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Fresh and Affordable Soi Asian Bistro

Lee Klein takes a dining detour downtown--where shops and restaurants "have been popping up of late--like flowers poking through the charred mulch of a forrest fire"--and checks out Soi Asian Bistro, a "spry little 30-seater" spin-off of Mr. Yum. The cuisine "is informed by Japan (sushi, sashimi, edamame); Thailand (tom yum goong and tom ka kai soups, curries, noodles, stir-fries); Peru (ceviches, tiraditos); and Chinese-American restaurant menus (as in there are 60-plus items to choose from, a third sushi-related rolls and such). There are more options to start off a meal here than places to buy chopsticks in China."

The highlight of Klein's visits "was the beef massama curry, a peerlessly rich preparation that included meltingly soft meat melding with cashews and tender lumps of potato in a luscious coconut-based curry sause redolent of cardamom, cinnamom, and cloves."

Downside? "The amateurish and under-managed side of Soi Asian Bistro's service." Not as "evident during the day . . . but on slow evenings, there is a lethargy among waiters and a curious lack of attention." Music was "consistently too loud and clubby," and "the room was kept ridiculously cold. At one point, a person walked off the street and into the place, headed to our table, and hit us up for change. Nobody from the restaurant asked him to leave." Bottom line? "Even with this newcomer's quirks, downtowners are lucky to have Soi Asian Bistro sauce up the neighborhood with fresh, sunny, and affordable fare." [MNT]