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.