By Dusey Hyman
As a food connoisseur, I am always on the lookout for the best restaurants around Richmond. Being vegan, it is difficult to find decent food at any ordinary restaurant, so when I heard from my aunt about a new restaurant on Cary Street called Sen that has many vegan options, I decided to try it out.
Sen is an organic restaurant greatly influenced by Vietnamese and French food culture. It sits in the same spot as the old Dixie Donuts shop. The name “Sen” translates to “lotus flower” in Vietnamese, which has significant meaning to the restaurant. According to their website, “The meaning of the lotus flower is one that resonates with us: ‘Its roots are in muddy water, but the lotus flower rises above the mud to bloom, clean and fragrant.’ The universality of this definition is one that inspired Sen to use only the freshest and pure ingredients – organically grown.” Andy Nguyen and Hang Pham, the co-owners of Sen, have a passion for organic food that drove them to create a restaurant and inspired them to bring healthy food to their customers to show that natural foods are both filling and appetizing.
When arriving, my mom Elizabeth Hyman and I sat outside. We were ready to take on whatever food was brought our way, along with the culture that Sen had to offer. The ambience of Sen is calming, yet busy, as the streets of Carytown overflow with diversity and spirit. The restaurant is painted a light shade of blue, which stands out with all the other buildings. The expansive menu offers sharing plates, entrées, dessert, and tea.
We started off simple with the Sen Organic Crispy Golden Roll, which we would end up ordering again later that night. Each dish was served on an earthy ceramic plate-bowl; a creative way to plate a dish. The rolls were light but packed with mushrooms, mung-bean noodles, and leeks, served with an Organic Sen Vegan Sauce. When asked how these compared to other spring rolls, Elizabeth exclaimed with joy, “I think they’re delicious. I wouldn’t know they’re vegan!”
Next, we ordered the Organic Vegan Smile Sen Sliced Sandwich, my personal favorite. This dish consisted of a king mushroom and onions on French bread with arugula and sesame seeds. This was “just a dish with great flavor,” Elizabeth said.
We also ordered the Organic Sen fries. These were unlike any other fries I had seen and are my new favorite. Organic zucchini, sweet potato, and squash noodles were fried, along with a lotus root. Seasoned with turmeric and rosemary and accompanied by a sweet dipping sauce, these fries were truly phenomenal. Who doesn’t love fries?
The many diverse options made ordering tough, but the final decision for an entrée was the Vegan Pho. This soup consisted of vegan broth, fried tofu, skin tofu, and vegan beef, a plant-based meat replacement. It was a delightful soup that Elizabeth would “eat every other day if [she] could,” and I easily agreed with that statement. When telling our waitress how delicious the pho was, she claimed that “some people come in and order the Chicken or Beef Pho, but with vegan broth.”
Of course, one can’t simply review a restaurant without trying dessert. With this in mind, we ordered the Organic Rossie Apple. This apple pastry came with creamy coconut ice cream and was drizzled with chocolate sauce. The decadent flavors ran from one taste bud to another, and the dish was gone before I knew it.
Whether a carnivore, omnivore, or a vegan, eating at Sen is an incredible experience with great service and even better food. When leaving, Elizabeth mentioned that “it is a very informal restaurant, but has a great menu that is absolutely filling and healthy.”
All photos by Dusey Hyman.