Food Review: Bar Soba, Merchant City

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Burgers are out, street food is in — so say foodie pop ups and trendy markets across Glasgow.

They’re the buzzwords on Bar Soba’s revamped menu too, promising pan-Asian street food small plates, as well as a mish mash of Asian-style mains — some recognisable, others a bit more exotic.

I’ll admit, I last visited the west end branch a few years ago, and left less than impressed — but with a new Merchant City Bar Soba beckoning, neon lights and all, it seemed time to give the new menu a go.

The latest one is suitably trendy; a cool bar area by the door, arty graffiti adorning the walls and bench backs, and enough industrial lighting to rival the fairy lights of Merchant Square opening out from Soba’s little patch of decking.

Forget yours truly — there was only one food fan I could take on this one; a sister from China who hops the Asian continent as one of those glamorous trolley dollies. Unfortunately, she takes as long to peruse a menu as a flight at Heathrow takes to get to the runway, but a few hmms and haws later and we were ready for take off.

We shared a few small plates to start, the first, crisp salt and pepper squid with lime and coriander mayo; well cooked, still bouncy morsels of seafood covered in a rich salty crumb, perfect paired with ample supplies of sriracha sauce.

Beef war tip dumplings were even better; rich, beefy flavour encased in light pastry, steamed and topped with fresh ribbons of cucumber and carrot, served dim sum style in bamboo. My dining companion is a dumpling connoisseur, so a nod from her is high praise indeed — these had her seal of approval from the first snap of the chopstick.

Mains next, and mine was a feast fit for both of us, never mind one. Nasi goreng, the national dish of Indonesia in its own right, is paired with chicken sate and shrimp crackers at Bar Soba — and it’s a wonderful thing.

Where to begin? Maybe with the mound of spicy shrimp-fried rice — some of the best I’ve tried — topped with a fried egg coated in vinegar-rich sambal paste.

Balanced alongside, moist skewers of chicken were salty with soy, and wonderful dipped in a creamy pool of peanut sauce. It’s easy to see why sate features heavily on Soba’s menu, and they should be shouting from the rooftop about it.

The seasoned traveller settled for a taste of home (well, sort of) with a burger. But in Bar Soba, that means a Dirty Bangkok Burger, infused with chilli, lemongrass, coriander and garlic, served with cheese, chilli mayo, apple slaw and fries.

It was a bit of a bum note, truth be told — at least compared to mine. A well enough seasoned patty and sturdy brioche bun, it had all the makings of a dirty treat — but there just wasn’t enough of the promised chilli kick, and the result was far too polite to live up to its name.

We finished with another new addition to the menu; a delightfully sweet Vietnamese coffee, filtered as I watched onto a sizeable serving of silky condensed milk. There was no need for added sugar, and coffee connoisseurs might be horrified — but in place of a dessert, it was the perfect end to an exotic meal.

Bar Soba, let’s forget about our past differences — keep serving that sate and all is forgiven.

Salt and pepper squid with lime and coriander mayo - £5.50

Beef war tip dumplings - £4.95

Nasi goreng topped with a sambal egg, chicken sate skewers, peanut sauce and shrimp crackers - £10.95

Dirty Bangkok Burger infused with chilli, lemongrass, coriander and garlic, served in a brioche bun with cheese, chilli mayo, apple slaw and chilli fries - £10.95

Bill for two (without drinks): £32.35

BAR SOBA

79 Albion Street

Glasgow

G1 1NY

0141 237 1551

Branches can also be found on Mitchell Lane (city centre) and Byres Road (west end)