Feast of fabulous, fresh flavours

Pad Thai with crispy pork belly.

Pad Thai with crispy pork belly.

Published Dec 24, 2023


Soi 55

Where: Ballito Lifestyle Centre, 498 Main Road, Ballito

Open: Daily 11am to 9pm.

Phone: 032 032 0019

The holiday season has started with a bang – the Lifestyle Centre is buzzing with locals and tourists alike. There’s music playing, tables spilling out on to the pavement, lots of banter, wine, good food. What’s not to like?

Trevor and I had come up to try Chef Goo’s new restaurant, Soi 55. We’ve been following him for his simple and fresh take on Asian staples since his days at the Beachwood Country Club. We thought he was wasted on the crowd that frequented the establishment.

Then all the tenants were kicked out and he ended up in Mexicola in uMhlanga, which again wasn’t an altogether happy mix. He was wasted throwing together pizzas for the young clubbing set.

So it’s great that the chef finally has an establishment worthy of his cooking. Soi 55 is an elegant upmarket spot at the end of Eat Street in the Lifestyle Centre.

A side dish of crispy spinach

It has indoor tables, bar counters all around, and spills out on to the pavement. It was busy. We took the last piece of the bar counter to avoid the sun and soon had a glass of good chenin in hand.

Starters might include bao buns, with crispy pork, chicken or tofu, or dim sum, either chicken or prawn, in a ponzu sauce. Ingrid Shevlin and I had tried these recently when he was still in uMhlanga and thought they were better than most.

The potstickers, too, we had enjoyed.

Goo Goo squid is a popular example and we saw it coming out to many tables. It’s done with sriracha sauce and lime juice, peppers and sesame seeds.

Instead we tried the king prawns (R110) which were deep fried in panko and coconut and served with sriracha mayo and pineapple salsa. Delicious. That mayo had a kick and the salsa had a summer cool.

Panko and coconut-crumbed prawns with sriracha mayo and pineapple salsa.

We also enjoyed the duck pancakes (R125), crispy duck wrapped with cucumber bean sprouts and pickled ginger and bathed in hoisin sauce with garlic. Another winner. I could do with another one right now, actually.

There are a number of interesting options on skewers including rump marinated in soy, chilli and rice powder and served with nam jim and spring onion, or pork rashers marinated in a secret sauce with crispy garlic, or prawns in nam jim and crispy onions, or chicken thighs in a home-made sweet chilli. Even oysters get the skewer treatment.

Then, of course, there is a full range of curries, green, red, massaman or angry style with curry paste, ginger, lime leaf and basil. Options include chicken, duck, prawn, fish, beef, crispy pork belly or veg.

Duck pancakes in Hoisin sauce.

Soups and drunken noodles also feature, as do a number of different stir fries and noodle dishes. There are Asian sticky ribs, either pork or lamb, some sweet and sour options and honey and garlic-glazed chicken.

It’s a big menu.

Trevor and I shared mains as well, going for the traditional pad Thai, the national dish of Thailand, made with noodles, sprouts, dried chilli and peanuts. We topped it with crispy pork belly (R160) which was cooked Asian style and really good and crispy. A lovely and simple combination. Trevor added a little more heat to it, but it was perfect for me. A side of crispy spinach always goes down a treat.

The crispy fish atop a bed of Asian greens with a spicy sweet and sour sauce (R170) was perhaps less successful, but only because the thick slice of linefish rather than the more traditional fillet was never going to get truly crispy. But it tasted good and the fish itself was cooked perfectly.

Crispy fish in a spicy sweet and sour sauce with Asian vegetables.

Desserts included deep-fried banana with chocolate ice cream, honey and peanuts, or a coconut panna cotta, or coconut ice cream. Neither coconut nor banana are favourites, so we passed. After a leisurely lunch we popped into the Gallery which had an exhibition that should make the KZNSA’s BuzzArt blush. And then a trawl through the food stands for things like olives and lamb curries and coffee.

It was a lovely way to spend a beautiful afternoon.

Food: 4

Service: 4

Ambience: 4

The Bill: R792

Independent on Saturday