A cool First Friday art walk led us to our next in what has been a short string of local noodle bar visits. First was the Japanese, then the Vietnamese, and this one – Mi Sen – was Thai. I haven’t really tired of noodle bars as they satisfy my Asian food cravings which never really seem to go away. I was ready to try a new one and see exactly what they had to offer. I thought a brief perusal of the menu prior to arrival had me primed and ready to get down to business right away, but it turned out I was wrong and didn’t make such a quick decision when that time came.
This night, we would require a table for four since we were with some friends. We sat in the half-full restaurant and immediately began to look at the menus. I was going alcohol-free, but the others quickly decided on an assortment of beer and wine. The waitress took those orders and we worked on getting the food choices settled. Even though I had a predetermined set of foods I wanted to order, I still had to discuss it with my wife because I wasn’t 100% certain yet. The menu was extensive with a full list of apps, noodle bowls, and entrees and I sort of wanted to try them all.
There was a full-on food debate at the table until our first courses were clearly defined and put in with the waitress. I decided to get the Gyoza – pan-fried pork dumplings with sweet soy sauce and also some Crab Rangoons with sweet sauce to share with my wife. Our counterparts ordered Radish Cakes – steamed radish cakes with peanuts and mushrooms served with sweet chili soy sauce. I went with the Tom Yum Num Sai with Chicken – clear chicken broth with a touch of chilies and lime, ground chicken, bean sprouts, green beans, peanuts, chili powder, scallions, cilantro, and crispy wonton sheet with thin rice noodles. My buddy put in for the Num Sai with Tofu – clear broth made with chicken stock, ground chicken, bean sprouts, green beans, scallions, cilantro, and crispy wonton sheet with thin rice noodle and a Thai Iced Tea. He ordered the soup extra hot.
We waited for a bit while discussing all manner of topics including riffs, bands, and struts and sipping beverages. We also put in our orders for main courses. I ordered one of my favorites – Chicken Pad Kra Pow with Rice – spicy stir-fried basil leaves, bell peppers, carrots, green beans, mushrooms, fresh chilies, garlic. My wife ordered one of her preferred dishes too – Drunken Noodle with Chicken – stir-fried flat noodles with egg, broccoli, bell peppers, basil leaves, bamboo shoots, carrots, spicy sauce. Rounding out the table were Dry Noodle with Tofu – boiled noodles mixed in spicy and sour sauce, chili, peanuts, scallions, cilantro, and crispy wonton sheet and Thai Curry with Rice with Tofu – creamy green curry with basil leaves, bell peppers, green beans, and eggplant with a side of rice. After we placed those orders, our apps and soups came out.
I couldn’t wait to dig into the gyoza. I forked one into the sweet soy sauce. The sauce was very thick, akin to honey on a warm day. Immediately after dunking the dumpling I chomped on it. Whoa! The dumplings were good, but the sauce was very sweet and the full immersion of my dumpling oversauced it. I was on sweet sauce overload. I recovered and eased up on it for my next one. It was much better. I actually think a lot of people would like the heavy sauce, but for me it was better in small doses. Next, I tried a rangoon with some of the sauce. I tend to not like sauces that come with rangoons, but this one wasn’t bad. What really wowed me though was the rangoon itself. The real crab meat took it to the next level as it always does. These were outright winners and the missus loved them too.
Next up was a soup sampling and I was ready to chew and slurp my way into it. I tried a few bites of my Tom Yum Num Sai – first broth, then some of the meat and veggies. It wasn’t super flavorful since it had the clear broth, but I could taste a hint of the lime which worked well with the slightly-more-present chilies. It was also quite hearty with plenty of the more heavy ingredients. Overall, it was good, but if you’re looking for non-heat flavor in a broth that gets up in your face, this wasn’t it. Order it though if you want something hearty and with some heat. If you want extra heat, just ask. My counterpart was crying through his extra hot noodle bowl. You can also heat it up yourself with their sriracha or garlic chili sauce.
At this point, everyone seemed quite happy with the food and soon we had the entrees. I was close to being full already and was a bit nervous that I would hardly be able to delve into my meal. When I got my tongue-twisting plate of Pad Kra Pow, it looked quite familiar, so I had high hopes. I tried a rip of my food. It was delicious – flavorful, spicy, and sauced so that the rice could be par-soaked in the juices. Unfortunately, I was indeed too full to consume more than half of my meal, so I finished and watched everyone else eat. Of course, I took the rest home for a future session of enjoyment.
After stuffing our faces, all four of us were quite pleased. I made some mental notes for the next time I was there. First, I have to go easy on the sweet soy sauce. Unless you are an absolute sweet-o-holic, you’ll want to go light on the stuff too. If you want mild flavor, but still a solid portion of spicy, order the Tom Yum Num Sai, but for something with a more potent broth, choose one of the soups with a flavored broth. Also, next time, I’ll use the sauces more. I tried them both and they were absolutely excellent. If you want heat and flavor, douse your food with those.
I’ll definitely be back to Mi Sen. The food was good and the prices are very reasonable. Our meal came to just over $50 after tip. There’s still a lot I want to try there, so next time, I’ll definitely get something completely different. I must say too that the food I brought home was even better the next day when I wasn’t overly full. See for yourself. Go and order a bunch of items like me, so you can have some left over to enjoy later.
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