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Sen Yai


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#1 Neven

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 10:11 AM

Sen Yai

3384 SE Division St

Portland, OR

http://www.pokpoksenyai.com

8 AM - 10 PM every day

 

Andy Ricker's new noodle spot is previewing their breakfast, lunch, and dinner this week. I stopped in this morning to check out the breakfast options. Here's the menu:

 

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The jok was the best rice congee-type dish I've had in town. Perfect texture, deeply flavored with pork, and then nicely punctuated with fine shreds of radish and ginger. I got the fish option, and the fish chunks were plentiful and tasty. It's a giant portion; these are all non-American breakfasts, meant to keep you going until the evening.

 

Khao tom was equally flavorful, getting a lot of its umami from that fried garlic. Sen lek naam kai, while described as "simple", also featured the sort of broth it's really hard to re-create at home. This tasted exactly like something you'd get at Ha VL.

 

Patanko crullers with pandan kaya were fresh and addictive. Salapao was the same one they had at Ping; easily my favorite bao in town, with that amazing sweet, shredded pork.

 

Speaking of Ping, the (big) dinner menu has a few more Ping dishes on it:

 

IMG_4153.jpg

 

I couldn't be happier about this place, basically. I plan on eating nothing else until I've chewed and slupred my way through the whole menu here.



#2 StMaximo

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 10:40 AM

Website

 

Hours are 8 AM to 10 PM Daily. 

 

Looks like a great way to start the day.



#3 bnrgoalie

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 12:20 PM

Good lord, that dinner menu makes me drool.  But I dread the crowds -- I wonder what the wait times will be (or are?  Are they officially open yet?) ...



#4 Neven

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 12:42 PM

Good lord, that dinner menu makes me drool.  But I dread the crowds -- I wonder what the wait times will be (or are?  Are they officially open yet?) ...

 

I don't believe they're officially open yet, and there's no word on when they might be. The place looks finished, the staff were great, but I think most of them were borrowed from Pok Pok and Whiskey Soda, maybe? 

 

There will definitely be dinner crowds. I hope there are crowds :) But breakfast is unlikely to get that bad, especially during the week.



#5 ExtraMSG

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 12:47 PM

I thought the idea was to have all dishes available all day.  Was that the case or did you just order the nominal breakfast items?


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#6 loofahgirl

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 01:02 PM

Interesting. We walked over on Saturday and the sign said they weren't open yet. Want to try!



#7 Neven

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 01:07 PM

I thought the idea was to have all dishes available all day.  Was that the case or did you just order the nominal breakfast items?

 

So, today, the breakfast items were the only thing available at breakfast, and only available then. There were effectively two menus: breakfast and lunch/dinner. That was the case today, anyway. The way the menu is laid out, you could read it either way, I suppose. What you're saying makes sense, Nick, otherwise they'd likely just have literally two separate menu sheets. The breakfast/dinner split is likely just an artifact of this preview event. I think so, anyway!

 

Loofahgirl, they're not yet publicly open; this preview was an invitation-only event you had to register for.



#8 StMaximo

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 01:36 PM

The website doesn't have the menus yet. Did they say when they were opening to the public?



#9 Neven

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 01:38 PM

The website doesn't have the menus yet. Did they say when they were opening to the public?

 

They did not. I imagine they don't know yet; even this event was advertised just a few days ago. But I had heard something about it opening in a week or two, so it shouldn't be too long. Everyone who has opened a restaurant can probably confirm that unless you're artificially delaying the opening (to fall on some specific date), you have no clue when you'll be ready :)



#10 ariel88

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 10:46 PM

Preview dinners happening Mon and Tues this week, so it shouldn't be long.



#11 Neven

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 12:24 PM

Sen Yai will officially open tomorrow, Thursday, May 16. Hours should be 8 AM - 10 PM every day.

 

http://www.portlandm...o-chew-may-2013



#12 sylvan

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Posted 15 May 2013 - 12:42 PM

Portland Monthly has the date:

 

Noodle up: Andy Ricker (Portland's Thai food guru of Pok Pok fame) will officially open the doors of his new SE Division eatery Sen Yai noodle house on Thursday, May 16. Eat Beat will have photos and first bites from opening night. 3384 SE Division St.

 

http://www.portlandm...o-chew-may-2013



#13 Neven

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Posted 16 May 2013 - 07:39 AM

Went for breakfast this morning. The plan is to serve just the short, breakfast menu at breakfast. Lunch and dinner are served from the big menu. Everything is still awesome.

#14 Adam

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Posted 26 May 2013 - 09:34 PM

Hit up Sen Yai with some friends tonight around 7pm. We had about a 20 minute wait, which is nothing compared to a wait at Pok Pok. I only expect those numbers to go up though as word of Sen Yai catches on. Picnic tables outside were a nice place to sit down and wait, although I imagine that won't be an option come summertime when the place is really getting slammed.

 

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First dish I tried was the MaMa Phat (MaMa instant ramen noodles stir-fried with egg, carrots, cabbage, onions, sprouts, green onions, pork, and prawns). The menu says this is Thai university student grub and I can see why. It's quite tasty. Flavors aren't exactly complex, but it's nice comfort food. I don't know if there was a pork broth involved not mentioned on the menu or if it was just the inclusion of the pork itself, but the soft ramen noodles carried strong flavors of, well, pork. Prawns were tender and scrumptious. If I'd had access to this when I was in college I would have eaten it daily.

 

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Next up, the Kai Krapao Khai Dao (minced chicken and long beans stir-fried with krapao basil, white onion, black soy, fish sauce, garlic, and dried chilies, served with jasmine rice and a fried egg). This was easily the spiciest dish of the night, and I had to dip into the other three dishes between servings of this to combat the heat (I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to spicy food). The basil really comes through on this dish, with almost citrusy overtones. Loved it, although given the nature of the dish I kind of wished it had been served with lettuce cups for ease of consumption. The egg didn't really add or subtract anything for me, but others at the table enjoyed it.

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The Phat Si Ew (wide rice noodles with pork, Chinese broccoli, egg, and black soy sauce) was a welcome reprieve from the intense heat of the previous dish. I've had variations on this dish numerous times around the country and I think Sen Yai's might be my favorite. Simple flavors, but well balanced. The locally made rice noodles have great texture and a nice give to them between the teeth. 
 
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My favorite dish of the night was the Ba Mii Tom Yam Muu Haeng ("dry" wheat noodles with ground pork, pork balls, cracklings, peanuts, bean sprouts, long beans, preserved radish, fried garlic, chili vinegar, fish sauce, and chili powder). A lot going on with this dish, but everything came together so perfectly. Wasn't sure what to expect from the words "dry wheat noodles" on the menu, but the noodles were not dry at all, but very soft and moist. Loved the textural contrasts between the soft noodles and the crunchy peanuts, bean sprouts, and cracklings. Loved those cracklings, by the way. Tons of flavor. The sliced pork was mildly sweet and fork tender, and the pork balls springy and salty. The dish comes with a small bowl of plain broth on the side that's good for cooling down after a bite of this, because it's pretty spicy (not as spicy as the Kai Krapao Khai Dao, but not far off). If I could recommend one dish from my visit tonight, it'd be this one.
 
The drinks menu is pretty similar if not identical to the ones at Pok Pok and Whiskey Soda Lounge, which is fine because the cocktails are great. A couple beers on tap (Bitburger Pils and a rotating seasonal -- tonight it was Double Mountain Kolsch). The waitstaff was attentive and friendly.
 
Excellent, excellent food here, but then that's Ricker for you. Can't wait to go back and try new dishes, although I'll be thinking about that Ba Mii Tom Yam Muu Haeng for a while. Go now before this place really explodes.

 


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#15 Neven

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 04:16 PM

Adam, great write-up. Two notes: 1. the mama ramen was likely porky because they used the pork-flavored kind. I believe that with the Mama brand, the noodles themselves are also seasoned, not just the "flavor packet". 2. "Dry noodles" usually just means "no broth", I think; it doesn't say anything about the noodles themselves.

 

I went yesterday and got the Lat Na. It was satisfying and a solid portion for the price. (I've been told some of the other dishes are smallish.) I described it as "bland" in the good sense: what I mean is, it's not the sweet/sour/spicy explosion you get from most dishes at Pok Pok. It's gravy-ish, soft, and comforting.

 

Also got the beef meatballs, which are the tiny, bouncy kind. If you bring kids, they'll dig this.

 

There was a short wait when I went, even though they had lots of open tables. I think they're still very short-staffed. Hopefully they can find some more folks soon.



#16 austinhaas

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 08:22 PM

I had the Yen Ta Fo the other day. I thought it was delicious, but definitely on the small side. I thought there should've been about 20% more of everything. I left hungry. Unfortunately, I don't see any good options on the menu to accompany that dish or any other (the snacks sound like good drinking food, but not the kind of things I want to have with my lunch).



#17 Adam

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Posted 27 May 2013 - 09:56 PM

Neven, I'm glad you mentioned the beef balls. I had forgotten that we ordered those, too, although I didn't really care for them. Not much flavor going on there and certainly not worth $6. But yeah, I can see how kids would love 'em. Austin, I know what you mean about the sides. Right now the menu doesn't really have any actual side dishes. Hopefully some will make there way onto the menu because, yes, I think a main and a side here would be the perfect amount of food for one person. For instance, I would love it if the steamed buns from the breakfast menu were included on the lunch/dinner menu. We tried to order them with dinner but no dice.

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#18 loofahgirl

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 06:25 AM

(I've been told some of the other dishes are smallish.) 

 

Thought it was just my opinion. I had the Yen Ta Fo, and while it tasted good (liked the fish balls a lot), I thought the value could have been better. I had the Yen Ta Fo at Red Onion last weekend too, and preferred their version in taste and price.  

 

Incidentally, I assume they are not making their own rice noodles but are getting them from elsewhere? I was at JC rice noodle (LOVE this place so much) on Saturday and saw someone pick up a large order and leave in a Pok Pok van. :)



#19 Jill-O

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 09:15 AM

Been there twice for dinner once for breakfast...and that's it, I'm done. I think that the value here is lousy (for the record, I mostly feel similarly about Pok Pok). And, most important, I just don't think anything here is that great to warrant a return visit.

 

Best thing we had was the Kai Krapao Khai Dao and it's a small serving. Sue and I shared a couple of dishes and there were no leftovers which is always the case at Chiang Mai, and where I like the food better anyway.

 

Breakfast choices are limited...and seriously, $10 for a bowl of jook/congee with an egg on it and very little in it when you can (and should) go to Kenny's Noodle House and get better for $7.50?  Also, not a fan of the $3.50 pour over small single cup of coffee. The pandan coconut custard is delicious, but dipping tiny cruellers in that for breakfast with one cup of coffee seems more like dessert. We tried a steamed bun ($3.50) and that was pretty good, the filling was delicious. Better than one you can get for $1.50 at Binh Minh?...maybe, but not by much.

 

I ordered an egg on the side because I was still hungry and I had to send my egg back because it was raw...since it was served in a small glass, the cook and the server should really have noticed (really, there was no white, it was raw)...but they just opened so I'm not really gonna knock them on service even though there was only one other table there at the time (dinner service was much better on two other visits, anyway). It's not a reason I would not go back there.

 

I know that Andy has plenty of folks that like his concepts (and I liked Ping better, FWIW, sorry it is gone), so I am sure he'll do just fine without us, but I haven't eaten anything here I need to have again, and not when there is now as good or better Thai food in town, (and Chinese and Viet equivalents of the same dishes) IMO.

 

My GF, who has been to Thailand and has adopted their way of eating (she likes to use a big spoon with a fork as a pusher for just about everything she eats), is highly annoyed that she has to ask for a fork and spoon (and finds it odd that there are chopsticks on the table - though it amused us that one packet of chopsticks she grabbed had 3 chopsticks in it ;o)...especially while a server tries to explain "the concept" to her.

 

I am sure there will be a steady stream of folks (folks who would never go to Kenny's) paying way more than anyone should for rice porridge in a sanitized setting with servers who speak English...all the while saying, wow, this is different, we have never had this in Portland.  Yes, we have had this in Portland for quite a while, but you actually have to go to/past 82nd to find it, and yes, you might be the only English-speaking white person there.

 

Good luck to Andy Ricker, and yes, I'll probably hit WSL or Pok Pok Noi for a wing/limeade fix every now and then...but chances are good that I won't be going back to Sen Yai.  YMMV


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#20 sacman

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Posted 28 May 2013 - 12:14 PM

I tried to go there a week ago, and was politely told that my dog was not allowed in their outside dining area.  So I left.

 

BTW, I'm not at all angry about this; it's entirely their prerogative.  It may even be a health code thing, as their outdoor dining area is not on a public sidewalk like so many other restaurants.  But it's still a data point other might find useful about Sen Yai.

 

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