. Bring your asbestos stomach liners and your Pepsid AC. Owner Koby's little restaurant is the SD Thai place that could. Note, as most of you know, Kirk K's treasure of a blog is covering this new establishment as we speak. In fact we crossed paths there tonight.


                1 Reply
                1. re: Captain Jack

                  I Really want this place to make it. It's less than three miles from my house, and on the way to and from work.

                  Go Koby!