Sen Yai Sen Lek

Twin Cities, Minnesota


Image for jendo612

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oh dear lord i love this place! its one of the few thai places i know of that not only has a vegan menu, but they make their own curry paste so that it's vegan friendly as well! my go-to meal is mock duck panang curry, tofu satay, and banana coconut rice for dessert. the portions for curry's seem skimpy compared to other thai joints, but add a noodle dish and you and your main squeeze will have enough to share with leftovers for lunch.

edit: i'm now a gluten free vegan, and thankfully a good portion of the vegan menu can be made gluten free without sacrificing flavor! the staff is on point with knowing what will, and what won't translate well in the vegan flavor department.

Image for mjwill320

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The reviews are true! This place is lovely!

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We had a great meal here last night, we started with the crispy spring rolls with tofu and then I had Pad Kee Mao also with tofu. Our server was great and she asked if fish sauce was ok (no). We had banana sticky rice with coconut milk for dessert. Everything we had was very good, I will definitely go back! The overall atmosphere in the restaurant side is very nice, but we ended up sitting on the very loud bar side. One of the owners brought our food to the table and gave explanations of what we were having and the available condiments(the sauce on the table contains fish sauce). The only slight negative was the owners' young daughter acting as hostess, she was very hard to hear over the restaurant noise (but she is super cute). Overall it was a great experience and the amount of food you get is a good value, dinner and leftovers for lunch.

Image for Dave Rolsky

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Sen Yai Sen Lek is one of the few Thai restaurants in the Twin Cities area that doesn't make disgustingly sweet and oily food. However, it's better than "not bad", it's really quite excellent.

First of all, they offer vegan Thai curries. It's awfully hard to find vegan Thai curry, since most places seem to pre-mix their curries using fish sauce and/or shrimp paste. I've had both the red and green curry here, and they're both delicious.

They also offer an amazing tofu satay appetizer that comes with some of the best peanut sauce I've ever had. Most Thai restaurants in the area have pretty boring appetizer options (spring rolls with sugar sauce), so this is a great find.

I've also tried some of their other dishes, including their noodle soup, and everything I've tasted was really good.

As others have mentioned, they can be a bit slow, but I've never found them to be ridiculously slow, just not all that fast.

The owners are really friendly, and the interior of the restaurant is nicely decorated.

What's not to like?

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We have been here twice. Both times, we had terrible service (from two different servers). The food is amazing. But in my opinion, it just isn't worth the terribly slow service. I would recommend going to this restaurant and having take out. When you walk in, they ask "take out or dine in?" and I won't pick 'dine in' again.

The final straw was when my son asked for soy sauce when we received our food. By the time our server brought it, my sons food was gone (and he is a very slow eater!). Our waiter said, "Oh, I guess I'm a little late, huh?" Right. Just a little.

It was not busy either time we were in. We still got very slow service.

Image for Sholly

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Atmosphere: 4.0
It was a little cramped and a little loud (of course, it was a Friday night), but I still really enjoyed the decor of this place, so I had to give it a high rating for atmosphere. It won me over immediately with the little paper cranes hanging up all over the place, and the lighting was good.

Service: 4.0
The food and drinks were a little slow in coming, but, as I've already mentioned, it was crowded. Still, our server really seemed to know what would be good, what wouldn't. What would work well, and what wouldn't, and advised us on such matters. She was friendly, and she also let us know about the vegan menus they have, which she got for us. Furthermore, the chef came out to give us our food and make sure that everything would be good.

*Bonus points - They compost, they list where the meat and bi-products come from, and seem pretty concerned with where the non-vegan options -are- coming from, and they're very willing to make just about anything vegan.

Food: 4.5
Absolutely delicious, absolutely fresh. We ordered the pad kee mao with fried tofu, and it was a good choice. Not much else to say, besides that it was fantastic. It was also awesome that we could have all their deserts (except the ice cream, but they have delicious mango sorbet, anyhow). I had the black beans and coconut milk, and it was a very different, very filling, but amazing end to the meal. I really liked the combination of textures and flavors, and it's not something I'd ever think of putting together.

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I came here with a large group of diners go out monthly to visit a restaurant that serves local foods. The menu for our group was fixed so I didn't get to choose what I ate, but the meal lasted several hours and included 3 courses of delicious food! The event itself wasn't vegan, but vegan options were offered for each course. The owner stopped by our table several times to make sure everything was OK, which is such a great touch.

The first course included a vegan rendition of green papaya salad, which I haven't had for a long time since most versions have fish sauce. We were also served sticky rice with a vegan version of Laab Gal, which is a spicy salad with tofu (instead of chicken), toasted rice powder, mint, lime and lemongrass. Both were incredibly good! The toasted rice powder gave a really unique flavor to the salad--I really hope that I can try this dish again soon.

The second course included four dishes: Pad See ew Gai (stir fry of wide rice noodles with sweet soy, marinated tofu and Chinese broccoli). This was my favorite dish of the night. It was simple, not too spicy, and slightly sweet. We also had Ba Mee Naam (I think, I can't remember for sure), which was a curried coconut milk soup with mung bean noodles, tofu, lettuce, fried garlic, bean sprouts and cilantro. Finally, we were served Pad Prik Khing, a really spicy stir fry of mock and long bean with khing curry paste and kaffir lime leaves. The Pad Prik was pretty spicy.

For the final course, we had Gluay Buad Chee, which is warm sticky rice with bananas and sweet coconut milk. So simple, and very delicious. And vegan! They also passed around samples of a dessert that doesn't appear to be on their menu, which involved a slice of winter squash with some sort of green custard in the center. All in all, their desserts are not overly cloying or sweet, which I really appreciate.

It was really great to be able to try an assortment of dishes that are typically off-limits for vegans. I'm not sure whether the owners would be willing to make these substitutions all the time, but it's certainly worth asking because they really do them well. I never felt like something was lacking in terms of flavor because our dishes were veganized which can sometimes happen when you dine at a restaurant where the chefs don't know what they're doing.

Go here! You won't be sorry.

Image for Unny Nambudiripad

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The food was ok, nothing special. However, I was very hungry and probably ate too fast. The server was nice, and the atmosphere was fun and lively. I want to try this place again to get a better feel for it.

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I heart Sen Yai Sen Lek! My favorite? Khao Soi, sweet spicy yellow curry, with sour crunchy bites of pickled mustard greens, and wonderful shallot, cilantro and a squeeze of lime...Vegan Style, with fresh Tofu and rice noodles! Mmmhmm. It's just like I had in Chiang Mai. Tasty fresh. Great Prices and Great Service. Happy Hour and Paper Crane folding!

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this place was really nice. i did enjoy what i had and so did my boyfriend. i had the pad thai off of the vegan menu which was super tasty! though i don't know how you could screw up pad thai.
my boyfriend had the green curry off of the vegan menu. being that it was the first time we've ever had green curry, we didn't really know what to expect...but it was very tasty! we were really excited to have a decent thai place so near to our house (we live in ne mpls). the prices were pretty average and the decor itself was ok-it would have been nice if they had dimmed the lights-would've been really romantic. haha

Image for conde.kedar

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Sen Yai Sen Lek is a gem. It keeps getting better each time I go back and is one of only a handful of Thai restaurants that I've been to in the US that accurately recreates the flavors I encountered regularly in Thailand itself.

First the foremost, this is probably one of only a couple Thai restaurants in the Twin Cities where you can be guaranteed to get a meal without fish sauce, without shrimp paste and without any other animal product. The staff and owners here understand and respect veganism and go to great lengths to make sure we are accommodated, and in fine style, I might add (separate veg*n menu, numerous veg*n appetizers, entrees and desserts, and friendly staff that always finds answers to your questions).

Secondly the food here is simply excellent. The curries and stir-frys are robust and complex and never feel watered down or simplified like at practically every other Thai restaurant in the Twin Cities (I'm looking at you, Tum Rup Thai and your Uptown clones). Too often does Thai food get turned into either piddling pad thai or soy sauce stir-frys over white rice; at Sen Yai, on the other hand, you'll get a dish loaded with herbs, a multitude of Thai chilis, and tricky variations of from-scratch, hard-to-make curry pastes. You never get the sense that Sen Yai takes shortcuts in its preparation.

Third, Sen Yai Sen Lek really listens to its customers and makes changes quickly. The first time I went they didn't have a separate veg*n menu. The second time they did have a veg*n menu, though my noodle dish seemed a little bland. When I came back the third time my next dish was wonderfully spicy and hearty. The fourth time I went they didn't have brown rice but their green curry with tofu was still stunning and substantial in its spice levels and overall heft. Finally, the latest time I went, the panang curry with mock duck ($11.95) was fragrant, rich, and now came with brown rice.

I also had a dessert, black beans with sticky rice and coconut milk ($4.95) which really hit the spot. You'll often see sticky rice with mango or banana, but rarely do you see unusual ingredients such as black beans. In another testament to Sen Yai Sen Lek's quality and attention-to-detail, the dessert came with a little twig of mint leaves. This doesn't sound like much, but it's something I have never seen at any other Thai restaurant, and it added that much more flavor, complexity and interest to the dessert.

Finally, this is a great place either for a quick, affordable lunch (lunch specials are around $8-9), or an intimate, extended dinner date. They have a good selection of beer and wine and the interior decoration is warm and inviting. I highly recommend Sen Yai Sen Lek.

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Very veg friendly and the service was timely and excellent. I went with a group of 13 from work who all ordered vegetarian food and everyone seemed to like it. This is one restaurant we will definitely visit again.

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Good food and they improve vegetarian options each time. Been coming for over a year. Tonight they told me they have a new vegetarian/vegan options menu to help you decide.

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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.

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