Reviews and Such Restaurants Thai

Shaba Thai – Portage Avenue.

I recently did an update visit to Shaba Thai, for a column I’m writing for The West End Streets. 

One thing I like about the West End, is that it is ever changing, while still maintaining it’s overall character.

I recently did an update visit to Shaba Thai, for a column I’m writing for The West End Streets. 

One thing I like about the West End, is that it is ever changing, while still maintaining it’s overall character. This is particularly true of the restaurant scene.

While many restaurants have closed because of Covid-19, many others have opened. I’ll be writing about some them in the months to come. All the while there are lots of little gems in the neighbourhood that just keep on keeping on.

Shaba Thai Basil Fried Rice.
A substantial and delicious portion of Basil Fried Rice.

Shaba Thai is a small, family run restaurant on Portage Avenue, just west of the CBC building. It offers a mixture of Thai Food and Shawarma, along with a few items from other cuisines of the world. This is one of those restaurants that has been keeping on. It’s only been around for about five years, but it seems to have staying power.

The building it’s located in is old and would welcome a refurb along the lines of the Fortune building on Main Street. Inside, there are a few tables, comfortable if not stylish. Service is at the counter, with a bright menu board on the wall leading into the kitchen area.

Shaba Thai Naan
The order of Naan from my dinner.

I’ve always found the service to be prompt and friendly. Shaba Thai is a welcoming sort of place. In pre-Covid days I enjoyed dining in. The space is fairly intimate, but there is enough room between tables that you don’t feel pressed on by other diners.

While I’ve enjoyed dining in, my last visit was for pickup. I placed my order to be ready between 6:15 and 6:30. I arrived a couple of minutes early, so I had a slight wait, but the order was ready well within that window.

One thing I like to see when I go into a restaurant these days, is that there are a number of orders on the go for pickup or delivery. You may not always see a lot of people in the restaurant, but there were several orders on the go at Shaba Thai when I visited.

Over the years I’ve tried a variety of dishes here. Both from the Shawarma and from the Thai side of the menu. The Shawarma is good, but the Thai food will always be your best bet.

Although I enjoy Pad Thai, when it comes to Thai restaurants my go to dish is always green curry soup. I’m a big soup fan in general. The Green Curry Soup at Shaba Thai is loaded with vegetables. You can order it with rice, but since I was also ordering a rice dish, I had the soup with an addition of chicken, but no rice. I also asked for level 10 spice. This meant that the dish was very spicy and very satisfying.

My second dish was Basil Fried Rice, with added Beef. I dialed the heat back a little bit on this one, but it still gave me a nice buzz. I like the overall flavour, and the bits of beef are good and tender.

Like the soup this is a substantial serving. I ate a good portion of the fried rice after the soup, and still had enough leftover to make for a light supper the next day.

Shaba Thai is the kind of place that is easy to miss as you head down Portage Avenue. Even if you are walking you may just pass the storefront without noticing it’s there. However, it’s worth stopping and checking this restaurant out.

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Shaba Thai is one of the most inconspicuous restaurants on Portage Avenue. Located at 561 Portage Avenue, just down from the University of Winnipeg. It only seats about 10 people. There have been other restaurants in the location but none of them seemed to promise anything remotely promising. If they didn’t put signs out on the street you would likely walk by without a second glance. Fortunately they did put signs out on the street and I was curious enough that I decided to go in.
The restaurant is a mom and pop style of operation, and offers a menu of Thai and Shawarma. Yep, you read that correctly, Thai and Shawarma. The main emphasis in on the Thai Food so I decided on my first visit to give that a try.

Shaba Thai Samosas
Samosas from Shaba Thai restaurant.

Green Curry Soup and Satay

On my first visit I opted for a bowl of Green Curry Soup and an order of Satay. I ate the Pork Satay, and they meat was quite tender. The peanut sauce was all right, but not one of the better ones I’ve tried. the Green Curry Soup was quite delicious.

I did have to convince them that when on a scale of 1-10 for heat, I asked for 10, that I meant 10. When they saw I could handle the heat, they did bring me out an extra container of hot sauce to add to my bowl. I really like that they include a good variety of vegetables in the green curry.
For some reason the pictures of these two dishes didn’t save on my phone, so you’ll just have to take my word about how good they looked as well as tasted. The prices on the food are quite good, and certainly in keeping with any other Thai restaurants in the city.

Shawarma at Shaba Thai

On my second visit I figured I should at least give the Shawarma a try. With that in mind I ordered a Lamb Shawarma Platter. It was OK. The Lamb and all the other ingredients were well cooked. Though the Lemon Potatoes seemed to derive their name from the fact that they were the colour of a lemon rind and not from any particular lemon flavour. Still, it’s a pretty good meal. If you’re at the restaurant with someone who doesn’t like Thai, and I’m not sure why you would hang around with such people, the Shawarma’s not a bad replacement.

Shaba Thai Shawarma
the Shawarma Platter at Shaba Thai will fill you up quite nicely.

Ginger Stir Fry

I paid one more visit to Shaba Thai, because I wanted to try a couple more of the Thai items on the menu. This time I went with the Ginger Stir Fry and the Samosas. the Samosas had a good potato filling, but I thought they were a little doughy without much of crispiness to the outer shell.

Cross-section of Shaba Thai Samosa.
Shaba Thai Samosa Filling.

This time when I placed my order, I was prepared for the spice question. When they asked what I wanted on a scale of 1-10, I said 11-12. This turned out to be the secret to getting a dish that made you sweat when you ate it. The beef was nice and tender and the vegetables were also pretty close to tender crisp. The one slightly odd thing was that the Ginger was cut into longish, thin strings. It made it just a little difficult to chew. There was a large pile of rice that came with the dish. On it’s own this would make a complete meal. The samosas just added a little to me testing my limits.

Shaba Thai Ginger Stir Fry
The Ginger Stir Fry from Shaba Thai

The service, when you can convince them how much you like heat, is friendly and efficient. The room is rather nondescript with just a few travel agency type posters advertising Thailand. They do have a few magazines to read while you eat. I saw a copy of National Geographic, and was pleased to discover that it was the current issue. Shaba Thai didn’t have a lot of eat in traffic when I was there, but they do seem to do a lot of business by pick up or delivery. Their delivery is through Skip the Dishes.
Shaba Thai is definitely a place that I will be popping into from time to time as I make my way along Portage Avenue.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.