The wait is over: Andy Ricker's noodle house Sen Yai has landed.
As previously reported, the James Beard Award-winning Pok Pok mastermind has transformed the former Kappaya sushi space on SE Division into a teal-hued Thai breakfast, lunch, and dinner spot with a focus on Kuaytiaw, stir-fried and broth-laden noodles—think colorful Portland-friendly comfort fare with a spicy twist.
Sen Yai ("Big Noodle") is divided into two interior dining rooms (together seating around 50) complete with art and artifacts from Ricker's annual seven-week sojourns to Bangkok and beyond. Diners would be forgiven for thinking they'd stepped outside of the country and into a streetside eatery in Thailand, complete with language barrier and wild colors rarely seen in Portland's minimalist-leaning restaurant design. A soon-to-be-packed outdoor patio can accomodate another 50+ eaters and drinkers happily navigating the loaded menu.
Doors open every morning at 8 am, with a small selection of Thai morning fare, including simple and fortifying sen lek maan kai soup with a choice of noodles, jok (rice porridge), pantanko (Thai crullers ready for dipping), and poached eggs with toast "soldiers."
For lunch and dinner (served from 11 am to 10 pm), Sen Yai's street vendor-inspired noodle station kicks into high gear, churning out over fifteen varieties of flavor-packed soups, and yes, Ricker's take on Phat Thai. Early favorites include the Kuaytiaw Reua "Boat Noodles" inspired by food vendors along the canals of Thailand (a savory and spice broth loaded with stewed beef, poached beef, housemade meatballs, fragrant and smoky dry chiles, and rice noodles) and the Kuaytiaw Neua Sap (old-school Thai comfort food—charred fresh rice noodles topped with a 'gravy' of ground beef, tomatoes, onions, garlic, oyster sauce, and soy and fish sauces).
The long-awaited Sen Yai is the latest Portland outpost of Ricker's fast-growing culinary empire, coming in after the flagship Pok Pok, breakout Whiskey Soda Lounge, and NE Prescott's Pok Pok Noi. With a burgeoning NYC presence added to the mix, Pok Pok has become a household name on both coasts, setting the gold standard for unabashedly authentic Thai fare and restaurants that bring the culture, music, colors, and ingredients of Ricker's adopted country stateside (for a price exponentially less than a round-trip ticket around the world).
Didn't make it to opening day? Eat vicariously through our slideshow by clicking the photo above and start planning your meal vacation, no checked baggage required.