Polar opposites of bustling city streets and idyllic island beaches sum up the Far East experience.
One of the latest attempts to recreate the bliss of the beach and spice of the street food in Leeds is Bar Soba, an urban embrace of the oriental cuisine of Thailand and beyond.
The bar/ restaurant is only a recent addition to the city’s burgeoning Northern Quarter, taking a prime space in Leeds Grand Arcade that has been transformed into a stylish industrial downstairs bar and airy, inventive upstairs eatery drenched in light from the Victorian arcade’s glass roof.
The restaurant is a glorious open plan area with parquet flooring, modern part-leather grey banquettes, oriental graffiti and cosy separate seated sections.
The menu features sharing platters, small plates ranging from steamed dumplings to corn and coconut fritters and sides including fries with peanut or sweet chilli sauce, noodles and greens.
It has a pretty modern take on Thai cuisine and takes you out of the traditional oriental environment of an ornament-scattered restaurant and into a cool urban space but it’s not overly Western. As much as there are no Buddha statues or delicate napkin sculptures, you’re not going to find ketchup or greasy fry ups in here.
Mains-wise there are Thai curries, wok dishes, charcoal grill and house specials starting from £9.95 which include a Thai take on fish and chips that features seabass and prawns.
For vegetarians there are a handful of salads and about as many meat-free mains.
For afters you can even try unusual deep fried ice cream.
I opted for a Nasi Goreng, which consisted of Indonesian fried rice with shrimp, spicy chicken satay skewers, peanut sauce and shrimp crackers, while my dining partner chose vegetarian Pad Thai Noodles that was filled with roasted peanuts, bean sprouts, rice noodles and Pad Thai sauce.
My main was a flavour-packed fill of juicy skewered chicken and soft sticky spiced rice which came to life with a thick satay sauce that warmed the pallet. The shrimp crackers were also a nice crispy touch.
The Pad Thai Noodles were piled thick and could have filled two diners. Generous helpings of veg and cubes of what appeared to be fried tofu drowned out the flavour of the Pad Thai dressing, making it slightly blander than intended.
With the addition of a tasty coconut rum and mango liqueur-based Mango-Tango cocktail and a complimentary helping of water, the bill came to a reasonable £27.90.
Bar Soba presents an innovative take on oriental cuisine and, with the new Zaap Thai eatery just around the corner, this an exciting time for Far East foodies in Leeds.