Elevated street cuisine

Elevated street cuisine

You can tell within minutes of meeting him that chef Goo Imthawin loves what he does. Not only does he find joy in connecting and forming relationships with people, but he delights in serving up genuinely tasty and authentic Thai cuisine.

Without a doubt, it has been both his overarching passion and his well-established reputation that have led to Goo’s trendy Ballito Lifestyle Centre restaurant, Soi 55, becoming one of the most popular eateries on the North Coast. Well that, and the delicious, beautifully presented food and contemporary, inviting ambience and stylish décor, of course.

Situated on the corner of Eat Street, Soi 55 is an upmarket ode to traditional Thai street food culture and is headed up by Goo, who brings with him a wealth of experience in Thai cuisine and the restaurant industry, and a natural affinity for both.

Born in Bangkok, Goo moved to Durban at age 14 and immediately started mentoring under the head chef of the popular Bangkok Wok restaurant in Windemere Road.

Goo worked his way up from bartender to chef and soon opened his first restaurant, called Goochi, at the age of twenty-one. After three years, though, the restaurant closed, and Goo moved around for a few years before returning to Thailand to spend three months living as a monk (a mandatory rite of passage for Thai men).

When he returned to South Africa, Goo got a job at The Hilton Hotel in Durban and was invited to do train at the Culinary Arts School in Johannesburg. Here he learnt a vast amount about cooking, modern plating and running a restaurant. When Covid hit, though, he was retrenched.
Together with a friend, Goo started cooking authentic, tasty Thai food at home and ran a delivery service in Durban and surrounding areas. Word soon began to spread, and his reputation started to grow. In 2021 he opened Goo’s – a restaurant t at Beachwood Country Club.

When he sat down with Bruce Renken and Murray Loader last year, Goo immediately loved the idea of running an upmarket ‘street food’ Thai restaurant and believed there was a demand for contemporary Thai fusion cuisine in Ballito.

Working together, Goo and the Ballito Lifestyle Centre team skilfully recreated a culinary destination that mimics what you would find on the streets of Thailand, in a notably more upscale setting.

Drawing on Goo’s Thai culture, heritage, background and family recipes – as well as his lived experiences on the Durban restaurant scene – Soi 55 is much more than just a place to eat.

It gives food lovers the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone, be adventurous, push boundaries and indulge in a truly extraordinary dining experience.

The restaurant’s name couldn’t be more appropriate and truer to its heritage – a Soi is a side street in Thailand that branches off the main street – and the open kitchen emulates the energy and atmosphere of the streets of Bangkok, allowing you to see, smell and hear the ‘clang, clang’ of the cooking process!

Flavour is at the heart of every dish and each plate tells a story. Goo sources most ingredients locally and even grows the fresh herbs he needs (lemongrass, lime leaf and holy basil) himself.

With his lovely wife of four years, Cheri heading up the ‘admin’ side of things, and a team of masterful chefs by his side, Goo has already amassed significant local support on the North Coast and more people are travelling from further afield to experience the true sensory delight that is Soi 55.