Soi Thai Street Food is a Thai restaurant that doesn't serve pad thai... or even curry for that matter. Owner Nopphawan Lertchaiprasert Papa (or just Sherry) is a Toronto transplant from Bangkok with ambitions of emulating her home.
Formerly Darwin Bistro , the College Street eatery has been converted into a vibrant marketplace-inspired dining room adorned with Thai street scenes and family photos, and furnished with plastic stools and multicoloured banquettes. Tables are set with plastic baskets of cutlery wrapped in scrunched paper napkins (they look excessively manhandled, which is my only real complaint).
The opening menu offers an array of street hawker staples like Moo Ping ($10), bite sized pieces of pork threaded onto skewers and eaten with sticky rice pinched between two fingers.
Then there's Khai krata song krung ($10), billed on the menu in traditional form with ground pork and fried eggs. Sherry offers us a compelling off-menu vegetarian version made with minced mushrooms in lieu of meat with fragrant Thai basil supplying the most notable flavours.
Skip the Lui San ($8), its kind of a sleeper compared to the rest of the dishes. The bulky fresh rolls come stuffed with a mass of rice noodles and lettuce, a single shrimp and fresh mint and basil to finish. The cilantro vinaigrette on the side is perhaps the tastiest component.
Opt instead for the wok fried morning glory ($8) tossed in soy and oyster sauce with chilis and garlic. It too is a simple dish, but it's so incredibly flavourful.
Another must try is the Salmon laab ($10). Like a Thai-style ceviche, the fish is marinated in zesty lime and fish sauce then tossed with raw red onions and toasty rice powder.
Yum khai dao ($10) with grilled pork is a cold, chili-spiked salad with crispy Thai-style fried egg dressed in a sweet and tangy fish sauce that makes the whole dish sing.
While nothing is especially spicy on its own, collectively these dishes pack some real heat... mercifully there's Cha Yen ($4), black tea sweetened with condensed milk - so saccharine on its own, but then so essential after a few too many Thai chilis.
Aside from tea, the drinks lists is brief but affordable. Singha Lager sells for $5.50 a bottle, while cocktails (all fruit juice and sparkling wine spritzers) sell for $8. By the bottle there are four white wines and a single red sold for $28 (or $7 by the glass).
Photos by Jesse Milns