SOI, the latest addition to Karachi’s food scene, is tucked into that line of eateries on Khayaban e Seher – not far from Nandos. It’s a tiny little place, with a contemporary vibe – all slate grey walls, distressed wood finishes and industrial bare bulbs offset by studded leather and huge green plants.
The menu is modern Pan-Asian, a mix of the familiar and the distinctive ranging from the now ubiquitous Wasabi Prawns to Chiang Mai Khao Soi, which is apparently a far cry from local versions of khowsey.
The somewhat limited range of starters features two soups, two salads, vietnamese rice paper rolls, the aforesaid wasabi prawns and chicken wings. We tried the white hot and sour soup, wings and wasabi prawns, all of which got a thumbs up. Nothing groundbreaking, but well executed. The soup was a little too sour for my liking but much fresher and tastier than the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type of hot and sour soup you get at many chinese restaurants here. (Disclaimer: we had pre-teens and kids with us, one of whom has a nut allergy, so some ordering choices were dictated by their preferences)
Soi’s entrees list was much more interesting – signature Wok bowls and a range of specials that invited experimentation. Although we did want to know how they executed classic items like crispy fish with tamarind sauce and pad thai, we ordered the Soi Spicy Noodles, the Korean Beef Bowl, Mongolian Beef and Sticky Oyster Chicken.
We enjoyed all four dishes, ordering another round of Mongolian Beef even though portions are generous. The flavours and textures were well-balanced, the basil in the Oyster Chicken adding a fragrant note and the fresh crunch of green beans complementing the slightly sweet, savoury taste of the beef. The Spicy Soi Noodles paired glistening flat noodles with crisp vegetables and piquant stir-fried chicken – pure comfort food! The rice in the Korean Rice bowl was doused in a little too much sauce for my liking but the flavours were delicious.
On the flip side, I prefer stickier more fragrant rice with Asian Food and the two drinks available – mint lemonade and ginger lemonade – were both pedestrian. I’ve heard good things about the two desserts on offer – Nutella Wontons and Raspberry Cheesecake but with a nut-allergic young man with us, we decided to defer trying these.
On the way out I stopped for a brief chat with the owners, Sana and Salman Gora. Salman, formerly an executive at Engro, mentions,
“We’ve been dreaming of opening up this place for a long time. Our family is from Burma so these are the flavours of our home cooking – most of these recipes are family recipes that have developed over the years. We’re thrilled by the response.”
SOI is one place that we’ll definitely be heading back to, though I hope they add a few more exciting starters to the menu. The only real gripes I had were that SOI doesn’t yet accept credit cards and that the tables can seem a little cramped. The size of the restaurant can mean also waiting a while for a table – but for my money, it’s worth the wait.