Sawasdee Thai restaurant – Dar es Salaam

It’s our first night in Dar es Salaam, after an eventful first day.

Cooling down from the outside humidity, we’re enjoying a Tusker lager in the New Africa Hotel bar. The lager is so cold in contrast with the heat we’ve just stepped out of, it almost hurts to drink. Almost.

We haven’t eaten all day so we go and eye up the hotel’s Bandari Grill restaurant and menu: lots of grilled kebabs and appealing curries. The Thai restaurant will have to be really special for us not to come and eat here in the Indian.

Sawasdee (meaning welcome) on the ninth floor has two windowed walls with a view over Kivukoni Front harbour and Lutheran Church. It is really special so we ask to be seated.

While admiring the view, the smiling chef comes and introduces herself, asking if we’ve eaten Thai food before and where, when our answer is yes (UK, Thailand). She’s incredibly enthusiastic and hospitable. We couldn’t be made to feel any more welcome. The restaurant already lives up to its name.

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Views from Sawasdee 9th floor restaurant:
IMG_4568b_view
Harbour night lights

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Bavarian style Lutheran Church – a reminder of Tanzania’s German past

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For starters we share:
~ Khanom Jeap Gaa – Marinated lamb wonton pastry filled with bamboo shoot and mushroom, steamed with chilly soy sauce, a Chef’s speciality dish (truly special – light on the pastry and heavy on the lamb and mushroom flavours, well balanced)
~ Yam Ta Lee – Marinated shrimp and squid mixed with lemon grass, lime juice, red onions, tomato and hot chilli paste on bed of greens

And K has to benchmark with his usual, of course:
~ Tom Yam Gai – Thai spicy soup with chicken, lemon grass, lemon juice and herbs (it passes K’s Tom Yum taste test with flying colours)

For main course I order Crab Pad Pong Ka Ree, fresh ocean crabs cooked in Thai yellow curry, a speciality dish at Tsh 21,000 (about £9). It arrives as a huge bowl overloaded with crab claws and other pieces in a Thai curry sauce, with a pair of crackers and a long scraper. As I’m a novice at using crackers I ask the waitress to show me how to use them (secretly hoping she might serve up all the crab meat for me!).

But she doesn’t seem to know either.

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Crab before…
IMG_4569_crab_curry

Crab after…
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On cracking the crab claws and other parts of its body, water squirts everywhere, much of it on me. Shattered pieces of shell fall into my dinner, meaning I’m grinding sand in each mouthful. I’m struggling, this is torment – such good food but it feels like I have to work for it and I can’t get the knack of the shellfish crackers. And I’m really not enjoying the gritty sand.

K sees I’m struggling and (to prevent any potential tantrums!) quickly takes charge. He hasn’t used crackers before either but somehow masters it. Legend. Amazing when you can watch how (I think that’s the expression…).

For mains, K has Gaeng Phed Gai, chicken in red curry sauce cooked with white eggplant (aubergine) and sweet basil.

IMG_4570

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This is great tasting food with a pleasing blend of spices, made from good quality, fresh ingredients – something, I hate to admit, I hadn’t expected but am delighted to be surprised by. It’s authentic Thai, benefitting from fresh shellfish and spices (for which Zanzibar, in the nearby Indian Ocean, has a worldwide reputation). My first meal in mainland Tanzania, it surpasses – by far – anything I had imagined.

Including two bottles of South African Chardonnay and a roughly 15% tip (the menu says service is included but this deserves tipping) the total bill comes to 160,000 Tanzanian Shillings (£66.89).

At the end of the evening we ask a hotel receptionist to call us a cab and also how to get back to Tanzanite Executive Suites (to help us negotiate the police cordons and road blocks while the rescue operation continues at the collapsed building by our hotel). She kindly phones TES and gets the best route for the taxi driver who charges us £6 – well over the odds – and it’s worth it.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: Thai (in Africa)
~ Address: Sawasdee, New Africa Hotel & Casino, P.O.Box 9314, Azikiwe Street/Sokoine Drive, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
~ Sawasdee at New Africa Hotel: Sawasdee Thai restaurant website
~ Sawasdee Menu: Sawasdee menu
~ Bandari Grill Menu: Bandari Grill menu

~ New Africa Hotel (Sawasdee + Bandari Grill) location:

~ My photos: Sawasdee tagged photos on flickr

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