“I make it like Thailand?” Chef Pairote Pimswat of dusitD2 Nairobi’s modern Thai restaurant SOI graciously asks, referring to the desired level of spiciness I preferred.
Instantaneously I felt at home, perhaps even more so than my last visit to SOI, before Chef Pimswat moved to Nairobi three months ago. Chef Pimswat’s arrival is marked by a new menu at SOI, a new business lunch offering, and increases the amount of days the restaurant is opened. Now also opened on Mondays, diners will be able to enjoy his take on traditional Thai flavours and fuss-free plating, which is as simple as it is bold – just like the restaurant’s contemporary homely ambiance and its familiar, intimate and satisfying service.
First to arrive was the Puffed Red Snapper with Green Mango Salad and Sweet Cashew Dressing, which resembled a mountain of tempura batter scraps. I stick my face into it and inhale. The dish is brimming with beautifully fragrant Thai aromas and the sea. The delicate meat of the fish is shredded and deep-fried until golden and piled atop a refreshing sweet and tangy salad. The crispy crunch of the fish paired with the salad was intriguing and enticing.
More subtle was the Fried Thai Ravioli that resembled fried wontons filled with vegetables served on a bed of thickened sweet and fishy sauce, finished with a beautiful white swirl of some of the highest grade coconut milk you can import from Thailand.
Green Papaya Salad at SOI is ferociously fiery for amateur chili eaters, but is worth it. Asking for “just like Thailand” level of spiciness has nothing to do with one’s machismo, but rather what matters is the flavour which is achieved in the dish – tangy, sweet and savoury with a textured crunch that is all gently pounded together.
Other dishes were even more familiar, like the Wok-Fried Pork Fillet with Eggplant, Green Beans, Sweet Basil and Chilli, and Green Curry with Red Snapper and Calamari, which was a cut above. It’s as though the definition of richness had been tweaked. Again, I credit the incredibly fragrant coconut milk that harmonized the depth of flavours from chilies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, kaffir lime, galangal, shrimp paste, and so much more. Julienned bamboo shoots and asparagus bulked-up the creamy dish that was surprisingly full of the “high value” ingredients, teeming of succulent calamari and red snapper.
Most soothing of all was the Tapioca Pudding with Pandan Leaves and Fresh Coconut Milk. It starts as a visual thing, before slapping you with textural theatrics. The bright green colours and tropical grassy notes from the Pandan leaves are infused into tapioca pearls that are formed into small sweetened balls dusted with fresh shavings of coconut. Both soft and chewy, the trio of green tapioca balls is paired with a quaint serving of warm soup laced with coconut milk and sweet corn whilst translucent pearls of tapioca float to the surface.
The dessert really made its mark. So much so that my companion and I sat in silence for a few seconds to savour the flavours and the culinary experience, just letting our thoughts and observations be.
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