Soi Thai was a popular Thai restaurant on College Street, but owners Nopphawan (a.k.a. Sherry) and Pablito Papa felt limited by exclusively serving Thai. “We wanted to showcase other interesting Southeast Asian flavours as well,” says Sherry.
The couple also wanted to attract the younger demographic that had moved into the neighbourhood, so the resto-bar-café got a fab, fresh new look, vibe and menu.
The formerly evening-only eatery is now Shanee, open all day, offering breakfast options of parfait and toast-based fare in the café. Enjoy small sharing plates of apps and snacks, as well as larger Soi Thai Street Food sets, for lunch and dinner. On weekends, dig into delectable brunch options.
Sherry, who’s also the chef, tried to “incorporate new ingredients” into the dishes. She doesn’t categorize it as fusion, however. “I don’t like the word ‘fusion.’ It’s about revolution and using ingredients that were never used before.”
After watching a documentary that included mozzarella balls with tomato sauce, she was inspired to create a combination using fried cheese and tom yum sauce (a Thai hot and sour soup base). She made it the following morning and gave it to friends and family to try. It was a hit.
Pad Thai even gets reworked by way of Pad Thai Slaw ($5), a blend of spiralized raw noodles made from carrots, zucchini and beets. Too healthy for you? Add tempura ($5) for a “junk food” version, as Sherry calls it.
From Shiitake Fresh Rolls ($5) and Cassava Green Curry Poutine ($5) with cheese curds, to Thai-style Fish & Cassava Chips ($9), there’s a ton of fragrant fare to choose from, including vegan and gluten-free options.
Bonus: the array of enticing, made-from-scratch vegetarian, seafood, meat and poultry dishes are so affordable ($5-$14), you can dine out a few times a week.
Local craft cocktail company Drinksmith created Asian-inspired tipples using fascinating ingredients including butterfly pea flower extract, yuzu marmalade, Sriracha and grilled corn.
Cocktails ($12) include feature sipper LaCorn, with Wild Turkey, grilled corn, coconut cream, condensed milk and nutmeg. Looking for something a little lighter? Choose something from the spritz cocktail ($9) list.
In-house items include tonic syrup and infused soju, blending Asian Pacific flavours with Thai herbs such as lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal.
Asian whiskies (1 oz. $10-$18), wines by the glass ($7-$10) and bottle ($28-$42), beer ($5.55-$11) and cider ($7-$11) are also on offer.
Non-alcoholic options: Local brews Hale Coffee ($3.25-$4.75) and Genuine Tea ($2.75) are cozy sippers on cold days, with pop ($3), juices ($3) and Thai Iced Tea ($4) with milk or lime.
Fixtures and Fittings
“I wanted to design a space where friends could meet up together and just have a fun time,” Sherry says.
The bright, white space accented in pleasing shades of teal and magenta, with walls lined in grass panels and flowers, has a joyous, Alice in Wonderland feel.
Baskets, benches and chairs are from Thailand and a former bench was repurposed to build the bar.
Be sure to head to the back where an artful mural of photos of the family was created.
Cool fact: The striking logo on display along the back wall, as well as outlined in neon at the front, was designed by Ashley Jacot De Boinod, owner/pastry chef of Glory Hole Doughnuts.
Off the Menu
Thai Iced Tea ($4)
Creamy and sweet, Thai Red Tea brewed with sugar, can be ordered with or without evaporated milk.
Yaa-Dong is a one-and-a-half ounce shot of flavour-infused rice-based liquor. Seasonal flavours include bael-fruit (known for its therapeutic properties), mango, and chili and ginger. Also available as a flight ($13), three one-ounce yaa-dong taster shots, served with a slice of pickled mango.
Fried Cheese with Tom Yum Sauce ($7)
I know what you’re thinking – this can’t be good. But you’d be wrong. Crisp light batter enveloping hot mozzarella pairs shockingly well with the hot and sour sauce. In fact, it’s mighty addictive.
Spicy Glass Noodle Seafood Salad ($7)
Lavender coloured noodles mingle with red pepper strips, plump shrimp and squid in a tangy, spicy dressing.
Spicy Pork Krapao with Fried Egg ($7)
Everyone has a dish they can’t get enough of – seven-layer dip, nachos, wings, etc. Add this one to the top of your list: Sherry’s spicy ground pork stir-fried with Thai basil leaves, topped with a fried quail egg, and served with flawless, non-greasy taro chips. You’ll start out politely enough with a delicate scoop or two, but after a few bites, you’ll be chowing down like no one’s watching.
Chiang Mai Sausages with Som Tam & Sticky Rice ($12)
Sherry’s soft, aromatic, handmade sausages packed with Thai herbs – lemongrass, galangal – are a must. Served with black rice (using butterfly pea flower extract to naturally dye the grains) and fresh papaya slaw, it’s comfort food served with elegance and grace.
5-Spice Grilled Duck Wings ($12)
Ontario duck wings are braised and marinated in five spices and herbs for a few hours, chilled, and then grilled, finished with fried shallots and red chilies.
Shanee accommodates 30 guests, with room for 10 guests at the bar, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Takeout is also available.
At the Stove: Nopphawan (a.k.a. Sherry) Papa
Head Honchos: Nopphawan and Pablito Papa
FOH: Manager Antonio O.
Map it: 651 College St. (at Grace)
Monday: 8 am to 10 pm
Wednesday: 8 am to 10 pm
Thursday and Friday: 8 am to 12 am
Saturday: 11 am to 12 am
Sunday: 11 am to 10 pm
Phone it in: 647-345-8838
How Cool is This?! Cooking workshops are in the works for winter, so stay tuned.
Check out our Facebook page for more photos.