Authored and photographed by Carla Moreno
Most Americans have tried Thai food, especially here in Seattle where there’s an abundance of Thai restaurants. So, what makes our new “Hip On The Hill” tour partner, SOI, special? Well, it’s not your typical Thai restaurant. Husband and wife restauranteurs, Gabe and Yuie Wiborg bring a unique flavor to SOI — that of the Issan region of Thailand.
Twenty provinces make up this northeastern region of Thailand making Issan the country’s largest region. SOI is named after the same word in Thai — which translates to alley or side street. Right off the bat, you’ll see a map of Thailand as you enter the restaurant. While it serves an aesthetic purpose, the reason it’s there is to educate people on this particular region of Thailand which isn’t often featured in American Thai restaurants. Issan also happens to be the area where Gabe’s wife and Soi’s chef, Yuie, was born.
Issan cuisine is known to be very spicy and pungent using plentiful herbs and seasonings. Sticky rice is a staple. Take for example the Naam Khao Tod: a crispy marinated rice with soured pork, fresh ginger, toasted peanut, red onion, kaffir lime leaf, cilantro, and lemongrass mixed with lime juice and fish sauce.
Or how about the Khaopod Tod: fritter made of crunchy, sweet corn, garlic, coriander, shallot, kaffir lime leaf, turmeric, and soy sauce, served with sweet chili sauce.
Here at SOI, there’s a delightful and zesty concoction of flavors with a kick of spice. Because authenticity is key, it’s important to know that at this restaurant, there’s no selection of spicy levels. Dishes are prepared using the spice and seasoning that is traditionally intended for that dish. And if a key ingredient is out of season, the dish will be temporarily taken off the menu. Some ingredients are even sourced directly from Thailand.
This isn’t Gabe and Yuie’s first restaurant. They’ve been serving other regional Thai food at the Banyan Tree Restaurant in Kent, WA, with humble roots serving Thai desserts at the Fremont Sunday farmer’s market for five years. While they’re well-versed in the industry, opening a restaurant in Seattle is a whole new ballgame, especially in the Capitol Hill neighborhood – precisely why the duo decided on the 10th and Union location. With Capitol Hill being Seattle’s most prominent nightlife and entertainment district, the diverse food scene is equally prominent.
SOI is for the adventurous eater and there are some killer cocktails on the menu, too! Our staff at Savor Seattle can’t get enough of their homemade ginger beer (reminds us of ginger lemonade) and their off-the-beaten path regional Thai cuisine.
When you walk into SOI, you’ll smell the aromas, feel the traditional decor and have a sense of peace. After all, 5 monks blessed the restaurant on opening day!
photo credit: Gabe Wiborg
For more information, visit SOI at 10th and Union in Capitol Hill or join us on our Hip On The Hill Tour to get a taste of their delightful menu!