Soi: Thai favorites in a luxurious atmosphere

September 2017
By Andrew Roberto | The Guam Daily Post:
If you’re going to serve Thai food favorites at an international, world-class Thai hotel, you’ve got your work cut out for you. That being said, Sous Chef David Hodge and Chef de Cuisine Christian Panganiban do a fine job of bringing to life the bold, exotic flavors foodies love about Thai cuisine into a new set menu at Soi.

“It hits all the notes,” Panganiban says of the Thai favorites available for order. “You’ve got sweet, salty, spicy, sour, bitter, a lot of umami, savory aspects. To me, it’s not a boring meal, definitely a lot of peaks.”

And in maintaining the high expectations of Executive Sous Chef Morten Nielson, Hodge says the level of care for each dish is at the forefront of what they do at Soi.

“It’s a balancing act,” Hodge tells The Guam Daily Post, adding “If you were to be back here with us every day, you’ll see there’s a lot of tasting” to ensure that each item is authentic.

Great meal aside, the luxurious atmosphere and comfortable decor of Soi make it easy to enjoy lunch, or dinner, with a special someone, which is exactly how we recommend you dig into the Vegetable Rice Paper Spring Rolls, Shrimp Spring Rolls, Green Papaya Salad, Hot & Sour Soup, Pad Thai and Singha Beer we were offered during our visit to the restaurant.

We started our five-course set menu off with an aromatic spoonful of hot and sour soup. With each taste we were able to experience the multitude of flavors that Thai food is known for: the herby cilantro, the well-balanced umami from the fish sauce, the fragrant, citrusy lemon grass all played harmoniously on the palate. Hodge and Panganiban did an excellent job of ensuring all flavors in the dish got their turn to shine. Of course, the “hot” in hot and sour soup was provided by a kick of fresh, whole chili pepper included in the broth.

Still in the mood for an appetizer, the Daily Post took a few nibbles from our plate of fried Shrimp Spring Rolls. Each crispy bite of spring roll features wonderful notes of coriander, which blends well with the side of plum sauce or sriracha mayo.

When we moved on to the pad thai, we could use only one word to describe it: beautiful. Pad thai is a deceptively easy dish to spoil in the sense that a cook could overseason it or use too much oil to cook it in. But the pad thai at Soi is wonderful. Served with succulent prawns, the ratio of soy-to-sweet flavors in each bite is spot on, and the light touch of the ubiquitous Thai fish sauce adds enough umami to take the dish over the top. A fresh squeeze of citrus or some crunch from a spoonful of peanuts is par for the course for enjoying pad thai, and both are served on the side, as are bean sprouts and chili flakes.

In between bites of pad Thai or sips of soup, it’s nice to take in some freshness from the green papaya salad. We watched as Panganiban pounded the ingredients together with a wooden mortar and pestle, bringing bold exciting flavors together for our enjoyment. Bold really is the right word for any order of green papaya salad, and Soi’s is no different. It’s sweet, it’s sour, and it’s crunchy. And if you need it spicier don’t be shy to ask, as Soi staff will be glad to add extra chili pepper into your order on request.

Already stuffed from a thoroughly enjoyable Thai food experience, we would be remiss if we didn’t give the fresh spring rolls the good ol’ college try. Thank goodness we did. Yes, the veggies were crisp and fresh, and yes, the rice paper had a delightful chewiness, but — and this is important — the absolute star of the dish was the peanut sauce. Creamy and savory, this peanut sauce is enhanced by fresh basil rolled into the spring roll which, when paired together, is something that’s going to stick with you when you leave the restaurant.
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