Soos Restaurant/Bar – Modern Malaysian street food

By Stephanie Dickison

No doubt you’re already well versed in many Asian cuisines – Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean, to start. So isn’t it about time to add Malaysian food to the mix?

Enliven your taste buds with exotic fare such as Keropok, Cucur Sayur, Rojak and Murtabek at Soos Restaurant/Bar.

All in the family

Soos is a family affair – owned and operated by Zenn (father/owner), Tricia (mother/chef), Zack (son/cook), Lauren (daughter/manager) and Johnny Kountouri (Lauren’s boyfriend/bar manager). The Soo family has been serving modern interpretations of Malaysian street food at their contemporary restaurant and bar on Ossington since 2013. Previously, the family opened one of the only other Malay restaurants in Toronto in 1995, Matahari, and then they sold it in 2008.

Exotic and complex flavours

Lauren describes the food as, “An original fusion food with lots of influence from China and India, Dutch and Portuguese.” Borrowing ingredients from neighbours such as Thailand and others, and combining it with Nyonya cuisine (Northern Malaysian with Chinese flavours), the dishes feature authentic Malay-Nyonya flavours with a contemporary twist.

This “reimagining of street food,” as Lauren calls it, is made from scratch with locally sourced meats, fresh produce and spices, to create their offerings from scratch. Her parents go back to Malaysia twice a year and pick up hard-to-find ingredients such as fermented shrimp paste, dried anchovies and Malaysian palm sugar, that deliver such authentic flavours.

You may be familiar with some items on the menu – Sambal sauce, Rendang, and Satay – that have roots in Indonesia, a neighbouring country to Malaysia.

Menus abound

All dishes were designed to be shared. This popular tapas-style of dining allows you to try out a variety of selections. Small plates feature fusion interpretations, while large plates are more traditional, including street fare.

Tuck into vibrant fare of Sarawak Pepper Prawns ($12) with mango salsa and Rojak ($14), soft shelled crab tossed in a spicy shrimp dressing with toasted sesame seeds and peanuts. Dig into Murtabak ($14), a stuffed roti, spiced ground beef, onion, egg, with Mamak curry sauce; Rendang Beef Short Ribs ($27) with Rendang curry braise, coconut rice and roti; and Sayur Lodeh ($16) a vegetable curry with jasmine rice.

Dining in a group? Order the “Feed Me” option. For groups of four to six people, the dinner, usually consisting of seven to eight dishes of chef’s choice, is served family style.

More than eight people in your party? Soos can create set menus to make ordering a breeze. They also take special requests for large dinner groups in the private dining room, or for any large events.

Traditional Night Events take place on occasional Tuesday evenings when the restaurant is closed. These festive affairs feature a traditional Malaysian Set Menu Dinner, with items not available on the regular menu. ($45 pp, about eight dishes served. Details for the next dinner date can be found on their website).

“We’re passionate and want people to know about Malaysian food,” says Lauren. “People have really embraced the dining experience we’ve created.”

They’ve even included a lengthy glossary of over 25 ingredients in the menu, in case you’re not familiar with kaptian (a braise of flavours of kaffir lime, lemongrass and coconut); mee (fat, yellow egg noodle containing wheat), and rempah (a spice blend of chili, curry, turmeric, garlic and coriander seed).

Something for everyone

Guests with dietary restrictions will be happy to learn that many accommodations can be made. Roughly 70 per cent of the menu is celiac-friendly, with a ton of gluten-free options, as well as a third of the menu suitable for vegetarians.

Note: As with many Asian restaurants, peanuts and dried shrimp paste are on the premises and used throughout the menu.

Contemporary space

Designer Sasha Josipovicz of Studio Pyramid created a room as vibrant as the food. A large wall near the entrance features dark wallpaper festooned with bright orange and fuchsia lanterns and big round puffy light fixtures.

Colourful streamlined chairs and banquettes up near the front give way to a lengthy bar, so be sure to check out their cocktails, including Teapot Shots (6 oz. $25, 12 oz. $45) meant to be shared and served in a teapot, along with a long list of wine, beer and other bevvies.

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Soos Restaurant/Bar (94 Ossington Ave.) is open for dinner Wednesdays to Sundays, and late night eats and drinks on weekends.

There’s room for 50 guests, including nine at the bar. Bar seats cannot be reserved, so walk-ins are welcome.

Check out our Facebook page for more photos.

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