Food Fight: Sen Yai Sen Lek vs. True Thai tom yum
There are certain foods that function as a bellwether, letting you know how confidently you may proceed to the rest of the menu, and likewise how much authenticity you can expect. At Mexican restaurants, it's tacos. At Italian places, it's pasta. At bars: burgers. And at Thai restaurants, a good bellwether is tom yum -- the tangy, spicy soup accented with chicken or seafood, mushrooms, cilantro, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and various other ingredients depending on the restaurant. Here's how two local takes on tom yum match up:
Tom yum is best when shared, and Sen Yai Sen Lek came armed with serving bowls and an adorable mini-ladle for our big bowl of the chicken variation of the soup. The broth was dark and greasy, the flavor lime-y, with a delayed spiciness and a fair amount of green onion, cilantro and lemongrass swimming around. The canned mushrooms were -- as with all canned mushrooms -- nothing special, but we were a little surprised by the wan, bruised tomatoes bobbing around. A bowl, which offers three fairly small servings, cost $7.95.