The newest Angus An venture, Sen Pad Thai, opened up a couple weeks ago (early May 2017) in the Net Loft building across from the Granville Island Public Market. (It’s the same building that houses Paper-Ya.) The whole Angus An group of restaurants has had a busy season. Only two weeks previous, Freebird Chicken Shack reopened in a larger space at River Market (New West) with a revamped menu. I’ve written about this group of restaurants before:
- “First Look: Juicy, Delicately-Seasoned Rotisserie Chicken at Freebird Chicken Shack in New West”
- “Fat Meh Noodles: An Early Review of Fat Mao Noodles”
- “Longtail Kitchen – New Fall Menu” (2013)
- “Longtable Dinner at Longtail Kitchen: Authentic Malaysian Cuisine by Alex Chen” (2014)
- “Getting My Tail Kicked at Longtail Kitchen” (2014)
- “Steel & Oak x Longtail Kitchen: You Got Red Pilsner in My Green Curry! You got Green Curry in my Red Pilsner!” (2014)
- “I Choo Choo Choose You at Longtail Kitchen” (2015)
- “What its like being a small part of a food TV show: You Gotta Eat Here (Longtail Kitchen Episode)” (2015)
I’ve also been to Maenam a couple times (before I started this blog), so I think I have a bit of a tough love kind of relationship with the whole group. I hold them to high standards (if you flaunt Michelin-star experience, then I must watch for attention to detail, technique, consistency, and above all, taste — actually, those are my criteria all the time). If those high standards aren’t met, it kills me inside as a fan and as a customer.
So does Sen Pad Thai fall into the homerun category (Longtail Kitchen), underappreciated but mildly inconsistent category (Freebird), or the not-good-enough-out-of-the-gate-wouldn’t-go-back category (Fat Mao)? Read on…
The Net Loft building.
Look for the red Sen Pad Thai sign.
IMPORTANT: this whole Net Loft building closes daily at 7:00pm. If you’re still eating inside at 6:50pm, the security staff will come around and warn you that they’re going to close the doors soon.
This may already be my favourite place to eat on Granville Island. Or at least most promising. Seating is all shared Net Loft common area seating, except for the three chairs at the counter.
As is typical with the Vancouver scene, restaurants are always looking for staff. In my short chat with the woman behind the counter, the staff are all from Thailand and have worked at Maenam. One person worked for Fat Mao as well. So in that way, it’s a smart extention of Angus’ businesses.
Be aware that English is a second language for the staff here. Depending on your exposure to Thai accents, you might need a bit of patience and understanding when talking to the staff. I had minimal problems but I could see other people having trouble. But hey, this is Vancouver! Bring on the rainbow-coloured mosaic!
They serve the Pok Pok Som drinking vinegars! The perfect thing to cut the spice.
It’s spot prawn season! Their special curry this week was Green Curry Spot Prawns on Rice for a not unreasonable $20. The serving size (shown a few photos below) is actually pretty substantial and fair.
The menu. Sorry for the glare from the lights. Their full menu is available online or right here:
This printed menu has tiny discrepancies compared to the menu board and online menu (eg. “local crispy side stripe shrimp” versus “local ocean wise prawns”, and the part about curries).
I was very pleased to see five different pad thais on offer. The menu is more varied than I expected, with some surprises like holy basil stir fries:
I haven’t had a real HOLY BASIL dish in ages. Thai Basil on Thurlow near Davie sorta used to do a thai holy basil stir fry years ago, but it’s hard to find this kind of dish nowadays. I think Kin Kao on Commercial does one (early review of Kin Kao here). If you’ve never tried a Thai holy basil dish before, do it! It’s got a heady, perfumey quality that’s quite different from regular Thai basil.
Anyways, we were here to focus on the pad thai, so the pad grapow dishes will have to wait until next time.
Pricewise, it’s on par with Longtail Kitchen, Freebird, and Fat Mao level of pricing. Not cheap eats, but restaurant-quality food at accessible prices in an accessible atmosphere.
Pok Pok Som Pomegranate Soda ($4). It’s the Som syrups mixed with carbonated water and ice. This one’s got that pomegranate flavour but with an extra tartness and slight aged vinegar funkiness. More tart than sweet. For health nuts there’s a turmeric soda too.
My partner in crime Moyenchow got a Thai Iced Tea ($5). She said the tea flavour was very pronounced and not overpowered by sweetness. That sounds good in my books. Even though Thai people like their ice tea really sweet, I prefer the sweetness to be knocked down by at least a third 😉
Seasonal special curry: Green Curry Spot Prawns on Rice ($20). Came with four large spot prawns, and a little container of fish sauce.
The prawns were split down the back, presumably to clean them, but it also made them easier to eat. The curry was mild for a green curry, but plenty of flavour. Veggies (which included eggplant, green beans, onions, and red bell peppers) were cooked just right. The prawns were also cooked just right, but the tail meat was a bit mushy, which leads me to believe that these prawns died with their heads attached. Whether or not that’s a deal-breaker for you depends on how picky you are with the freshness of your spot prawns. I grew up with my parents buying bags of spot prawns from Steveston and a sometimes the prawns had the same mushy/mealy texture. The way the prawns were cooked, I was able to eat the entire head, the legs, the tail, and most of the shell. The contents of the head were sweet ambrosia with a hint of bitter.
I’m still trying to figure out if the default spice level here is mild or not. If you love HOT, you should probably specify when you order, even if the staff don’t ask you.
Crispy Wings with Thai Garlic ($8). These are the same wings that are served at Longtail Kitchen. Whatever I’ve said about these magical wings in my other reviews applies here too. Juicy, crispy, with magic dust sprinkled on top, and a sour/sweet/salty/spicy nam jim jaew dipping sauce.
The basic Pad Thai ($12) with tamarind, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, chives, and I’m pretty sure those tiny tiny chunks of pickled turnips that you probably wouldn’t notice unless someone pointed them out to you but now you’ll never forget and will miss them when other places don’t use them. Moyenchow ordered this one specifically mild (she’s chili-averse), so they in fact didn’t put any chilies in this one. The major flavour was tart tamarind, which is a plus, but we thought that maybe it would benefit from a spice element or maybe amping up the savoury element. Noodles were fantastic. Stretchy and textural. What noodles in pad thai should be!
Pad Mi Korat ($13), northern-style pad thai with crispy pork. The pork are slices of belly, cooked to a semi-chewy/semi-tender state. While I wouldn’t say any of it was crispy, it looked like it had been fried at one point. No detectable heat in this one either, so this one tasted similar to the regular pad thai except with actual meat in it.
I added some of the provided chili flakes and it improved the profile a bit. While on the whole the pad thais were good, I think I need to return and order them at the “house default” or perhaps “medium” to get a better sense of their food. The noodles already have that addictive chewiness though, so I might end up back here really soon.
This publicly accessible paper towel dispenser came in handy when I needed to wipe the sweat from my scalp.
Early assessment: I like this place and want to return to try more of their menu (especially the holy basil dishes and the pad thai with crab!).