Sen Vietnamese Kitchen and Bar

I drive past the CAC building on Normanby Road almost every day, yet somehow  had missed the change of the restaurant to Sen Vietnamese Kitchen and Bar.

When I heard that the chef and several of the staff hailed from Parkside Restaurant in Mt Albert, I knew it would be good.  And I was right.

Sen has kept the existing layout of  the previous restaurant and has added just a few Asian touches to the decor.  On the cold evening that we visited, we opted to sit upstairs where we were well away from any drafts. The staff were welcoming and attentive, and helped us with our menu choices.

We love fresh Summer Rolls (3/$10.50) and we ordered them hoping that they would be full of the fresh herbs that we love. I was tempted to order the Vietnamese Pancake ($16.50) which is a savoury pancake stuffed with pork, prawns, bean sprouts and mung beans, but we had our eyes on the equally tempting main dishes.  After consultation with the waiter, we decided to share the Lemongrass Chicken ($16.50) and the Seared “Shaking” Beef ($26).  The beef dish is well over the Cheapeats budget, but we were curious about it and decided to try it.  To accompany all this protein we ordered the Mango Salad ($15).

In short order our Summer Rolls and Vietnamese beer arrived.  This was attractively presented, as were all our dishes.  I was happy with the  rolls which were full of fresh herbs as well as the classic prawns and pork, rice noodles, pickled carrot and lettuce. We dipped the rolls in the accompanying nuoc cham sauce.

We enjoyed both of the main meat dishes.  I am partial to the flavour of lemongrass, and the spicy flavour of this chicken dish was my favourite.  The seared “shaking” beef was served with onions, oyster sauce and watercress, and was also full of flavour.  We had ordered a side of rice ($2) to have with the dishes, which wasn’t really necessary since they also came with rice noodles.

The mango salad was an inspired choice. The combination of the shredded green mango with carrot, herbs and sesame seeds, was a fresh counterpoint to the spicy and bold flavours of the meat dishes.  If I was to pick my favourites, it would have to be the lemongrass chicken and the mango salad.

I couldn’t resist trying the Puffed Black Rice for dessert. This was the classic dish of warm sweet black rice but instead of being topped with coconut cream it was topped by a scoop of ice cream (or yoghurt if you prefer).  I could not discern how this puffed rice differed from regular black rice.

By the time we left the restaurant was busy, so word has definitely gotten out about Sen. Make a booking and join the crowds.

Location: 26 Normanby Road, Mt Eden
 09  630-5790
Hours: Open 7 days, 11:00am-late
Prices: Dinner menu:  Soup (pho) $9; Small plates and Nibbles $4.50-$19.50; Main Salads $17.50-$18.50; Main Plates $19.50-$27.50; Vegetarian dishes and salads $14.50-$17
Licensed: Yes
Suitable for Vegetarians: Yes
Takeaways: No
Bathrooms: Good
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes for main floor
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