Sunday, February 2, 2014

Soos: Modern Malaysian Resto/Bar on Ossington

Soos (Twitter: @soostoronto, Facebook: Soos) is a family-run Malaysian restaurant on 94 Ossington Ave. Prior to opening the resto / bar in October of last year, the Soo family owned and operated Matahari Bar & Grill, a Malaysian restaurant on Baldwin St. for 13 years before selling it several years back.

In the Soos kitchen are Tricia Soo and her son, Zack Soo. The mother and son duo creates small plates incorporating Malaysian ingredients and flavours as well as globally inspired plates. For those of you looking for "authentic" or "traditional" Malaysian cuisine (i.e. food that you will find in Malaysia) you will realize that Soos is not the place for that. As their website states:

"We are not your typical street style Malaysian restaurant. We specialize in Malay-Nyonya (the Chinese influence in Malay cooking) flavours with a contemporary twist. "Malay-dian", if you will...Our mission is to introduce the complex and delicious flavours of Malaysian-Nyonya cuisine by incorporating them into small plates and snacks...."

I thought it is a good idea to emphasize this before y'all start telling me "You know this is not real Malaysian food" or "I'm Malaysian and this is not what I grew up with" and so on and so forth :)

Below is Soos' main dining room. I like the simple black and white stripped wall bearing the bold family name - it's very sleek and modern. Hard to miss are the giant spiky lights resembling the rambutan, a tropical fruit native to Indonesia and Malaysia.

Additional seating at the bar and along the opposing wall.

At the back of the restaurant is The Malacca Room (named after the Portuguese colony). The semi-private dining room seats 12 people.

My friend Cindy and I each had a cocktail. We also shared four plates and one dessert:

'SOOS YORK' SOUR (front) ($11) 
Canadian club rye, ginger syrup, lime, red wine float
LANGKAWI (back) ($11)
El jimador tequila, guava, cili padi agave, lime, egg white 

Crispy coconut rice, sambal ikan bilis, cucumber, fried quail egg
Considered as a national dish in Malaysia, nasi lemak is a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. Traditionally made with sambal ikan bilis (anchovies), peanuts and boiled egg, it often comes wrapped in banana leaves or served on a plate. Nasi Lemak is served usually at breakfast (but can be eaten any time of the day) and are sold at both roadside stalls and restaurants in Malaysia. 

Piled high, Soos' version of the nasi lemak was delicious. On a perfectly cut coconut rice square, slices of fresh and crunchy cucumber cuts through the saltines of the anchovies very nicely. Topped with a gorgeous fried quail egg, this reconstructed / refined version of the nasi lemak was one of my favourite dishes that evening (note: the bed of coconut rice is not a rice cracker - it's not sturdy enough for you to hold the entire thing in your hand...yes I tried).

Organic pork belly, sticky soy reduction, Chinese five spice, taro root, spring onion
A twist on the very homey nyonya dish, these thickly sliced pork belly on taro root pancakes were incredibly tasty. The pork belly were well-marinated (can't get enough of that sweet & sticky soy!) with tender meat and a layer of fat that's melt-in-your-mouth soft in the middle yet has slightly crisped edges. Perfection. I wish the taro root pancakes were crispier (like the the taro root "nest" used in Cantonese cuisine) which I think would give more texture, crunch and "fun" to the dish.

Chicken kapitan, house made 'tacos', napa carrot slaw, johnny's tzatziki
By itself, chicken curry kapitan is a well known curry dish in Malaysia. At Soos, the shredded chicken in the mild curry is mixed with napa carrot slaw and finished with tzatziki. I really enjoyed the mild yet flavourful curry alongside the cold and tangy tzatziki - a great and appetizing combination of flavours. The house made "taco shell" is soft and on the thick side. Unlike the nasi lemak and the pork belly pancakes, these tacos can easily be held in your hand (as they should be).

LAKSA ($17)
Chicken, prawn, tofu ball, galangal, mee, vermicelli, curry broth
Laksa is a spicy noodle dish served by hawkers throughout Singapore and Malaysia. There are many different types of laksa but the two dominant ones are curry laksa (coconut milk based) and asam laksa (tamarind based). Soos' laksa with its rich and creamy coconut milk curry gravy was a delight. Served in a round ceramic pot, there were generous amounts of tofu puffs, plump shrimps and chunks of meaty chicken. Underneath all of that is an unique combination of thin delicate vermicelli and chunky round noodles, giving the laksa that extra dimension. The galangal also adds a gingery/peppery flavour to the noodles.

Grilled pineapple, caramelized banana, rum caramel sauce, sweet cream icecream, toasted pistachio
Ah I love this dessert. Ironically the grilled pineapple was my least favourite component; not that they weren't good...the pineapples were still nice and sweet but perhaps not grilled enough? I also feel that instead of being the star of this dessert the grilled pineapple seemed to be treated as a side element. However I loved the caramelized bananas and the sweet cream ice cream. I thought the rum caramel sauce and the pistachio crumble pulled the dessert together nicely.

There are still plenty of things I want to try at Soos such as their braised lamb poutine, mango slaw, Hainanese chicken chop, mango slaw and char kway teow! I have a feeling a second visit will happen very soon...

Soos on Urbanspoon