Ever since reading that review by Giles Coren for the Times (ignore the waffle in the first half) I’ve been meaning to pay a visit to SOJO but criminally, I have left it until now. What a fool I have been for leaving it this long, as to be quite honest, I think last night gave me possibly the nicest meal out I have ever eaten in Oxford.

4 of us in total wandered into the packed and buzzing restaurant about 7:45 – the decor is dark and cool, and the atmosphere was lively. No sooner had we sat down and our fantastic waiter was already at our table, unpacking our chopsticks and asking us what we fancied drinking – we decided to start with 4 Tsingtao chinese beers which promptly arrived ice cold. Thumbing through the menu, it’s clear there is quite a repertoire on offer. The introduction says that SOJO serve food that you’d find on the tables of Chinese grandmothers – I have to assume this is a good thing. They urge us to step away from the ‘normal’ sweet+sour and black bean dishes (that are there if you really want them) and try something different. Our waiter returns to let us know that the best way to experience the food at SOJO is to leave it up to the chef. They specilaise in dishes you can share and they love to serve you dishes that you may not have had before. You won’t know what you’re getting until it arrives, but one thing is for sure – you will leave the place having tasted something new and you may very well have some new ‘favourites’ to ask for next time. At around £18 per head to take you across 2 courses we decide to go for it. We like “everything” we tell him and leave the fate of our evening out in their hands…exciting.

Within 10 minutes and our first dishes arrive. There was a slight sense of them playing it a little safe in this first round, but I like the approach. We were served deep fried filo prawns with a sweet chilli dip, salt and pepper spicy squid and steamed crystal prawn dim sum dumplings. The dumplings particularly were ‘divine’ as aptly described by one of my fellow eaters and the squid was expertly cooked with just the right amount of spice and bite. A very good start, and time to order some wine for the table. Our waiter recommended the wines to accompany our main courses – a Chilean Merlot for the red lovers in our party and a lovely Pinot Grigio for those who prefer white. Both hit the spot and were decent.

On with the mains and, I’m sorry, wow. That’s right, I’ve got no other words for it…well I have, as you’ll read on, but yeah, wow. The mains (the picture below doesn’t do them justice I’m afraid) all arrived at once and were each something we perhaps would have overlooked on the menu. Along with the jasmine rice came Szechuan beef with aubergine, a Shanghai 6 hour braised sweet soy pork hock,  a Szechuan red spicy peppercorn broth with fish slices, glass noodles and vegetables and stir fried “Gan Bian” fine beans sprinkled with minced pork. If that hasn’t got your mouth watering, it just leaves me to say that each one of these dishes tasted absolutely incredible. The pork hock melts in your mouth within the deep, sweet and sticky marinade. The Szechuan beef and aubergine was expertly spiced and delivered a flavour I really don’t think I have had before – spicy, meaty but mellow – it was as if Ken Hom himself was actually in my gob writing a new cookbook using my taste buds as a notepad. The peppercorn fish broth with noodles was again, expertly crafted. A high rise tower block of flavours, each giving you something different, don’t worry about which floor you get off on – you’ll be happy. The green beans were beautiful and sat perfectly with the richness of the beef and pork and the subtlety of the broth. Layering morsels of each dish in my bowl with spoonfuls of rice I really couldn’t be happier – this is Chinese food like you have never tasted before. Once finished, there was no bloated fullness, no MSG ‘hangover’ – just a sense of fulfillment and excitement about the fact that this place is on our doorstep.

If I had to pick a slightly negative point, and I really am having to think, there was quite a long wait for the main courses – about 35-40 minutes. However – it was Sunday night, it was packed and we were warned of this prior to ordering so it really wasn’t an issue at all.

The mission for this blog is to find the perfect eat in Oxford, and ladies and gentlemen, we may have just found it. Everything from the service to the atmosphere to the decor to the food was excellent. SOJO is stunning.

Cost – An absolutle bargain. A beer each, two bottles of wine and sharing 8 dishes between four of us came in at £35 a head inc. tip and a round of whiskey’s.
Where – 6/9 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford.

Main courses at SOJO

Our main courses at SOJO (honestly, the food looks 100x better in real life!)

Decor inside SOJO

Decor inside SOJO

2 Responses to “SOJO”
  1. Great review mate. I particularly liked the tower block metaphor. Haha! Went for a great Vietnamese on Saturday for my mates birthday. This place sounds awesome and 35 pounds for all that sounds like a steal! x

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  1. […] If you’re in the area and hungry, do yourself a favour and walk 50 yards down the road to SOJO, you won’t be […]

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