What’s on the menu at SoSo Food Club, a new Chinese restaurant and cocktail bar in Little Portugal

What’s on the menu at SoSo Food Club, a new Chinese restaurant and cocktail bar in Little Portugal

Name: SoSo Food Club
Contact: 1166 Dundas St. W., sosofoodclub.com, @sosofoodclub
Neighbourhood: Little Portugal
Previously: The Contender
Owners: Daniel Tal (Dudebox), Thomas Masmejean, Matt Eckenweiler, Nancy Chen (Otto’s Döner, Otto’s Bierhalle, Mansion), Nav Sangha (Otto’s Bierhalle, Miss Things), Steve Goldby and Sarah Brown-Duncan (Leeftail Co., Crows Nest Barbershop)
Chef: Jasper Wu (Miss Things)

The food

The mainland Chinese–focused menu isn’t locked to a single regional cuisine: there are dishes from Shaanxi, Sichuan and Shanghai. The occasional Cantonese plate—like a special of seabream and clams in black bean sauce—also make the odd appearance. Almost half the menu is vegan or vegetarian. “A lot of Chinese restaurants like to advertise that they’re ‘excellent,’ ‘legendary’ or ‘famous’ for their food,” says Chen, who wanted to poke fun at that practice with the name SoSo. “My mom doesn’t get it. She thinks we should have called it SoSo Happy—which actually isn’t a bad name.”

This squid and shaved fennel salad is topped with charred chive flowers. The plate is painted with a black garlic purée. $13

 

The Not-Really Buddha Basket is a taro nest filled with cauliflower, shiitake mushrooms, spinach and corn. Its cheeky name is owed to the fact that Wu has seasoned the dish with garlic (which many practicing Buddhists don’t eat). $14.

 

All of the noodles at SoSo are made in-house. This lamb biang biang dish is made with spinach Xi’an noodles and topped with lamb shoulder that’s cooked to order after marinating overnight in a bath of 13 spices. $16.

 

Wu debones chicken thigh and rolls it up before steaming it. The dish is served cold with marinated beets and peanuts in a chili-sesame sauce. $9.

 

For this dish, Wu tosses lobster meat with mapo tofu in house-made XO sauce. $36.

 

A special of clams and sea bream in black bean sauce. $34.

 

Chen (left) and Wu.

 

The drinks

The short wine card focuses on biodynamic wines that are low in sulfites. The bottles on offer will change regularly as bar manager Lia Said seeks out new stuff from low-intervention producers. Said wanted to bring in Chinese wines but there’s strong domestic demand for them, so few bottles are exported (which means the markup would have to be astronomical). Instead, she’s making the drinks list on-theme by creating cocktails made with Chinese spirits and spices.

Mamahuhu (which means “so-so” in Mandarin) is made with Chinese vodka, Spanish white wine, Hibiscus berry tea, lemon and orange blossom. $14.

 

The Linda Linda is loosely based on a Chinese soft drink called Suanmeitang (a smoky, sour, prune drink). Lia infuses a plum liqueur with Lapsang Souchong, then adds some manzanilla sherry and Johnnie Walker Black. $15.

 

The Sweet Peach combines sake, cognac, peach and orange juice with some soda. Garnished with a lychee. $13.

 

There’s also yerba mate (pictured) and Izumi sake on tap. $6.

 

The space

For SoSo’s vibrant colour scheme, Chen drew inspiration from Hong Kong, where she grew up. She and her fellow co-owners (who built much of the 75-seat space themselves) also looked at a number of North Korean interiors when drawing up the pastel-softened Brutalist space (tiled support beams, concrete bar, exposed ducts painted baby pink). Soso bills itself as a “food club” because it will be hosting monthly food events, like noodle-pulling classes and wine education nights. After 11 p.m., the back room turns into a dance floor.

Walking through the neon-framed entrance is like walking through a portal to the ’80s.

 

The neon lights along the ceiling change colour. They were made by Artefact.