October 15, 2015

Review of Mi Sen Noodle Bar, Portland

Eating out on a Monday and Tuesday night in Portland can cause a bit of head scratching - so many restaurants are closed on these weeknights, especially as we head into relatively slower seasons. Fortunately, Mi Sen Noodle Bar is open on these early weekdays, causing me to land there twice recently for some great noodle dishes. You should head there any night of the week (except Sunday, they're closed) when you're in the mood for some filling, inexpensive, and delicious Thai food. 

First off, where? Mi Sen is located at 630 Congress St. in the Arts District, in the strip next to Sun Oriental Market, the post office, and Coffee By Design. Many people struggle to come up with where it is mentally, but I'm sure you've walked or driven by it many times without noticing. 

The decor is fairly modern for a Thai restaurant - there's definitely Thai touches, but it's bright (a little too bright) and open with black furniture, and mirrors and art on the walls. The menu offers starters, noodle soups, noodle entrees, and rice dishes. The rice dishes are fairly standard selection of curries and larb, but I think the noodle dishes are where it's at. 

Drunken Noodle with shrimp ($11.50)

The first time I went we shared several plates of appetizers - the crispy shrimp rolls ($6), adorable triangles of crunchy and sticky chive cakes ($5.45), and the crab rangoon ($5.50) which actually contains identifiable pieces of real crab. 

On my first visit, I had the Tom Yum with chicken ($5.45/$8.45), a delicious spicy coconut broth with mushrooms and noodles. It comes with cellophane noodles, but you can substitute in any kind of noodle, and they have a wide variety. Our server was happy to recommend a type of noodle for the dish. 

Someone in the group ordered the dry noodles on our first visit and raved about it, so I ordered it as my entree on my second. And now I'm obsessed with it. It's noodles mixed with a spicy and tangy sauce, topped with bean sprouts, green beans, green onions, cilantro, and ground peanuts. I loved it with the sen ba mee noodles, which are curly egg noodles, like the ones in instant ramen. I can't get enough of the flavors in this dish, plus it's amusing that it's called soupless soup (although there is quite a bit of sauce, so it's not a dry dish). 

The only misstep I experienced with Mi Sen was the takeout I ordered once - pad thai and larb gai didn't live up to my favorite versions from Vientiane Market. But that's fair - I love those versions so much that they're hard to compete with. Hit up your favorite Thai takeout joint for your weeknight standards, but head to Mi Sen for their unique (and inexpensive!) noodle dishes.