Eatventure: Thai Papaya

As the new kid on the blogosphere relative to other SD food bloggers (shout out to my single favorite, mmm-yoso!!!), one of my New Year’s resolutions is to post more, so I will start with writing reviews.

I consciously avoid “reviews” in an effort to remain neutral, yet informative, but I feel it is a disservice to those who care enough about my digital opinion, so you got it! To the review-mobile!

When Sab-E-Lee, an Isaan-style restaurant, and a local favorite since 2008, moved from its 18-seat confines to a deservingly larger space one block down, it made way for Thai Papaya, the remixed street food version of the former.

A bookend to a forgettable strip mall, it truly is a hidden gem. Inside, it still looks exactly like its former tenant; heck, even their name is still on the packaging, so if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Right? No ducking way.

Its 78-item menu pales in comparison to Sab-E-Lee’s whopping 93, but excitingly, half the menu is new.

The Order

Cleveland, and I inadvertently order an item that can be found at Sab-E-Lee, but it was still great–the Fried Pork Ribs, perfectly cooked with a crispy julienned ginger garnish. Great portion, even for three, and the flavor is good enough to eat sans sauce.

Fried Pork Ribs

We are in for a surprise with the Som Tam Pu Ma–it’s raw. Still, we think it’s downright delicious, but she doesn’t care much for the critter. A full blue crab comes with each serving and the Level 5 spice starts mild, then sucker-punches us halfway through the meal.

Som Tom Pu Ma

The Spicy Crazy Crispy Basil (chicken) is oddly named for at Level 5, it’s scarcely spicy, though the basil was indeed crazily crispy, the chicken, not so much. Though it has good flavor, it is nothing extraordinary, so I doubt I’d order it again, but may try the beef or pork on a future visit.

Spicy Crazy Crispy Basil (Chicken)

Finally, we try hangin’ tough, but eventually have to douse our palates with Lemongrass Ice Tea and Longan Juice. The latter is a safe choice, but it wouldn’t be an eatventure without choosing the former. The server explained they steep the lemongrass for five days before adding sugar and chilling it for serving. The flavor is subtle and unique enough to you undecided about liking it. I personally did and would order again.

Lemongrass Ice Tea and Longan Juice

The Service/Atmosphere

The server was great, and though it’s probable the size of the space correlates with the customer service, I still think the staff cares about its patrons offering warm, friendly service.

This makes for an intimate date spot, though, if you’re like me, you’ll feel pressured to eat more quickly so others can get their turn. Otherwise, it’s a great, quiet hideaway from the crowds during non-peak hours.

The Verdict

This place heavily reminds me of Portland’s unforgettable Pok Pok, another Isaan-style locale where street food reigns supreme. Since my 2009 trip, I dream of going back just for another morsel… but I digress! I’d return to Thai Papaya as there are now 31 dishes left to be consumed. Let’s try it again, folks!

Also, I guess this food lover has a little bit of a food fighter in her after all. Step by step, this is going to be a fun, food-gasmic series. =D And kudos to those who caught any or all of my NKOTB references. =)

Papaya SaladSom Tam Laos | Som Tam Pu | Tam Tang | Tam Thua | Som Tam Korat | Tam Sua Thai | Tam Sua Laos | Som Tam Khai Kem | Som Tam Kung Sod | Som Tam Moo Yor | Som Tam Pu Ma

Yum Yum Salads | Beef Liver | Blue Crab Salad | Meat Ball Salad | Yum Mama

SoupClear Broth Noodles | Pork Tom Yum Noodles | Yen-Ta-Fo Noodles | Aom Soup | Three Sisters Soup

Larb SaladCrispy Fried Larb Balls

CurryKhao Soi | Happy Duck Curry

Special Thai/Isaan Classic | Mok Rhino | Super Star Chicken Feet | Super Star Pork Ribs | Golden Hot Pot | Spicy Crazy Crispy Basil | Spicy Loath Catfish | Monster Flavor Fish | Son-In-Law Eggs | Spicy Thousand Year Old Eggs

Beverages | Lemongrass Ice Tea | Longan Juice | Fresh Young Coconut

2405 Ulric St., San Diego, CA 92111 | 858.279.6868 | Fri.-Wed.: 12:00 PM (noon)-8:00 PM; closed Thurs.

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6 thoughts on “Eatventure: Thai Papaya

  1. Great writing. I gotta try those fried pork ribs and the lemongrass iced tea. The hunger is strong in this one. Keep up the writing!

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