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MSP : Sen Yai Sen Lek

Joe & Holly Hatch-Surisook have opened a restaurant; Sen Yai Sen Lek. Twin Cities hounds rejoice!

I met Joe once 6 years ago. It was a memorable meeting because I had one of his Pan Au Chocolat's in my mouth at the time. These were not ordinary (bready) Pan Au Chocolats. Joe's pastry artwork literally brought exiled french women to tears of joy and revery. He's a really nice guy. So is his wife Holly who I spoke with then and again today at her new restaurant. They're in the middle of their 2nd week and it looks to me like they've worked out a bunch of the kinks.

The food is the deal. I had chopped flank steak with cilantro and other semi-sweet, semi-sour things I cannot recall. It was on a bed of raw cabbage. It was amazing. My friend Chuk had a bowl of curried noodles with pork. It was also totally amazing. The balance of flavors was really really good.

There's a decent wine list (needs like 3-4 more rieslings and a couple of Gewurztraminers, in my opinion, because these and semi-sweet sparkling wine go really well with Thai food). For really really hot food, Auslese's not too sweet.

Atmosphere is good. Maybe too good for Central Ave? It seems to me that this is the thin end of the eat-street-i-fication of Central Ave. Think Rainbow Chinese or Ngon Bistro but Thai food. And better execution by far.

It's at 2422 Central Ave. Just north of Chiapas and Panaderia Durango. On the web at www.senyai-senlek.com.

Oh, and if you go, ask Joe to start making/selling Pan Au Chocolats again.

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  1. A friendly baker? He must hang out with the easter bunny . . .

    That link seems to be pretty dead. Any indication if there is a particular region/style of thai food represented? Other noteworthy sounding menu items?

    2 Replies
    1. re: tex.s.toast

      The link does work if you remove the period at the end. I checked out the menu- looks good but not pages and pages long like most Thai places.

      http://www.senyai-senlek.com/

      1. re: phimoez

        Places link

        -----
        Sen Yai Sen Lek
        2422 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

    2. Funny - Holly and Joe are friends of friends of mine. I hadn't heard about their restaurant but I'll have to check it out soon! It will be great to have another Thai option around as we just got takeout from True Thai and it was disappointing.

      1. sounds like another place on my to-try list! thanks!

        1. Thai in NE? I'm so there! Thanks for this info!

          1. apologies for the original snarkiness. now that ive looked at the menu you can color me excited. Khao soi? hell yes. Serving sticky rice with the som tam, the way it should be? a surefire winner.

            I was serious about the nasty bakers though, anyone who gets up that early deserves to be a bit of a pill.

            1. Fellow 'hound djohnson22 and I dined there last night. Jim, I was also struck by the atmosphere of the place. The professional design/decor is quite a contrast from the dumpy low-budget -decor places (nonetheless beloved my myself for their chow) along Central. I had a hard time picturing Palm Court Caribbean in this space even though I had eaten there in the past. Too good for Central Avenue? Good question, but the place was hopping last night! DOZENS of happy diners. The staff I chatted with said it was just word-of-mouth, and that lunchtime was very busy also this week.

              I had my old favorite and Thai restaurant calibration dish Pad Thai. Very respectable version! D ordered the night's special, a Green Curry that I got to taste and I am still obsessing about how tasty it was. Also, insteaf of just rice, it was served with a side of nice crispy cooked vegetables and some of that addictive thai beef jerky.

              1. We went there last night. Delicious food. The fish cakes werent the best texture, but the flavor was great and the two sauces were really good. The peanut sauce also had kaffir lime in it. yum. Also had a chicken dish (forgot the name) on the sticky rice menu and we had a beef noodle curry. both had thai flavors that we hadnt really experienced before with other local places. which was a good thing. the flavors were much brighter. more citrus, more vinegar, more layers. loved it. they also have a very nicely priced and chosen wine list. and beer list. they have 2 different Surlys and are working on getting Flat Earth in there.

                The place looks NICE. Like I can't believe we are on Central and Lowry nice. The place was also filled with a lot of people we knew which was great. Already had a nice "neighborhood" feel. Finally an asian place in NE to go to and get take out from that is in walking distance.

                1. The sticky rice dishes are from Isaan, a northwest area in Thailand where Joe's family is originally from. My favorite thing so far has been the Tom Yum soup (out of this world.), Yum Goong (shrimp mango salad), and Pad Bpai Gra Pow ( I substituted Tofu into this basil stir fry with fried egg).

                  1. My wife and I are really looking forward to trying this place, especially given the enthusiastic reviews. Kao Soi is one of my all-time favorite dishes and no one else is serving it, at least not that I can recall. Can anyone give me a vote of confidence that they haven't 'sugared' their dishes? We've grown so weary of this practice that the only place we'll eat Thai food now is at Bangkok Deli in St Paul. We'd really welcome another 'favorite haunt.'

                    HuaGung

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: HuaGung

                      i tried the khao soi today, actually, and sadly regret that i can't rec it to anyone. it was not overly sugared at all, but it was terrible for other reasons. dh played it safer with pad prik king, which was overall very good, with the bright flavor of fresh lime leaves and fresh ground spices. however he said it tasted "young," & like it was cooked in an unseasoned (new) pan, and that the flavors were (in chef-speak) "stacked" (bad, unless eating a sandwich) rather than "layered" (good, when eating anything stewed, sauced, so forth). he watched me shove away my half-eaten food (declining box) and declared when we return in a month's time, the place ought to be "totally on." i'm still sulking, though i'm sure it's my own bad luck-- i'm about to swear off monday lunches, as i can't seem to order well or get a decent meal any more. might as well stay here and eat soup and yesterday's bread. :(

                      i do agree the place is very nice on the inside and staff was very welcoming. it got a little loud when there was a group with children, as it's rather cavernous & there isn't a lot of soft surfaces to absorb noise. i am not trying to diss this place or anybody's friends, i think it's got it's opening bumps and foibles like any other place, and dh & i plan to return in a little while. sen yai sen lek has the potential of being a great addition to our dining scene, and i'm stoked.

                      on an unrelated chowish note, durango bakery, one of my fave places for mexican pastries and imho the best tres leches cake in town, is right next door to sen yai sen lek. they sell the cake in single servings in the cooler case. or tres leches with strawberries. they sell it in three sizes: small, 1/2 sheet, full sheet. thought you'd all like to know for all birthdays, anniversaries, office parties. . .

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        not knowing about your appetites heartiness in general, what, specifically, was your issue with the khao soi? mtullius, below, notes the meat seemed tough. was this your issue?

                        its not a dish im terribly familiar with, but after what i thought was a pretty great rendition at Lotus of Siam in Vegas this summer, i was very excited to see it on the menu at a new place in town.

                        1. re: tex.s.toast

                          i hate to go into a blow-by-blow on the dish, let's just say it was a total miss on the execution. there is even a possibility that my dish was put together by a dishwasher or a visiting soda pop rep, rather than the chef. it was such a misfire that it wouldn't be fair of me to pick the dish apart, but i would rec that folks who are curious about this dish at sen yai sen lek be sure to try it for the first time at peak business hours, fri & sat nites-- not off times on a monday, like me! i don't think everyone in the kitchen has been trained on this dish yet, and it might be spectacular when put together right. . . i say this without the great in depth knowledge of thai food that other posters have, but this execution would not fly anywhere-- i basically picked through the noodles for the pickled greens, which were good. again, i am looking forward to trying this place again in a few weeks. . .

                          dh seems to have very similar tastes to MTullis below-- stoked about the beer list (esp surly bender tap), and he commented that his dish was a titch oversalted, not too serious, though.

                          1. re: soupkitten

                            As a lucky man whose wife is Thai AND a great cook, I have a wholly unfair perspective on what 'good' Thai food tastes like. Khao Soi is a long-cooking dish, typically made with the toughest cuts of beef, which need that long, slow, cooking to break them down to edible texture and absorb the flavors in the liquid. The soup/gravy is not particularly complicated or time consuming to make, nor are the vegetables and noodles.

                            The very reason most local restaurants don't serve this dish is the cooking time. (And Tex.s.Toast, the version in Vegas at Lotus of Siam is excellent. We love that place!)

                            To hurry the cooking and under-braise the beef is to do a big mistake. We will probably go tomorrow. I still want to try it for myself.

                            HuaGung

                            1. re: HuaGung

                              understood. i am a huge fan of the world of hearty stews, they don't call me soupkitten for nothing :) one major gripe i had with the dish, as executed, was that chunks of cold, flavorless beef were tossed in as an afterthought, just before serving. that's right. someone did not even bother to heat cold, tough beef chunks in a pan with the sauce for 30 seconds, or nuke them in a microwave with some salty broth, then add them to the base sauce.

                              the beef chunks were ice cold in the center, completely devoid of seasoning, tough, and i suspect, cooked and leftover from saturday, perhaps earlier. :( the person who put the dish together (i won't say cooked, as it was obviously items thrown together with a premade base sauce-- the opposite of long-stewed deliciousness)--relied on the heat of the sauce to warm the cubes of beef through. unfortunately, the dish was served in a thick-walled large menudo bowl (dad brand, china, from restaurant depot)-- a very nice piece of serveware-- so nice, i bought some and took them home. what i like about these bowls, both the large & smaller versions, is that if the bowl is heated properly before adding soup, stew, pasta, etc. to it, the thick walls of the bowl will keep the food hot through a whole meal. unfortunately when the bowl is cold, the same thick walls will quickly and effectively chill any dish put therein, which was another nail in the coffin for this particular dish at this restaurant. the noodles, pickled greens, and sauce were added to a cold bowl, chilling them, and then the cubes of beef were added in, and were not warmed by the cold sauce. some uncaring person mixed the whole thing up haphazardly and added a crown of fried chow mein noodles to the top of the bowl to disguise the mess, then the cold unloved thing was served to a customer (me). while i was picking the disgusting cold unseasoned tough beef cubes out of the noodles and piling them to one side, my sticks came upon, at the very bottom of the bowl under all the noodles, a nice lime slice that had once sat atop of the dish, before someone realized "oh crap there is supposed to be beef in there, do we have anything lying around in the freezer?" the lime slice would have been helpful squeezed over the top of the dish, to cut the heaviness of the sauce, but covered in goop underneath the noodles and sauce. . . didn't do me very much good, and lacking a handy finger-bowl, i wasn't going to try to squeeze the lime over the dish at that point. . .

                              again, this dish's execution had so many problems that i hesitated to write them out, i consider it unfair to do this to a new restaurant that people have obviously worked very hard on, and which i'm personally rooting for. i suspect that the chef/owner is still training the kitchen staff, and whomever is in the kitchen on monday just doesn't have this (perhaps less popular) dish down yet. i wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that in the future, this dish is only offered on the weekends, when it can be properly long-stewed beforehand under the chef/owner's own care.

                              *sigh* as i said, it's my own bad judgment/luck to try and order this dish on a monday, but i too was excited to see it offered. i suspect i caught a particularly bad bounce due to poor timing. it's hard to imagine that other executions of this dish will not be far better. please do report if the weekend version of the dish is a winner, because i would indeed love to go back and try it, cooked properly!

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                your extended descriptions of your meals failings goes a long way to explain your dissapointment. even on my super tight budget, with a good friend living just around the corner i cant imagine it will be too long before i find myself eating there, and i hope to be brave enough to try the Khao Soi.

                                the only addition i would have is that the crispy noodles on top, while they may have also been an effort to try to hide the horrendous execution, are traditional, though your description as chow-mein noodles is somewhat puzzling. in my experience these were flatter, thinner noodles, fried into a crispy little cake places atop the stew. when you say fried chow mein noodles do you mean the horrid little brown extruded things that are only acceptable in chinese chicken salads?

                                1. re: tex.s.toast

                                  yes, those extruded things are what i mean-- round all around, not flat, not fried into a cake. a little thinner than the straight la choy sack at the grocery store, but chow mein noodles nonetheless-- in a sort of loose pile/handful atop the regular noodles of the dish, which were like the chewier, thin kind of imported ramen noodles. the chow-mein type noodles were thin enough that they absorbed the sauce quickly and became incorporated into the rest of the dish. they may have irritated me more if the rest of the dish had been good, but it was so bad that they seemed a minor deal at the time. my first thought was "weird," followed by "why so many of them, too many to really be a garnish". . . then of course, with the first couple of bites the horrible truth was revealed. . .

                    2. We decided to try this place last night. Overall, we were very pleased, though there are certainly kinks to be worked out (as you'd expect).

                      One of us had the Nuea Yang Naam Tok, marinated flank steak with sticky rice. Steak was very tangy, with lime and lots of cilantro, and tender. Sticky rice was adequately sticky (though not as sticky as we've had some places, where one can pick up the ball and take bites out of it like an apple).

                      I had the Pad Bpai Gra Pow (minus the fried egg)-- very spicy, lots of flavor, a bit on the salty side but very good.

                      One of us had the Khao Soi and was as unimpressed as another poster-- the beef was chewy to the point of near inedibility, though the sauce and noodles were fine.

                      And for dessert we tried the Gluay Khaek, fried bananas with coconut ice cream (ice cream is from Izzy's). Very nice, though the banana was oddly bland.

                      They have a very good beer list (I'm on a bit of a rant about beer lists lately, when some restaurants emphasizing local food have decidedly non-local lists, grrr). Service was a bit odd (somewhat frantic, though it wasn't especially busy) but fine. Atmosphere is very nice.

                      We will definitely go back. And next time we'll know to head to Durango Bakery too!

                      1. I took my chowpup here for lunch. We went at an "off-time" on purpose, as he has multiple allergies/food intolerances. One of the owners, Holly, was very helpful in assisting us with navigating the menu for gluten-free options (not as many as you might think) as soy sauce is used in many of the noodle dishes, so even the pad thai is not an option for him.
                        We started with a deep-fried tofu starter. I liked it quite a bit, especially the sauce, which was totally addictive, sweet and tangy, pefectly balanced. For entrees, I had the Pad Thai, which came with chicken at lunchtime (listed on menu as shrimp, with chicken optional at a lower cost). It was a good version of Pad thai, not the overly sweet, gloppy ketchup like version that is often served around the cities. That being said, it seemed like it was missing something, some tang, or brightness that I usually associate with the dish. I much preferred my son's entree of pad prik, which had the brightness that I was missing in my Pad Thai, along with some curry spices and a mild amount of heat. He gobbled down the majority of it. Unfortunately, the curries of the day are only offered at dinnertime, because I really wanted to try one - I am sure we will go back for dinner, though.
                        The restaurant itself was decorated nicely, had a good neighboorhood vibe, family friendly.
                        The only issue I had was that there was a stong chemical odor permeating the place the day we went - The owner seemed very apologetic about it and mentioned that a new roof was being put on the building. I haven't noticed anyone else mentioning it, so maybe it has settled down a bit?
                        Overall, a good addition to the neighbohood, and we will be back!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: autmommy

                          Can you tell me where it's located-in terms of Holy Land?

                        2. We went for dinner last night and as much as we really wanted to love the place, we have to give it mixed reviews for now. For starters we had the Pop Pia Sod (fresh spring rolls) and Tod Mun (fish cakes). The spring rolls had a thicker and more opaque wrapper than usual and reading the ingredient list now this morning I'm not sure I could identify any of those ingredients because there was so little filling. My husband loved the tamarind sauce it came with, and we both enjoyed the fish cakes quite a bit.

                          For entrees I had Yum Goong (spicy shrimp salad) and it was incredibly disappointing. I was hoping for plump, spicy shrimp like what Chai serves in their seafood salad. This was limp, tiny shrimp with almost no flavor. There was lemongrass and basil on the plate but the shrimp didn't taste like them at all. The plate even looked really sad, I was shocked they sent it out of the kitchen. My husband had the Pad Kee Mao which was thick noodles with pork. His was very tasty, rich and nicely spicy.

                          Because I was totally unsatisfied with my entree, we ordered dessert. I had Izzy's salted caramel ice cream with fried bananas and he had warm sticky rice with bananas in coconut milk. His was absolutely delicious, warm and sweet and comforting. Mine was delicious because it was yummy ice cream and fried bananas but the combination really wasn't special and I was expecting lots of banana and a little ice cream but really it was maybe 1/2 a banana and a large scoop of ice cream.

                          The waitstaff was so friendly and kind and the space was attractive and inviting. By the time we left at 7:30 the place was packed, mostly with 30 somethings who seemed to be friends or friends of friends of the owners.

                          We will definitely be back and I hope the weak dishes improve. I would love it if they had the quality of some of the other good Thai places in town with their staff and ambiance.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: katebauer

                            I have not been for dinner, but I lunched 4 days in a row.

                            I have not had the Khao Soi. Sounds like I've been lucky. The dried beef issan was intensely flavorful. The fish cakes...not bad, but nothing to write home about. The fried tofu appetizer was, for me, the right dish at the right time. Also had the fried spring rolls and enjoyed them. They're small and very much meat-centric.

                            I'm curious which other Thai in town is even close to this food. I've eaten at Sawatdee, Pad Thai on Grand, Ruam Mit (over the years), Taste of Thailand on Selby, Bangkok Thai in Dinkytown and Royal Orchid up in Roseville. The aforementioned Thai restaurants might as well all be the same place. To me, they seem to have the same dishes, prepared the same ways with the same positives and negatives. Sen Yak Sen Lai is the first place I've tried in the Twin Cities that is anything different from our run-of-the-mill Thai.

                            1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                              I'll avoid passing quick judgment on Sen Yai Sen Lek just yet, since I've only had one meal there so far. My first foray required intervention from the kitchen and am willing to consider the first experience there not indicative of the promise the place may hold. My wife and I will be going again later this week and will make more useful comments then.

                              That said, I'd like to point out JIm, that the places you have listed as your comparisons for Sen Yai Sen Lek are to a place the most miserable Thai food offered anywhere in MSP. They are frequently cited on CH as places to avoid by folks who love and know Thai food well.

                              In the spirit of increasing your appreciation of truly Thai Thai food, I would encourage you to to try Bangkok Thai Deli in St Paul, or even Chai's Thai on the West Bank in Minneapolis. Mango Thai in St Paul on Selby is by the same people as Chai's Thai but I have not found their food to be compelling. They, too, are new in that space. Bangkok Thai Deli is all about the food, prepared properly, using the correct ingredients. The owner will NOT serve dishes for which she cannot get the right elements. I admire that. Their space is also unique in this area in that it is highly reminiscent of joints where locals eat in Bangkok. It is spartan, and busy all the time.

                              I hope Sen Yai Sen Lek makes a good go of it. They, like Bangkok Thai Deli, are offering things that the others are not and that is to their great credit.

                              HuaGung

                              1. re: HuaGung

                                HuaGung,

                                Thanks for the tip on Bangkok Thai Deli in St. Paul. I was confusing it with the not so memorable Bangkok Thai in Dinkytown. I'll head over there next week or the week after and give it a go.

                                Was at Sen Yak Sen Lai again. The Tom Yum wasn't impressive. The fried rice looked unspectacular. I still think it's a good place, but I think the menu is inconsistent. The fried spring rolls were good both times I tried them. Very meaty.

                              2. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                Chai's next to the Cedar Cultural center referenced in Kate's post. We're eating at Sen Yai tonight so right now I can't honestly say if it is better or worse, Chai's is just the only good Thai we've had in Minneapolis.

                                1. re: Foureyes137

                                  While i havent been, apparently the folks who operate Chai's have a second location, Mango Thai just off the corner of Selby and Dale in St Paul (it is on Selby, just east of the dale intersection).

                                  Ive concurred before, but HuaGung speaks the truth in my eyes. bangkok thai deli is the spot, unless you would be worried about scaring anyone away with authenticity. I also think there is a great degree of variability in the amount of english spoken there. It can be problematic ordering in that the thai names of the dishes are not transliterated anywhere and the english translations arent conventional (i know HG mentioned that in an original post on the place).

                                  However, when we were there a few weeks ago, about two thirds of the way through the meal one of the younger servers came out to ask if we needed anything and clear some dishes, and she seemed to be a native english speaker, which was definitely not my impression of most of the other folks we interacted with.

                                  ok, as i am about to hit post i noticed HuaGung mentions the Mango/Chai's connection. i havent tried mango yet and havent been to chais in a while, so ill stay out of any discussion of their relative merits.

                                  1. re: Foureyes137

                                    I'm going to Chai's soon too. If Chai's and Bangkok Thai Deli are as good or better than Sen Yai, I'm going to be one happy chowhound.

                                  2. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                    I absolutely agree that the majority of Thai places in the cities are mediocre at best. However, the yum goong I had at Sen Yai Sen Lek was so sub-par that I would have taken a Sawatdee dish instead. I also have had good meals and/or quality ingredients at some of the Thai restaurants around (True Thai, Chai's and Tum Rup Thai specifically), those restaurants just miss on consistency both between dishes and between visits. All I was saying is that if Sen Yai Sen Lek could offer dishes that are on par with the better dishes of other places in town, and have their ambiance and wonderful staff, it would definitely be a winner.

                                2. My wife and I have tried a few dishes at Sen Yai Sen Lek now so I'll update my thoughts on the place. On my first visit, I had the Khao Soi and as reported earlier by Soupkitten, I too found it rather poor in its execution. My preferred form for this dish is a bowl full of fried egg noodles, with the soup and meat ladled over the top and pickled mustard served either on top or in the liquid. Ideally, the meat should be braised in the soup to fully absorb the flavors from the soup. No such luck. The meat was pre-cooked, cubed, cold, and tasted like it had gone stale in the refrigerator. The noodles were chow mein noodles on top, with soft egg noodles in the soup. To be fair, to my knowledge there is no requirement that the noodles in the soup always start crispy, I just prefer it that way. Last, there was a dearth of soup in the bowl. The owner graciously brought more and that was a kind thing to do.

                                  I liked the poh pia tod (fried spring rolls). They were meaty as others have pointed out and a bit larger than are usually served, but that's not a fault. Their flavor was fine.

                                  We had Tom Yum Gung too and it was terrible. For the record it was NOT Tom Yum. The owner reported that he uses the same soup base for all the soups he serves and that explained a lot of our disappointment. Tom Yum does not start from a one-flavor serves all place. It tasted more of Gaeng Som and it had tofu in it! No lemongrass, no galanga, no chili paste, no kaffir lime leaves, etc. In short, it was NOT tom yum and it shouldn't be sold as such. It was salty, bland, and dense and lacked all the things that make Tom Yum the revered dish it is. Very disappointing. We sent ours back.

                                  We also tried Khao Moo Dang, which was decent if lacking a principle ingredient or two. This is a dish of red roast port, crispy pork belly, chinese sausage, hard boiled eggs, and a nice sauce served over a pile of rice. The elements are presented individually on the plate (as opposed to all tossed together) and is a fairly popular food-court dish in Thailand. The roast pork was very tender and delicious, the chinese sausage the same you buy in any asian grocery in town, and the eggs were done very nicely, not too hard, not too soft. The dish was not offered with the crispy pork belly which was disappointing. The sauce was flavorful but thinner and less garlicky than I am accustomed to. I can imagine less picky eaters enjoying this dish just fine.

                                  We also had the Peak Gai Tod (fried chicken wings) which were delicious. Nicely crispy and full-flavored.

                                  Final assessment? Hearts in the right place at Sen Yai Sen Lek, but with a lot of inconsistency in either recipe or execution. I want them to succeed (and fix the Khao Soi and Tom Yum) but will be giving them a rest for awhile until I hear from others that they have hit their stride.

                                  HuaGung

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: HuaGung

                                    If youy go back, by all means get the flank steak issan. It's near the bottom of the issan column. I thought it was pretty damn good, couldn't tell you if it was authentic anything.

                                  2. Jeremy Iggers is having a open invitational chowdown there tonight (October 14).

                                    http://www.rakemag.com/blogs/breaking...

                                    1. I was wondering if anyone has been here in the past week or so. I was going to go as soon as they opened but after reading some reviews it seems they had some kinks that had to be worked out. Khao Sai in particular was what I wondering about. Also came across this

                                      http://www.rakemag.com/blogs/breaking...

                                      1. I was disappointed to find out that Sen Yai Sen Lek prepares every single dish with fish sauce. Worst yet, they actually use the word "vegetarian" on their menu but do not disclose that every dish contains fish. This is misleading and greatly upsetting, especially considering there is a huge vegetarian population in the Twin Cities. The kitchen was willing to make something from scratch (though it would take 45 minutes), which is a nice gesture, but also shows that they cut corners in their preparation techniques. At the very least, the place should disclose that they use fish sauce in everything and not pretend to offer vegetarian options. Fish is not a vegetable.

                                        3 Replies
                                          1. re: condekedar

                                            While I agree that a place offering vegetarian dishes should clarify any 'unusual' preparation techniques, I also think a diner has an obligation to familiarize themself with the standards of the cuisine they're eating to know if vegetarian or vegan options are even realistic. Thai places run by Thai folk are nearly NEVER vegetarian. Vegetarian food in Thai is called Mangsawirat, and if you don't see that on the menu, the establishment is making no claim to a strict vegan or vegetarian preparation. More to the point, in Thailand, vegetarian is often construed to mean (outside of a Mangsawirat place) "no obvious chunks of flesh". They're still going to use fish sauce because it is a staple of Thai cuisine and not likely to be omitted by any chef attempting to prepare what they feel is Thai food and not an approximation of same. Further, my wife just refers to fish sauce as "salt" and it is truly how she views its use, and is consistent with how probably nearly all Thai people see it. Strange to me, but completely utterly normal to her.

                                            What's the Strip Club have on their menu? Vegetarians regarded with benevolent amusement... more places ill-suited to assist vegetarians in their quest should be as bold.

                                            As noted above in an earlier post above, I too have been critical of the short cuts taken in the kitchen at Sen Yai Sen Lek and it's a fair criticism.

                                            Enough rambling.

                                            Cheers,

                                            Huagung

                                            1. re: HuaGung

                                              There has been some misinformation posted about the restaurant. Sen Yai Sen Lek has developed alternate sauces for many of the dishes that are both Vegan and Gluten free. 70 - 80 percent of the menu can be made with the alternate sauces, mock duck, and the various tofu (Fresh, Yellow, or fried.) No dairy is used in the cooking, so a vegan simply needs to ask for eggs to be omitted.

                                              The stock used at the wok always vegetarian and homemade daily. The sauces are also all made in house.

                                              Unfortunately, the waitstaff hasn't always been aware of this, but this should be fixed by now.

                                              The owner now has posted lists of what is available for the servers, so hopefully what happened to the previous poster won't happen again.

                                          2. I tried this place a few times in '08 and it didn't win me over, but recommendations from friends and a meal there last night convinced me that if you order one of the daily special curries, you'll be delighted with your food.

                                            1. Hit this up last night. Generally concur with the assessment of the Tom Yum. I'm usually more of a Tom Kha kind of Tomcat anyway, but something is amiss there. It functioned as a nice hot and sour soup (there are worse things), but lacked complexity, and the tofu didn't hold together.

                                              The noodle dishes did their thing, and I did especially enjoy the papaya salad (though maybe it's just that I like papaya salad). I appreciate the ability to tailor the spice level with the little thai-sauce quadrophony. That was fun to play with, and welcome at a table sharing pad thai.

                                              The sticky rice was actually, you know, sticky, which is rarer than you'd hope.

                                              7-8 years ago, when Thai food was an overpriced, underflavored curiosity in the TCs, this place would have been a revelation. It's nice that we can be this picky about Thai food.