Location: 74-76 Nicholson Street, Footscray (corner shop, where the tram turns from Droop to Barkley St)
Website: urbanspoon reviews
Price: ~$10 for most rice and noodle dishes, including the ones reviewed here. Up to $20 for mains to share. I didn't manage to take photos of the menu, but the restaurant has the standard long list of items available at most Vietnamese restaurants.
Broken rice with BBQ pork chop (com tam) - previously, my friend had written about the same dish for his post on Nghi Ngan Quan (Adelaide).
Broken rice sounds like it should be a junk item on Neopets (the weird foods which you can't actually feed your pets)! When we started out eating at these Vietnamese restaurants, we used to wonder whether "broken" referred to the rice itself being broken, or the way rice grains fall apart after it's cooked. According to online sources, rice grains broken during transport or processing were often sold for less and considered poor man's food. Essentially the rice tastes the same, but are in smaller bits, and therefore has an interesting texture which is quite nice.
The main component of the dish, the BBQ pork, was disappointing. It tasted okay, but the meat was tough to chew and didn't match up to my latest try of the same dish at a similar restaurant in St Albans (called Thuan Phat, I will write about it later). However, the steamed egg meatloaf (cha trung) here was better in texture, softer, tastier compared to the strange fried meatloaf at the other store. The side of the meatloaf had a weird orange coloured coating, which my friend tells me is egg yolk. Another side that comes with the dish, which you can see at the back of the picture above, is shredded pork mixed with shredded pork skin (bi) - I don't know whether it's good or not because I dislike the texture wherever I have it, as it reminds me of eating rubber bands. The dish is topped off with a nice fried egg with oozing yolk, sliced cucumber, and pickled carrots and cabbage. So much variety, no wonder I always seem to order this dish!
Below, on the right, is the sweet fish sauce with mild chilli (nuoc cham) which you are supposed to pour on top of the broken rice dish. Mmm, it's what makes the dish tasty!
Crispy chicken on egg and thick vermicelli noodles - wow what a massive plate of chicken and noodles! The crispy chicken was delicious, meat was tender and nicely done, unlike the pork. This was mixed with a sticky, sweetish sauce (same as the sauce in the middle bowl above), and firm egg noodles. Not sure whether the thick vermicelli noodles usually come with this dish, or whether my friend charmed the waitress in Vietnamese to mix the two types together.
Others: Sen is quite distinct from clashing colours, run down look, and blasting Vietnamese television channels, which characterises many similar restaurants. The room here is brightly lit, clean, with colourful paintings lining the walls, and has furnishings and decor which matches well to create a modern look. No issues with the service.
Rating: 3.5/5 I liked the food, but it wasn't particularly outstanding. I was actually surprised that the price here is equivalent to nearby Vietnamese restaurants, considering how the place "looks" more expensive. I would be happy to come back on a day when I feel like being surrounded by lovely colourful paintings, good lighting, and an environment that is quiet enough to have a good conversation, but not too quiet to be suspicious of whether there is something wrong with the restaurant!