“A dream come true for me and Tao” – Paul Cadden, owner, Saba
“The next two days were a frenetic whistle-stop tour of Bangkok, savouring the hubbub, scents and foods of that amazing city. We ordered shipments of coconut milk, chopsticks, noodles and rice. Tao and I firmed up our supply chain for Thai herbs and vegetables from a co-op north of Bangkok. It was madness placing orders for containers of this beautiful food for a restaurant that did not actually exist.”
This is how Paul remembers his trip to Bangkok with his father in April 2006 when he and Tao (Taweesak Trakoolwattana) agreed a deal that would see them open the first Saba in September of that year.
Since then, Saba has been a thriving and exciting part of the restaurant scene in Ireland. Their idea was to create a restaurant that served the very best Thai and Vietnamese food but in a beautiful space with a great atmosphere. We are quite proud and very happy to say that Paul, Tao and the whole team here in Saba have achieved that (and so much more!!!).
“I have always loved working with Tao because he cares about getting the food just right. His attention to detail makes all the difference,” Paul says. “After that, everything else falls into place. The team we built got what we were trying to achieve and together we worked hard to make Saba into what it is today.”
For Tao, it has to be said, making sure the food was authentic was the secret to their success.
“Saba is all about the food,” Tao says. “We work together in the kitchens to make sure each dish tastes the way we want it to taste, the way we love our food. Once that was right in Clarendon Street, I knew we could repeat the formula.”
After we opened the original Saba, demand grew and our customers kept telling us they also wanted to eat this kind of high-quality food at home. This eventually led to the establishment of three Saba To Go restaurants – in Rathmines, Windy Arbour and Deansgrange – and the Saba Street Kitchen, which is based in Kildare Village. The Saba Street Kitchen also travels to festivals around the country, such as Electric Picnic and Longitude. We were also thrilled to be able to open our second restaurant in 2016 on Baggot Street.
In keeping with the family theme throughout Saba, the ‘To Go’ restaurants are run by Paul’s brother Alan.
“With the takeaways, we simply had to ensure that the food was of the same standard as the restaurants and we’re so proud that it is,” Alan says. “Tao and the chefs are a great team: they love what they do and we love what they create.”
Much of the reason for our success is down to the traditional recipes Tao has brought with him as well as the ingredients we use in Saba, many of which are still imported from Thailand.
“The right ingredients are crucial,” Tao says. “That’s why we bring in the best. We owe that to our customers who really appreciate ‘real’ food. We mix local Irish produce with the spices I grew up with. It works so well!”
Along with the food, the restaurants on Clarendon Street and Baggot Street are renowned in Dublin for the great atmosphere and sense of fun. While this may be partly down to Saba’s legendary cocktails – have you tried our Long Do or our Pornstar Martini? – the floor staff have also made dining in the restaurant a unique experience. The words ‘sa’ and ‘ba’ together mean ‘happy meeting place’ in Thai and this is exactly what Paul and Tao have achieved.
“People tell me Saba is a Dublin institution, which I think is wonderful. I love the idea that we have become such a part of this great city,” Paul says. “A lot of that is down to our staff. They’re a wonderful group! What I love most is that so many of those original staff members still work here 13 years later. That is magical to me and is what Saba is all about! We have become like a big, happy family. Literally in one or two cases as some staff members married each other!”
Being a part of the community has also led to us being involved in various Irish charities as we feel very strongly about giving something back. Over the years, we have worked with the Crumlin Children’s Hospital, the Christina Noble Foundation, Anam Cara, Thai Red Cross and Friends of the Earth among others. (See here for more: https://sabadublin.com/the-saba-way/good-works/.)
“If you’re part of a community, you do things for that community,” says Paul. “It’s that simple.”
Most recently, in January 2019, Saba and Saba To Go became Official Partners to Hockey Ireland. This will see us working with Hockey Ireland to provide the perfect meals and nutrition for the players on the national women’s team.
“This is a really exciting move for us,” Paul says. “We are thrilled to be part of such an inspirational group of sports people who have done the country proud.”
As for the future, Paul, Tao and the ‘Saba Family’ are keen to maintain their high standards and to keep providing their customers with the very best in Thai and Vietnamese food.
“We will keep working hard doing what we do best,” Paul says. “To be honest, Saba has just been the greatest adventure. . . for all of us who have worked together over the past 13 years. We do it because we love it.”