Using Their Noodles

As for the restaurant's namesake, noodles are best represented in the dish called pad thai, available with chicken or shrimp or in a vegetarian form. We tried the added shrimp, and, again, each element of the dish was segregated on the plate -- about a half-dozen medium shrimp, shredded carrots, chopped peanuts and a lime quarter, all arranged around the noodle centerpiece, which included turnip, egg, tofu, bean sprout, and sweet and sour tamarind.

Desserts are certainly exotic but also enjoyable -- the coconut "pudding" includes sticky rice and sweet beans, along with taro root for texture, all floating in coconut milk, and the homemade ice creams augment tropical flavors with peanut and even corn, but, once again, this actually works.

About eight regular wines and one plum wine are available by the glass or bottle, and there are a bunch of A-B beers, but nothing seems to balance a Thai meal better than Singha, the light but full-bodied Thai malt liquor.

The servers were terribly eager to please, but there was a slight element of "Hey, kids, let's put on a restaurant" to the youthful staff. In one case we experienced a comprehension problem, resulting in the Sen salad's coming out in place of the Sen seafood salad; at another time during our evening visit, the staff retreated to the kitchen for long periods. The host-station staff should also be made aware that answering "Hello?" (and nothing else) is not conducive to promoting the restaurant and that accepting reservations is a better marketing tack than telling the potential visitor, "We're not busy -- you don't need a reservation."

But these are growing pains, and you know that the owners' hearts are in the right place when the menu proclaims: "Sen is committed to making your dining experience memorable and your life more like a noodle: simple, natural and long."

If you haven't ventured downtown lately, the bells of Sen toll for thee.

SEN, 224 N. Seventh St. (at Olive, downtown), 436-3456. Hours: lunch, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; dinner, 5-10 p.m. Tues.-Sat. Entrees: $3.90-8.90


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