160 Ponsonby Rd
(09) 320 4237
Monday - Tuesday
5pm - late
Wednesday - Saturday
12pm - late
Auckland knew it was coming long before it arrived. We could tell by the brown paper on the windows of what was once VideoEzy on Ponsonby Road. We could tell by the whispers about a new venture from the team behind Britomart’s Cafe Hanoi. Considering this, the fact that Saan’s arrival was relatively quiet was a surprise, a stark contrast to the usual hype surrounding anything new in this town. Those sleek doors opened and it felt as if it had always been there.
I was swept off my feet by the gentle charm of the place from the moment I walked in. The interior is by Cheshire Architects – the same team who designed Cafe Hanoi five years ago – and it is stunning. Almost everything has been handmade, from the light-fittings and dishes to the booths and stools. The colours are all light wood and pastel, and every surface is so tactile, so gentle on the eyes, that it feels as if the soft glow of this restaurant lends an elegance to its diners by simple association.
The inspiration for Saan comes directly from head chef Wichian ‘Lek’ Trirattanavatin, with approximately half the menu created from his own fifth-generation family recipes. Chef Lek is from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, a mountainous region renowned for its produce and temperate climate. The historic Lanna area has its own distinct culture and style of cuisine. There are less sweet, coconut-based flavours than those familiar with Thai food are used to. The combination of spice and texture is more confronting, and a paste made from young green chillis called Nám prík nùm is a
I recommend beginning with the Khao Tan Nah Moo, crispy puffed-rice cakes topped with punchy, tender caramelised pulled pork, sesame and chilli oil. The Sai Ua, or Lanna sausage, is a very traditional dish – a spiced pork sausage topped with an abundance of fresh herbs. An instant favourite of mine was the Larb Ped, a fresh, crispy salad of wok-seared duck with toasted rice and kaffir lime leaf.
The menu is complemented by a considered wine list and selection of craft beers, and cocktails that offer the only foray into familiar Thai flavours, albeit presented in an entirely original way, with creations inspired by Tom Yum soup and red curry.
In a city that’s well-used to the new, it’s been so lovely to discover a restaurant that I can immediately tell will only get better with time. It was brought to life by a group of people who are well-practised in the fine art of hospitality –people who know that authenticity and passion are the key to longevity.
We made this video with our friends at Tradecraft to give you a closer look into the world of Saan.