Zen Yai Thai Restaurant

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Zen Yai Thai isn't on the prettiest or safest block in town, but it does serve up some pretty excellent Thai food.  It's probably one of the few Thai restaurants I've seen in the city where over half the patrons are Thai.  Most of the menu serves up pretty standard dishes, but the good stuff, as most serious eaters know, is list on the board.  This one is extra special because it's only written in Thai!  It lists out 3 soups: tom yum, boat noodles, and zen yai.  A small bowl of each costs around $3 and are the perfect size to taste all 3 soups.

This is the first time I've eaten yen tafo (aka pink seafood noodles) or even seen it on a menu.  The color of this soup reminds me of sweet and sour sauce, but the taste is far from.  Thai dishes always seem to balance out the sweet, spicy, sour, and salty.  This soup is a good example of that.  It's a dabble of all four tastes along with fish balls, pork, flat white noodles, and a Chinese fungus, that I've only seen in Chinese desserts.

Tom yum here is different than other tom yum soups I've had.  The tom yum broth is clear and fresh tasting.  No oily, heavy taste here.  Each spoonful is light, fragrant, and soothing.  With a choice of noodles, the white wide noodles are the most popular and obvious choice to compliment these Thai soups.  The bowl is topped with slices of pork, bean sprouts, fried garlic, ground pork, and cilantro.

The small boat noodles costs $2.50 a bowl and gives you just enough taste to realize how amazing it is.  A choice of pork or beef ( this one is pork), this murky, rusty blood color soup is so much better than the one I had in LA (see post HERE).  So much depth and flavor in one bowl.  Best bowl of noodles I've eaten this year for me so far.

People rave about the pumpkin curry here, but I didn't find it particularly special.  Also, I asked for it spicy, which prompted the server to look at me and laugh.  It didn't come out spicy at all.  There is more chicken and shrimp than pumpkin (2 pieces!), which wouldn't be bad if I hadn't ordered and expected a pumpkin curry.
Address:                  Zen Yai Thai Restaurant
                                 771 Ellis St.
                                 San Francisco, CA 
Type:                        Thai

Popular chomps:      boat noodles
                                  pumpkin curry
                                  tom yum
                                  yen tafo
Chomp worthy:         boat noodles
                                  tom yum
                                  yen tafo

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