Opening Hours 12:30 p.m. till 4:00 p.m., Mon-Sun (lunch) 6:30 p.m. till 11:00 p.m., Mon-Sun (dinner)Call Now
The markets of Bangkok come alive at this Thai eatery on Al Mouj where street food flavours are elevated beyond expectation.
Anyone who’s been to Bangkok knows that the soul of the city lies along the Khaosan Road. The street food capital of Southeast Asia, its night markets and roadside hawkers form the backbone of a cultural and culinary identity as varied as it is iconic. And its sights, smells, sounds and flavours carry as diverse a profile as Thai cuisine itself – salty, spicy, sour and sweet.
To say there’s something for everyone may be at the risk of generalising, but you’re guaranteed to find at least one grab-and-go dish to tickle your palate. And while street food often forms the bedrock of a society’s working population, it’s also its beating heart. Reproducing its essential form for the masses, in a different market, abroad, is no easy feat. In most cases it’s an ‘often imitated, never duplicated’ type of scenario.
So, it was with rumbling bellies and high hopes that we headed to Soi Soi, the Kempinski Hotel Muscat’s casual Thai dining outlet along their Boulevard of eateries. With a spacious indoor dining area replete with wood décor accents, vibrant floral table settings and hanging lanterns that lend the space a bright and airy touch.
While the restaurant offers a fairly popular three-course Express Business Lunch, tonight we’re here to sample its a la carte menu. Staking its name on the roadside cuisine of Bangkok’s bustling night markets – ‘soi’ means ‘street’ in Thai – the restaurant bills itself as offering ‘Thai street food with a twist’.
We’re seated outside on its small patio terrace next to a small falaj-style water feature and garden that separates the outdoor dining area from neighbouring restaurant Bukhara’s. While indoors is empty, it’s a full-house outside as diners lounge and linger, enjoying the last of the cool weather.
Perusing the menu, we make note of a diverse range of Thai favourites plus the restaurant’s own signature selections, with loads of seafood and vegetarian options thrown into the mix to suit those with dietary restrictions.
We begin with a few orders of appetisers – a portion of Tom Yum Hed (a vegetarian version of the more classic Tom Yum Goong); a platter of Por Pia Pak deep-fried vegetable spring rolls with glass noodles; and a classic Som Tam Thai papaya salad.
Service is fast and friendly, with the restaurant’s chef and wait-staff hailing from Thailand – in a nod to sustaining authenticity. The Tom Yum Hed is first to arrive. A fiery broth on this breezy evening, it’s fragrant with rich lemongrass and kefir lime while the tamarind broth adds that sweetly-sour depth of flavour. Each spoonful offers up a helping of plump button mushrooms – hearty and filling enough that we don’t miss the usual prawns.
The Por Pia Pak spring rolls are also plump with mushrooms, sprouts, shredded carrot and delicate glass noodles. The paper-thin pastry is perfectly crisp and not overly greasy. After dousing a few in lashings of their sweet-chili sauce, we’re ready for more. Thankfully, the Som Tam Thai arrives next and offers up a filling and fresh accompaniment to the round of starters. All the flavour profiles of Thai cuisine become apparent – the sharp sourness of the green papaya; the saltiness from the dried shrimp; the spicy kick from the fresh chillis; and the sweetness of the light tamarind dressing.
While all flavours are present, the dish is only ever-so slightly out of balance as the tamarind dressing is a bit too sweet, and remains at the forefront of the palate.
Appetites whetted for what’s to come, we soon tuck into our main courses – a round of piping-hot curries with a side of jasmine rice and freshly-made Thai rotis to sop up every last mouthful of flavour. There’s a rich Gaeng Phed Ped – a red curry with tender slices of duck breast bursting with Thai eggplant and caper-berries, and sweet morsels of pineapple and lychee.
It’s the star of the show, followed by the Gaeng Kiew Wan Gai – a green curry with chicken, Thai eggplant, fresh chillis, and basil. While both curries have a creamy coconut base our only caveat is, while we asked for both to be spicy, they’ve still arrived a littler on the lighter side when it comes to packing a punch of heat. We chalk this up to the preparations being tailored to suit an international palate. Nevertheless, they’re both delicious. As is the Ped Markam that follows; Soi Soi’s signature dish, it’s a platter of lusciously-roasted duck breast on a bed of braised Thai kale and drizzled with a sticky-sweet tamarind sauce. Completely moreish – we have a hard time finishing it in one sitting and have to ask for a takeaway to go.
Rounding off the night, we end with some sweet indulgences in the form of Khao Neaw Mamuang – a richly-sweet mango sticky rice; Tako Ruam Mit Sakoo – sago mixed in pandan leaf cups (but which tastes more like a palate-cleanser to us rather than a dessert); and Kuay Thod I Tim – a luscious fried banana spring roll with house-made vanilla ice cream.
In a Muscat market that seems to have a hankering for Thai as more new restaurants clamour for purchase on an increasingly competitive scene, Soi Soi leaves us booking a one-way ticket to the Land of Smiles.
The Boulevard, Kempinski Hotel Muscat, Al Mouj
12:30 p.m. till 4:00 p.m., Mon-Sun (lunch)
6:30 p.m. till 11:00 p.m., Mon-Sun (dinner)
Contact: (+968) 2498-5000
Dinner for three: RO43
Do you have a favourite restaurant that you’d like to see reviewed? Let Y know at firstname.lastname@example.org