Thai Time

Senae Thai Bistro is one of the latest eateries to open in Downtown Tucson.

Located in the former On a Roll Sushi (and the long-time Downtown McLellan’s Five & Dime) this newcomer is a bit hard to find – signage is low key – but the search is worth it.

Owner Chef “Dee” Buizer brings years of experience to this modern Thai bistro. The menu notes that she and her family have been running restaurants in California, Maryland and Scottsdale since 1987. She stopped by the table to check on things, a touch that is most appreciated.

We ordered the sam thum, a green papaya salad; the pad Thai; DSCN2357and mu pad pik khing, a dish featuring tender pork bites, long beans, wok-fried onions and garlic in a Kafir lime/chile paste.DSCN2358

We also ordered beer from the well-rounded beer list. Wine is on the menu but beer just seemed a better option since the dishes were ordered on a level three out of four heat scale. An artistic rack of four sauces, each one hotter than the next, was also part of the service.

The place was relatively empty but that allowed for a nice conversation. We were seated next to the “living wall”, a lush growth of exotic plants that grew from table height all the way to the high ceilings. The other walls are bare and painted a bright white. The décor could be called subtle and elegant.

Wood tables and chairs both high and low took up most of the room with a bar that ran about the half the length of the room. The menu pointed out that bar is “stunningly lit with a magnificent quartz top and stainless steel fascia. We didn’t look at it close but it added to the modern feel of the room. Upstairs is a private dining space.

Our food was well-received. The salad popped with  a mix of flavors and heat. Dressed in a garlic lime dressing the thin noodles, beans, tomatoes and leafy greens, this was a perfect starter.

The entrees were also tasty although the pad Thai was tamed down a bit. I think it had to do with the use of thin noodles over thicker ones found elsewhere.

The pork dish was dark and savory. The pork was tender and deeply flavored. The beans perfectly crispy. It was my favorite.

With the variety of options that are found Downtown, Senae Thai Bistro just might be a perfect fit.