Restaurant Review: Supannee House of Thai in Point Loma

by on October 25, 2013 · 26 comments

in Culture, Ocean Beach, The Widder Curry

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Thai BBQ Chicken. (All photos by Judi Curry)

Supannee House of Thai
2907 Shelter Island Drive, Suite #110
San Diego, CA 92106
619-795-8424

 While attending a recent “meet and greet” for one of the mayoral candidates (David Alvarez), I spoke to a young couple who recognized my name as a restaurant reviewer for the OB Rag.  They asked if I had reviewed the “Supannee House of Thai”. It is one of their favorite restaurants and return often for their authentic Thai food. I had not been there yet, even though it was one of the places I had flagged to try at a later time.

The following day I called my friend Eric and asked him if he would like to join me in reviewing the restaurant. He had gone with me when I reviewed another local Thai food restaurant and I felt that he complimented my tastes and likes and would do the same thing at the Supannee.

We arrived at 6:45pm on a Monday evening. I knew where the restaurant was located – on the corner of Shelter Island Drive and Scott street, in the only strip mall on Scott. What I didn’t realize was that although there is a private parking lot, all of the parking in front of the businesses are timed – 15 minutes and/or 30 minutes. We did find a parking spot in the lot, but I think that on a weekend night parking might be difficult.

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Summer rolls.

The restaurant had 9 occupied tables; people were waiting for take-out; and a steady stream of people kept coming in to pick up the orders they had given on the phone. The noise level was average; and there was NO television, thank goodness. We were shown our seats quickly; water was brought to us almost immediately, and we were handed the very extensive menu. Before we had a chance to look at the menu we were asked if we wanted to order a drink.

It should be noted that they only serve beer and wine plus a variety of non-alcoholic drinks. Eric ordered a lemonade to start the evening, but when we finally ordered we had a bottle of non-filtered sake. Along with the menu, there was a “special of the day” menu, and, interestingly enough, Eric was handed the wine /beer list. That list was also extensive. There were 17 white wines; 16 reds; 6 beers on tap; 13 bottles of beer; hard cider (1); 4 sake’s and one mixed drink. The prices were varied.

The regular menu had 4 kinds of soup; 9 salads; and a variety of noodles and fried rice; stir fries; curries; house special; appetizers, etc. We started our meal with summer rolls, that were served with a delightful peanut sauce and a sweet/hot sauce. They were fresh and tasty.

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Mango curry.

The special menu was puzzling to me. It was a fish and seafood menu, and featured, among other things, was grouper and halibut. I know where one can catch halibut, but I haven’t seen grouper on a menu in years. In fact, I thought that grouper was on the endangered fish list, yet several of the items on this menu included grouper. I asked where it came from and the waitperson said he would find out for me. When another waiter came back to our table, he told me that the grouper were from San Diego Bay, and were caught fresh. I believe that I gulped and asked, incredulously, from our San Diego Bay? He answered in the affirmative.

OK. In the first place, as a fisherperson myself, I would NEVER eat anything I caught in the San Diego Bay, and to think that they are catching grouper there is mind boggling. The reason I know something about the grouper is because I once said I would like to come back in another life as a grouper. Groupers mature as females, and have the ability to change their sex as they get older. What fun that would be! None-the-less, I put down the special menu after I was told where the fish were caught.

Eric ordered the Thai BBQ’ed chicken ($13.50) and substituted the white rice for brown rice for $1.00 more. It was stated that the chicken was marinated overnight with a blend of fresh garlic, lemon grass, curry, coriander, coconut milk and baked and then grilled. I had read a review already about the wonderful Mango Curry and it was $11 because I ordered it with squid. It was cooked in a red curry, coconut milk, semi-ripe mango, bell peppers and basic. When I placed my order I was prepared to tell the waiter that I wanted the spiciness to be mild, as admonished by the line on the menu stating “please ask your server for mild, medium, hot or Thai hot !” He never asked me, and Eric had to call him back to tell him how I wanted my meal cooked.

I wish that we could say that it was as wonderful as I heard it was. It took some time for the waiter to remove the summer roll plates from the narrow table and he passed us several times with nothing in his hands to prevent him from picking up the dirty plates. When Eric was served his chicken the rice was not there. I finally called the waiter over and asked him where the brown rice was, and when he returned he brought two bowls, not one. And, unfortunately, the rice was undercooked, sticky, and tasteless.

The dark meat of the chicken was much more flavorful than the white meat, which was very dry. I noticed that Eric ate almost all of the dark meat but left the white meat. The mango curry was very good; with a lot left over. I would have liked a few more pieces of the squid – I only had 3 pieces, but there may be more in the broth taken home.

Here is another interesting thing: Eric had the chicken to take home; I had the curry. We asked for two boxes – one for him and one for me. I don’t know how the language got mixed up, but when we got home we noticed that the waiter had split the curry into two containers as well as the chicken in two other containers. Both Eric and I took home curry and chicken. A little strange, we thought, but didn’t notice it until we were in our respective homes and we could not make a switch. Ah well, chicken mango curry for dinner tonight.

Supan Thai jc 04Would we go back? Interesting question. Although not terribly expensive – not cheap either – the total bill was slightly over $50 for the two entrees, summer rolls and bottle of sake and lemonade. The service was slower than it should have been, but all the servers were nice. The part about the grouper is disturbing to me, and I am wondering what fish was really served and called grouper. The fact that it was caught in San Diego Bay – at least that is what we were told – is also unnerving to me. So…would we go back. No. I don’t think so. It wasn’t that spectacular a meal when there are so many other Thai restaurants in the area. But it was a nice experience.

 

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar judi curry October 25, 2013 at 11:36 am

I must make a correction to this review. I spoke to two people re: grouper in San Diego Bay. The first person, a sport fishing boat captain told me that the fish that are being called “grouper” in the Bay are really not grouper at all; rather they are rock fish being called grouper. However, I have also talked to Fish and Game about the same topic and they said there are some grouper in the Bay; whether they would eat them or not is another matter. They were on the endangered list years ago but are no longer on that list. Sorry for the confusion. Judi

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avatar judi curry November 2, 2013 at 9:35 am
avatar Alec House October 25, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Hello Judi,
I am the owner of Supannee House of Thai. First of all, I would like to apologize that your experience left you not wanting to return. I am also sorry about the poor communication you received from our servers. We try to be authentically Thai in service as well as cuisine but there are drawbacks to this approach. As it relates to the Grouper issue, I definitely want to clear the air. We DO NOT SOURCE ANY FISH FROM SAN DIEGO BAY. In fact it’s illegal to do so. The confusion may have been that we do pick up much of our Rockfish fish from a commercial boat which docks in SD Bay near the Fish Market restaurant.
The fish that you ordered was indeed Grouper from Baja. This fish is listed as a “Good Alternative by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We source ours from Catalina Offshore Products and here is an excerpt from their website:
“Like many seafood products in the Baja, the Baqueta Grouper resource is conserved through the limitations of the rustic fishing fleet, and the lack of infrastructure in Rural Baja. The small 18-22 foot boats used to fish in these areas, use primitive hand-line fishing equipment, have both restricted fishing days. They are limited in fishing range due to weather and a lack of technological equipment. Populations of Baqueta Groupers remain strong and therefore are a sustainable Grouper choice.”

I do hope that you will give us another chance as I feel that your experience was not typical. Please let me know if you would like to do so.

Alec

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avatar OB Mercy October 25, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Judi, I am a Thai food aficionado and I guess that makes me a Thai food snob. I’m the same with sushi. After growing up in Los Angeles, I was spoiled by the many Thai places we have there and almost all of them were pretty good. I had a fave place near my house and ate lunch there at least once a week.

Sadly, the Thai place here in OB is bordering on so bland and so meh with all their dishes, that I gave up after 3 tries. Antique Thai on Midway is ok, but still didn’t thrill. Lotus Thai in Hillcrest was the best I had tried so far.

I have to disagree wtih you regarding Supannee. I have tried so many Thai places in SD and this is the only one so far that has knocked my socks off when it comes to flavor. I have several friends here in OB who also love Supannee and frequent the place regularly. I try to go at least once a week.

Their curries are multi layered in their flavor profiles and I have also enjoyed the rock cod (grouper?) as a whole fried fish in a black bean, ginger sauce. Granted, I have only eaten there for lunch, which fills you up nicely for about $8. You get a salad, crisp and tasty spring roll with a yummy sauce and your entree with rice.

Recently, AAA Magazine (yes, the Auto Club) did a review of them and I found out that the owner’s first name is Supannee and she grows almost all the vegetables in their food! I found this delightful, knowing that the veggies are fresh and have no sprays on them. That alone could bring me back, but fortunately for me, there is much more than that.

I know you’re entitled to your opinion, but this time I do not agree. I don’t want people to be turned off to this place because of your experience there. Again, I don’t know about the service at night, but it is wonderful during the day. On Yelp, they have 4 and a half stars, which is saying a lot. And I have been touting this place to everyone I know and so far, everyone is in agreement. I hope you will give it another try.

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avatar judi curry October 25, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Like you, Mercy, I could eat Thai food every day and not get tired of it. (I wonder when I changed from “Mexican” food every day…. But friends had touted Supannee so much that I really expected something great. And I, along with Eric, were disappointed. Because I know that the fish comes from the San Diego Bay I would never have any of it, and there is a lot on their menu. The chemicals in the Bay would overshadow the lack of chemicals on the veggies. I agree with you re: the Thai restaurant in OB; they used to be so good but I do not know what has happened there recently. Antique Thai is fair, but still not up great standards on my “food meter.” The service was not good; the splitting our leftovers into equal take-home bags was not acceptable; The mango curry was delicious, but the BBQ Thai chicken was dry. I hate to be the only reviewer that knocks the place, but, as I said in my review, it was fair, at best.

I notice there is a new Thai restaurant next door to Pt. Loma Bagels. Maybe we should try it together and see what our collective thoughts might be.

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avatar OB Mercy October 25, 2013 at 8:19 pm

After I move next week, let’s go. I’m staying in OB and will be on Niagra, right next to the pier.

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avatar judi curry October 25, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Nice place. I’ll even pick you up and drive us. Let me know when you are ready. Good luck on your move.

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avatar obracer October 26, 2013 at 11:09 am

Niagara ; )

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avatar O.B.Dude October 26, 2013 at 12:49 am

Judy, Judy, Judy, I have to strenuously disagree with you on this one. My wife and I have been to Supannee’s House of Thai at least a dozen times since she first opened in a much smaller space next door three years ago. We’ve never had anything less than a tasty, affordable meal with friendly service. I’ve eaten in plenty of Thai joints — they seem on almost every corner now — and Supannee’s is far superior, due to the freshness of the food and creative menu. I know many of our friends would agree. Even with 3 times the space of her tiny original place, Supanee’s is usually packed most nights by locals, which is truly the only real testament any restaurant needs to stay in business. The mango curry is killer, as is the green and red. The drunken noodles are delish, spicy, overflowing with super-fresh veggies. And I dream about those summer shrimp rolls in peanut sauce. I’ve never tried any of the fish; I seriously doubt that anything on the menu actually came out of the bay. There’s just not much commercial fishing that goes on there, nor enough resident fish to sustain it. Maybe your server was trying to impress you with an idea how fresh the fish is??Possibly you were unlucky enough to go on a bad night — somebody called in sick, the chicken wasn’t the best, the waiter mixed up the drinks, it happens — and you should give ‘em another chance.

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avatar Obey OB October 26, 2013 at 4:36 am

Thai next to pl bagels is excellent.

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avatar Mike October 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

Hi Judi,
I also have to disagree with this review. We love Thai food, have been to Thailand and most of the Thai restaurants in town and Supannee’s is our favorite.

The flavors are authentic and dishes well prepared with the freshest ingredients, most all organic from their local gardens. For quality like that the prices are a bargain! The menu is much more interesting than summer rolls and barbequed chicken…the soups and salads are amazing, as are the curries and noodle dishes, and we’ve tried most of them. You do need to order mild if you aren’t used to spicy food…the heat level warms up pretty quickly; 3/10 is about as hot as I like to go. And there are several appetizers that are unique in San Diego as far as I know….for one, the homemade Thai sausage should not be missed! And the sticky rice and mango is a great dessert…they won’t serve it unless they have ripe mango.

The decision not to go back seemed to hinge on half full water glasses, empty plates left on the table too long and a confusion on boxing leftovers; service is important but for me doesn’t trump the food which is where I think Supannee’s is special. Our service there has always been good…it may seem a bit slow sometimes but even with kids it has never been a problem.

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had there, although you are right about the barbeque chicken white meat being overcooked…but there are so many more interesting things on the menu and service issues are minor. So I’d would encourage you to give it another try if you really like Thai food. The whole fried fish is amazing, the grass fed beef Waterfall or larb salad, Miang Kam wraps, sausage, and any soup, curry or noodle dish would be my recommendations.

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avatar judi curry October 28, 2013 at 7:59 am

Thanks for your comments, Mike. When I do a review, I look at the gestalt of the experience – the food, the service, the ambiance, etc. The decision was not based on the half glass of water, the empty plates left too long, the boxing leftovers. It was based on everything that took place for us the moment we stepped into the restaurant. The chicken was dry. Sure, there are other things on the menu that he could have tried. He wanted to have the BBQ Thai chicken. Would he have ordered it if he had known it was going to be dry? Of course not. But that was his choice and it didn’t pan out. I HAD the mango curry. It was good. I ordered it with squid, which was in short supply. The waiter’s comments re: the catching of the grouper in San Diego Bay was a turn-off, and was later found to be an error. I apologized for that error and the owner, Alec further elaborated on it.

Be it as it may, you might be interested that Eric and I will be revisiting the restaurant this week to see if we hit a bad night or if what we found is the norm.

I truly appreciate your comments, and, I, too, like Thai food that is fixed well and tasty.
Judi

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avatar Mike October 28, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Hi Judi,
I appreciate that your review was for that particular visit which clearly could have been a better experience, and I’m glad that you are going to give it another shot because it really is one of my favorite restaurants.

Ideally maybe you can go with a few more people so you can try more items, but I know that isn’t always possible.

I agree that the entire experience is important, and I wouldn’t have ordered fish out of the bay either, but even if the service issues you experienced were the norm (and pretty minor to me) it wouldn’t stop me from going back because I’m crazy about the food .

Thanks for taking comments and engaging in conversation…it makes your column much more interesting. Hope your next visit is more pleasing. Bon appetit!

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avatar DA Kolodenko October 27, 2013 at 4:34 pm

I’m very confused by this thread. On October 25th at 12:58 p.m., the owner of Supannee Thai states very clearly in all caps that they do not source fish from SD Bay. The owner further explains exactly how the fish is sourced.

Then on the same day at 8:09 p.m., the author of the review states that she knows the fish is sourced from SD Bay, completely ignoring the owner’s clarification. This is a glaring oversight–it is now many days later and I see no retraction and apology from Ms. Curri for her completely unprofessional conduct.

Furthermore, professionalism as a restaurant reviewer requires multiple visits. Professional reviewers know better than to base an assessment of a restaurant on one experience for a variety of reasons, particularly a restaurant with such a stellar reputation, as the other comments here indicate.

In summary, Ms. Curri owes Supannee Thai a huge apology for lying about where they get their fish, unless she has proof that they’re lying about how it is sourced. And she also owes them the benefit of a second chance with an effort to try a wider variety of items from the menu.

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avatar angeroo October 28, 2013 at 11:33 am

Wow, I go to Supannee at least once/week for lunch as well as once/week for dinner. I LOVE IT! Going that often you’d think I’d hit them on a bad day eventually, but no, never had a bad experience or so so food there. It’s always been delicious, healthy, local and fresh. There are very few restaurants in the PL/OB area that offer those things and that’s why I go there so frequently. The seafood is also a huge reason I go. Local and always fresh, prepared in unique recipes. I agree with Mike, focusing on things like half full water is irrelevant. Provide a holistic view, without the petty and excess details. Also, doing some research ahead of time, like reviewing Yelp and other social media, should give you an idea of what you’re in for and what the “norm” experience has been for countless others.

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avatar judi curry October 28, 2013 at 11:45 am

Thank you for your comments. I have to take exception to things you have said, however. I am not interested in knowing what others have said about a restaurant if I am going there to review it. I frequently will read Yelp after I have made my own decision, but it reminds me of when I was teaching and read the “cume” folders of students written by their teachers of the year before. I would then form an opinion of that student before they ever got to my class, and most of the time I was way off base. The way a child responds to one teacher is not the way that child will respond to another. Such is the same thing in reviewing restaurants. I am glad that you have had a good experience at Supannee. And it is a total experience I am reviewing; not just the service; not just the food; The “norm” experience you speak of has absolutely nothing to do with the experience that I will have. And…the “focus” was not on the poor service; the incorrect information about the fish; etc. It does play a part in my review, as does the cleanliness of the bathrooms, the insects in the dining room, etc.

Alec has asked me to come back and Eric and I have made an arrangement to do so very, very shortly. I am hopeful that our first experience was not of example of what we find the second time around.

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avatar Goatskull October 28, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I’ve never been to this place but the BBQ chicken looks pretty delectable in that photo, so I may give this place a try. I live in HIllcrest and my favorite Thai place so far is Amerin. Perhaps you should check that place out in the near future and write a review in the Free Press.

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avatar judi curry October 28, 2013 at 7:21 pm

Thanks for the suggestion. I put it on my list.

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avatar jim grant October 30, 2013 at 7:23 pm

DA, I loved the place.
And you hit the nail on the head .
I came to realize months ago her ” reviews” were generally lacking in professionalism.
Even if she cooks and writes cookbooks which she claims to have done I searched all over the net and could not find anything published by her. Maybe she can put a link up I would like to check out her writing skills and recipes.
And as far as eating fish from the Bay it is no big thing we fish halibut and get some big toads that are delish. The halibut migrate in and out of the bay so its no big thing. As far as fish goes Does anybody really know where the fish they buy comes from ?? fish mongers tell fish stories ALL the time.

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avatar judi curry October 31, 2013 at 10:33 am

I shouldn’t even dignify your comments by answering you, Jim, but I am so surprised at your aspersion casting that make the following suggestion. Go to Google and put in “Who is Judi Curry, San Diego, and not only will my two books come up but other writings I have done. You might have to go to the second page – or even third. There are many.

Professionalism. I like your wonderful example of it yourself. I sure don’t need to have you “check out my writing skills and recipes.”

And as far as eating fish from San Diego Bay – it is a big thing. The filth in the bay is transferred to the fish that eat from there. You can eat all the fish you want that has been caught there, but it is my belief – shared by many, many, people, that one should not eat fish that has been caught in San Diego Bay.

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avatar jim grant November 2, 2013 at 10:35 am

thanks for the advice…
any foodie knows you visit a location 3 times before you come to conclusions on the place…but of course you knew that.
WOW you are on Google yippee……..I bet you goggle yourself everyday just to make sure.
Maybe you should goggle ” how to write a qualified restaurant review”

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avatar Debbie November 3, 2013 at 8:27 am

After one bad or mediocre meal I don’t go back….why should a restaurant review be any different?

On another note, here’s some info:
http://www.oehha.ca.gov/fish/so_cal/sandiegobay.html

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avatar judi curry November 3, 2013 at 10:35 am

I used to look at the beautiful photo’s that you take, Jim, but now I am convinced that you probably photo-shop them and they aren’t originals at all. And, I have never “goggled” myself.

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avatar judi curry November 3, 2013 at 10:34 am

For those of you taking issue with my comments about eating fish coming out of the San Diego Bay – or Mission Bay for that matter – take a look at this article that appeared in Sunday’s fish wrap – (U/T).

. One other thing that I want to add to the original review and that was my comment re: eating fish from San Diego Bay. In today’s Sunday fish wrap – appropriate, huh? – there is a warning issued on eating bay fish. For anyone that wants to read it go to
oehha.ca.gov/fish/so_cal/sandiegobay for info re: eating fish caught in San Diego Bay and go to
oehha.ca.gov/fish/so_cal/missionbayfish for eating fish caught in Mission Bay

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avatar judi curry November 3, 2013 at 5:49 pm

The U/T had the wrong address for info re: eating fish in the bay. Here is the correct address:
http://www.oehha.ca.gov/fish/so_cal/sandiegobay.html

The address for mission bay was also incorrect – the correct one is
http://www.oehha.ca.gov/fish/so_cal/missionbayfish.html

Sorry – took the first address directly from the article that appeared in today’s paper – 11/3/13

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avatar John November 3, 2013 at 9:46 pm

” and to think that they are catching grouper there is mind boggling.”

Indeed. Shoulda listened to your gut instinct Judi. :-)

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