Unless you’ve traveled to Indonesia, chances are you’re not familiar with Nasi Goreng. This extreme fried rice staple of Bali and neighboring islands gets its intense flavors from shrimp paste, sweet dark soy sauce, and potent bird’s-eye chili peppers. Topped with a sunny-side-up fried egg, Nasi Goreng is a comfort dish that Indonesians make for family at home. It is prepared with the same traditional flavors and care at Soi 8 (pronounced soy eight), a new restaurant focused on Southeast Asian street food at MarketStreet in Lynnfield.
The menu, which features a mix of familiar (think spicy Tom Yum soup from Thailand) and unfamiliar (pork sausage from Laos), is just one of the unique things about the space. EAT+DRINK Peek around the wall, and you’ll see Sushi Ike (pronounced ee-kay), a long, elegant sushi bar where the focus is on fresh fish, beautifully plated. The pairing is a unique concept that echoes those of some much larger Asian restaurants, which have separate kitchens for sushi and cooked food.
Owner Rong Cong felt that dividing the space would help Sushi Ike more closely emulate the experience one might have at a tucked-away sushi counter in Japan by putting the focus on the artistry of the chef, while allowing the sunny disposition of neighboring Soi 8, named for an eatery-packed side street in Bangkok, to shine as well. Soi 8 is a casual counter-service spot, with food served in takeaway containers, while Sushi Ike customers can choose to sit at the sushi bar, enjoying artful presentations on beautiful ceramic plates decorated with flowers and flavorful dipping sauces.
Customers can also order food from Soi 8 at the Sushi Ike counter. Both sides have friendly, engaging service that feels like a trip to Bali, and tight menus that keep the focus on fresh preparations. Sushi Ike has several traditional offerings including a gorgeous Jumbo Combo, with 10 pieces of the chef’s selection of sushi and 18 pieces of chef’s selection sashimi, along with a tuna roll and a rainbow roll, served in a lovely wooden boat. In addition to the classic green wasabi paste, the sushi bar crafts its own creamy blend mixed with fresh wasabi, for a sweet/hot rush.
The roll selection is creative, with the signature Ike Roll an incredibly rich treat—fatty tuna topped with eel, avocado, crabmeat, and two kinds of spicy mayo. Spicy mayo also dots the Seared Salmon Bellies, enhancing the fattiness of the gently torched fish. While offerings are strictly a la carte now, by the holidays, owners expect to add an omakase option, a prix fixe chefdriven menu showcasing whatever is freshest on any day.
There are no ceramic plates or chef-curated tasting menus over on the Soi 8 side, but just as much care goes into the preparations. The menu hopscotches around Southeast Asia, with Vietnamese-style Nime Chow fresh rolls packed with firm shrimp, lettuce, and basil, and Laos sausage, an addictive pork cylinder flavored with basil, lemongrass, and a proprietary blend of herbs concocted by the Laotian-owned Rhode Island producer. This company does not ship or deliver, so employees drive down as needed to pick up sausage and beef.
The cuisine of Thailand is well represented: You can find nutty Pad Thai, which uses thick fresh rice noodles made by a local company and a balance of the cuisine’s signature blend of sweet, spicy, salty, and sour in perfect harmony. But step outside your comfort zone and try the savory Pad Kee Mow, which also sings with fresh ingredients, from lime juice to basil to crisp-tender veggies. Like most of the menu, you can get Pad Kee Mow with chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu. Try it with impossibly tender strips of beef, marinated to meet the demands of Southeast Asian cuisine, which typically is not eaten with a knife and fork. You’ll want a spoon to slurp up the Tom Yum.
This hot-and-sour Thai soup lives up to its name, redolent of shrimp paste and lime juice; it is addictive but with a kick that will leave your tongue tingling. Bear that spice level in mind when choosing a curry. Each dish is made to order rather than batched, so the kitchen will add heat to your liking. All the meats and vegetables in the curries are cooked from raw in the curry itself rather than blanched and tossed in later, giving a unique depth of flavor.
Owner Cong expected to get a liquor license by the holidays, with a curated sake list. Meantime, enjoy green tea, or Thai iced coffee or tea. While there is no dessert menu at either place, finishing with side of mango sticky rice will satisfy a sweet craving. Or stroll through MarketStreet to Cong’s newest endeavor, Möge Tee, which features bubble tea, fruit tea, or the currently trendy cheese foam tea, for an Asian-style sweet ending to a fresh, flavorful meal.