Senn: Thai Comfort Food
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Sometimes even the most hardcore food adventurers need to take a break from the palate thrill-seeking that has made Elmhurst and Woodside the go-to destinations for enthusiasts of authentic Thai cuisine. For Upper West Siders looking for something a little simpler and a little closer to home, Senn Thai Comfort Food fits the bill. Located on Amsterdam Avenue next door Land Thai Kitchen, this under the radar spot is typically less crowded and more low-key than the long-time neighborhood favorite. Outfitted with corrugated metal walls, a large communal table and a shady bathroom that seems to be forever occupied, the restaurant has a rustic, unpretentious feel that is a marked contrast to the over the top glitz of many Thai establishments in Manhattan.
That same simple aesthetic shows in the menu as well, which serves up unpolished home-style fare that might not be as glamorous as Chiang Mai khao soi or eye-opening as Isaan som tum, but can still please in its own way. This being a neighborhood spot in an area not otherwise known for on-trend Asian dining, you're not likely to find the type of pungent flavors that have endeared Northern Thai cooking to so many foodies, but there are a few hidden gems to be found. The crispy rice salad, yum kao tod ($8) is a must-order starter. While there were no signs of the advertised crispy fish described on the menu, the crackling sheets of deep-fried red curry-rubbed rice tossed with herbs and ginger are still an addictive symphony of spicy, sweet and sour flavors. Though perhaps not as aromatic or garlicky as typical Thai-style fried chicken, the generous serving of gai tod had yai ($7.50) are mouthwateringly plump and juicy. When weekend plans consist of football, tv and a couch, they’re a solid delivery option to fuel your game day activities.
Some diner might be disappointed to learn Senn Thai does not serve pad Thai. More optimistic diners would be intrigued, however, to find the dish's provincial cousin, pad mee "Korat" goong ($11) on offer. These Korat-style vermicelli noodles feature a flavor profile quite similar to pad Thai, relying on a combination of tamarind and soybean paste to deliver a sour and salty punch. Hold the shrimp and the dish becomes a vegan-friendly option for diners who skip over fish sauce. The chef's signature bamee yok ped ($14), however, is a tougher nut to crack with its ample slices of roasted duck served atop spinach egg noodles. Though definitely comfort food in the way that simply prepared foods often are, the under-seasoned dish threatens to veer into blandness. It's a family favorite of the chef's, but not the restaurant's best offering. Senn Thai might not be a game-changing restaurant, but it doesn't have to be. Sometimes a killer lunch special ($9 for a two-course prix-fixe), a relaxing atmosphere and handful of decent options are more than enough to make for a reliable neighborhood standby.
BY TIME OUT COMMUNITY REVIEWER: OMAR TUNGEKAR
452 Amsterdam Ave. (81-82 street)
|Transport:||1 to 79th St; B,C to 81st & Central Park|
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sun Noon-11pm|
|Do you own this business?|