Dirty dining and container eating

Two more top Israeli chefs open casual eateries: NuNuNu and Soi

Shabtay’s new restaurant is Soi (Thai for alleyway). (photo credit: Courtesy)
Shabtay’s new restaurant is Soi (Thai for alleyway).
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It was two steps forward and one step back this summer for a culinary trend that shows no signs of quitting. Roy Soffer’s Asian street food restaurant Bunz closed suddenly after only six months in existence, but that has not deterred two other leading chefs from opening their own inexpensive eateries: Shahaf Shabtay of Nithan Thai and Guy Gamzo of Aria are the latest to take the plunge.
Shabtay’s new restaurant is Soi (Thai for alleyway), one of the four colorful eateries comprising a new urban food compound near the Diamond Exchange called Containers because they actually are freight containers, converted into sort of stationary food trucks. The food at Soi is described as South Asian fusion, which translates here as an eclectic mix of dishes inspired by the cuisines of Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Japan.
The menu consists of just two sections: Soi Fresh, two salads and a sushi-like roll (NIS 32-52), and Soi Box, main courses (NIS 49-55) served in a cardboard box, which easily converts into a take-away container. During typical “business lunch” hours (11 a.m.-5 p.m.), a Soi Box is served along with a tiny savory puff pastry, a small side salad, and a drink (Soi Juice), for the price of the main dish alone. There are vegan options in both menu categories.
We started with the green papaya salad, a generous mound of julienned green papaya and carrot, in a dressing that is a perfect balance of sweet and tangy. It is exactly as good as its twin served in the pricier Nithan Thai, down to the roasted cashews scattered throughout in place of the cheaper peanuts.
For our main courses we ordered the Thai Red Curry with chicken, and the Laxa Noodles with sea bass cutlets. While the curry was not visibly red, the plump morsels of white chicken in mild sauce were delicious; similarly, the broad noodles and flavorful fish in a subtle lemon-turmeric sauce with macadamia nuts added up to a very satisfying dish.
Soi is not certified kosher, but it serves no pork or shellfish; and because it serves meat, it serves no dairy either. For this reason, according to the chef, Soi is not offering desserts yet, until it can find parve sweets that are up to the restaurant’s standards.
NuNuNu – Dirty Dining
I frankly do not know why Guy Gamzo’s new fast-food restaurant is named NuNuNu – Dirty Dining, but I got my first hint when I was placing my order at the counter and noticed a pile of large paper bibs next to the cash register. I grabbed one as I waited for our first order of the only things on the menu: overstuffed grilled sandwiches made with what the restaurant calls “milk buns.”
The menu lists a grand total of only six sandwiches (NIS 28-45), containing fillings representing meat, fish, chicken, seafood, sausage and vegetarian. (On weekends, there may be an extra daily special.) Obviously, there can be nothing vegan on the menu, since there is milk in the bread.
There is very limited seating, on backless stools at narrow counters. Loud dance music blares throughout the small space.
We sampled four of the six sandwiches, and by far the best of the lot was the shredded beef brisket, slow-cooked “American-style.” Topped with a whole pickle, it was as good as you would find in any deli.
If you were expecting any healthy vegetables, even in the vegetarian sandwich, you would be disappointed: it is macaroni and cheese, a tasty overdose of carbohydrates.
NuNuNu offers five side dishes, of the kind often served with hamburgers. The sweet potato fries were fine, if overly seasoned, and the coleslaw pleasantly zesty.
There are only two desserts (NIS 26), both also sandwiches: cheesecake topped with a berry sauce, and hazelnut ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and crowned with a marshmallow. These calorific sweets were every bit as good as they looked.
The writer was a guest of the restaurants.
Not kosher
3 Hayetzira Street / 21 Tuval Street, Ramat Gan
Tel. 052-849-2111
Not kosher
16 Herzl Street, Tel Aviv
Tel. (03) 966-4543