TL Restaurant of the Week: Zen Yai

3L Megan Christie, 3L Michelle Abdolhosseini, and 2L David Casarrubias with owner Ray.

What’s good in the Tenderloin?

Every other week and in conjunction with the Tenderloin Economic Development Project, UC Hastings students will have the opportunity to try a delicious neighborhood restaurant for the Restaurant of the Week. Most students are not aware that so many great eateries are close to campus. This week, UC Hastings students 3L Megan Christie, 3L Michelle Abdolhosseini, and 2L David Casarrubias were treated to Thai food at Zen Yai located at 771 Ellis Street.

Most students, including Megan, Michelle, and David, have never walked the few blocks into the Tenderloin to Ellis Street. However, just past the mythical lion statues of Little Saigon lies plenty of great Vietnamese and Thai places to grab a bite.

Zen Yai Thai Restaurant on Ellis Street in the TL.

Ray, the owner of Zen Yai, came to San Francisco from his native Thailand 16 years ago and has owned the Tenderloin restaurant since 2007. He warmly greeted the students and recommended an order of the Thai boat noodles off the “secret” board written only in Thai.

Make sure to bring your Thai-English dictionary.

Thai beef boat noodles are the restaurant’s most popular dish and come in a savory reddish-black broth (don’t ask about the secret ingredient that gives it the color, let’s just say it rhymes with blood!!!).

“What are those, they look like pork rinds,” noted David. He was spot on in identifying the crispy chicharrones or fried pork rinds that accompany the soups chewy thin noodles, beef balls, and spinach.

Michelle and David enjoying some boat noodles with pork rinds.

“It has a spice that I’m not used to but it’s really good,” remarked Megan. Ray next brought out a pumpkin curry dish, stir-fried vegetables, and spicy basil with ground chicken to share family-style.

Michelle, who eats Thai food all the time, but usually sticks to an order of pad Thai, thought the spicy basil was the tastiest dish.

Megan concurred stating, “there’s a spice that just sneaks up on you out of nowhere, like a ‘ninja’ spice.”
Watch out for the “ninja” spice!

Overall, the students gave Zen Yai Thai two thumbs up all around and would definitely come back soon to order the #49 Pad Pak Ruam Mit… after finals of course.

The chef and Ray give their spoon of approval.

For more Tenderloin Restaurant of the Week reviews, and more, visit the Tenderloin Economic Development Project page:

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