Lawrence, Kansas: Middle Of The Road Thai On Mass


Baan Thai

741 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone: (785) 856-8424
Website: baanthaikansas.com/lawrence


With a love for Thai food, I had high expectations after reading the rave reviews, particularly by my friend Scott T. on Yelp who (normally) has very similar opinions as mine when it comes to food.

In the middle of downtown Mass Street (as residents of LFK call it), I had stopped by Baan Thai for a look once before and the menu seemed appetizing and reasonable, but the decor put me off as it did on this our first visit. With cement floors, orange plastic-backed chairs (which, by the way, possibly acrylic and not cheap), and little decor, the inside is not warm and inviting, at least to my taste.

Josh, our server, was very nice, efficient and professional, but the dishes came out one at a time. Josh said it was because they are “made to order”, but are most decent restaurants making food to order, bringing appetizers out together and entrees all at the same time?

First, the Pot Stickers (6 for $4.95) came out. The pork, cabbage, and onion dumplings were deep-fried and served with a soy-based dipping sauce. They were good, but were more dumpling than filling. We waited for 10-15 minutes for our Chicken Satay (4 for $6.95) to arrive, so when Josh asked me a question about my entree, I inquired about our second appetizer. He scurried to the kitchen with little explanation and after another ten minutes, our satay finally arrived. The marinated skewers of charbroiled chicken were accompanied by the traditional peanut sauce and cucumber salad, and were also pretty good, but both were overpriced by about a buck and would have been much better together as I like to dip my pot stickers in the soy AND peanut sauce.

My wife’s Pad See-Ew ($9.95) was next to arrive. The rice noodles were stir fried with egg and broccoli with enough spices to make the dish tasty without being too hot as my spouse cannot tolerate food that is too spicy, a pitfall of most Italians. She loved it and it was plentiful, but eggs, noodles, and broccoli are not a good combination in my book.
My Gang Massaman Curry ($11.75) arrived 5-7 minutes later. Massaman curry is one of my favorites and I have had it at many Thai restaurants. This was far from the best I have had although the curry was flavorful. The coconut milk based curry, traditionally simmered with beef, was not nearly as thick (a bit on the watery side) as any other I have had and the potatoes were not cooked quite enough. When Josh had come out to ask me about my entree earlier, he had asked if I minded having “sliced” beef rather than “boiled” beef, assuming that he meant that the beef had not been simmering for 60-90 minutes in the curry sauce as should be the case. Even though I agreed, the sliced beef was plentiful enough, but was a tad on the chewy side, not tough or grisly, but not as tender as it should have been. The yellow onions were tender, but the boiled peanuts were a also bit too raw.

My wife and I were both excessively thirsty later that evening and I had stomach cramps, a potential sign of MSG being used. I later checked their website and menu and there was not a claim of “No MSG” that I could find, so it you have a sensitivity to it, I would definitely ask in advance of ordering. I am not saying that they use MSG, but our symptoms were consistent with ingestion of the additive/flavor enhancer, so if they do not use it, they should say so on the menu.

Our meal was good, not great, the prices fair, the servings generous, and the service efficient, but compared to other Thai/Asian Fusion restaurants, including Zen Zero just up the street, this one was very “middle of the road”.

CombatCritic Gives Baan Thai A Very Average 5 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

Five Bombs Equates To:

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Baan Thai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Title: Lawrence, Kansas: Middle Of The Road Thai On Mass

Key Words: Baan Thai, baan, Thai, Thailand, curry, Lawrence, Kansas, Mass, Massachusetts, street, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: Charlie-Mike = “Continue Mission”
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Alexandria, VA: Sam Phao Means "Stuff Your Pie Hole With Great Food For Little Money"


Sam Phao Thai Cuisine
1019 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Old Town Alexandria
Phone: (703) 548-3736
To start, I love Thai food, so I appreciate good Thai when I taste it. Next, comparing the DC area to Lawrence, Kansas is like comparing Dom Perignon to Andre, “not gonna do it, wouldn’t be prudent”, particularly when it comes to restaurants and prices. Lawrence restaurant options are bleak at best, hardly a decent restaurant in town, but DC has an abundance of excellent restaurants and they ain’t cheap compared to the Midwest.
Enter Sam Phao, a small place in central Old Town Alexandria. I checked several menus in Old Town after a day at Mount Vernon and the prices in Alexandria (for “average” food) were not cheap. The $$ options on Yelp were running $20-$30 for an entree and we did not really want to blow another C-note for dinner (my blog is named “TravelValue” after all), then I saw Sam Phao. Their prices were very reasonable and the reviews excellent, so I hit “Directions” and off we went.
The ground floor room we entered was very small, so we were taken upstairs to a larger dining room and a table for two by the window. For starters, we ordered a Chicken Satay ($5.95) and a Crispy Wonton ($4.95). There were four large skewers of chicken satay along with the peanut sauce, cucumber relish and four 1/4 pieces of toast. The satay and peanut sauce were yummy and the toast a novelty, but it made it easy to get the chicken, peanut sauce and relish all on a fork. The six wonton had a savory minced chicken inside of the crispy fried wrapper as well as sweet and sour sauce and cucumber relish for dipping. They were excellent as well … what a great start!
For mains, my wife got the Pad Thai “J” ($10.95), thin rice noodles and mixed vegetables stir-fried with egg, bean sprouts, scallions, tofu, and crushed roasted peanuts. I ordered the Yellow Curry ($13.95) with beef, potatoes, carrots, and onion, all of them my favorites are a rare find in one dish. I was not wild about the Pad Thai because of the egg (which is optional), but it was massive and my wife loved it. The yellow curry was divine, one of the best curries i have had in a long, long time. There was plenty o’ beef, big chunks of potato, large slices of carrot, and pieces of onion along with the white rice. The curry sauce was an incredible combination of hot spiciness along with a very slightly sweet aftertaste, so I dumped the rice in the bowl of curry, instead of the other way around, and delightfully spooned the contents into my pie hole until gone … HOOAH!
At $40, including tax, for two appetizers and two entrees, we could not have been more pleased. The prices rival those of similar, but inferior, restaurants in Lawrence, so in Alexandria and the DC area, this place was THE BOMB.
CombatCritic Gives Sam Phao 9 Bombs Out Of 10, A Rare And Near Perfect Rating … More Bombs Are Better Of Course!
Nine Bombs Equates To:

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Sam Phao Thai Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Alexandria, VA: Sam Phao Means “Stuff Your Pie Hole With Great Food For Little Money”

Key Words: Sam Phao Thai Cuisine, Sam Phao, Sam, Phao, Thai, cuisine, food, curry, Alexandria, VA, Virginia, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: OOH-RAH! = “U.S. Marine Expression Of Enthusiasm”

Lawrence, Kansas: Price Increases And Poor Service (Literally) Left A Bad Taste In Our Mouths


Zen Zero
811 Massachusetts Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone: (785) 832-0001
Website: zen-zero.com
Prices: $$$$

Unfortunately, Zen Zero is owned by the same group that poorly manages Genovese (and La Parilla), a very sad excuse for an Italian restaurant a couple blocks down the street on Massachusetts. I hesitate to spend our money at Zen Zero only because of the unpleasant experiences we have had at Genovese, but there are not many options when it comes to decent, reasonably priced restaurants in Lawrence, so we bit my tongues and returned after a long layoff.

Zen Zero’s decor is modern, yet cozy with hints of Asian influence in select pieces of art on the walls, warm Earth-tone colors and an open kitchen emitting exotic sounds, smells, and flames as chefs prepare meals in view of customers. As you can see from the photo below, the lighting is much brighter than I remember, ruining the ambience we used to enjoy beside hurting my light sensitive eyes.

Our server arrived with a customary basket of Asian rice chips, light and crunchy, which are tasty but an accompanying sauce to dip in would have been nice, but seemed as though she did not seem overly eager to be there or serve us.

Sunday night used to be Zen Zero night in our house where draught beer is on special for $3.00 a (American) pint. They do not have a huge selection of drafts, a pale ale, a wheat, and a seasonal (e.g. Oktoberfest, Irish Red). I ordered the Irish Red (normally $4.50), two total over the entire meal. My wife had water.

The Fried Pork Momos (now $4.99) come with four dumplings and two sauces, a mildly spicy red tomato chutney and an almost white sauce that reminded me of very well-blended hummus. The Fried Chicken Spring Rolls (now $4.29) come with a sweet and spicy sauce infused with chili peppers. They were savory and crunchy, containing ground, seasoned chicken and, beside the small portion, they were also good. But having lived in McLeod Ganj, India for two months last year, a Tibetan colony and home of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, I ate Tibetan food three times a day, every day. An order of momos there consists of eight, double the number at Zen Zero, they are much better, and only cost $2.50, one-quarter the price at Zen Zero.

Meeting with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama – McLeod Ganj, India (December 8, 2014)

My wife ordered a vegetarian dish, Phad Phak Ruam Mitr ($7.99), a mixed vegetable stir-fry with broccoli, onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, snow peas, Napa cabbage, scallions, baby corn and tofu and served with Jasmine rice. It was light and not too spicy for an Italian not used to eating hot and spicy foods (penne arrabiata is as hot as it gets in Italian cuisine). The vegetables were fresh and crisp, and the sauce light yet complex enough to satiate the palate, but it left a strange aftertaste unlike when she has had it in the past. She could barely eat it and the server did not bother asking how our meal was or if there was a problem with the dish, bringing a to-go container and making us box it up ourselves.

I love curry and Zen Zero’s Massaman curry (now $8.29, $10.28 with beef), a coconut curry from Southern Thailand with potatoes peanuts (no pork option), was as good a I remember. Having ordered my curry with the customary beef (an extra $2.99), the curry was rich and well seasoned. A thick red curry, Massaman comes with tofu or meat (other than pork – $1.99 to $3.99 extra charge for meat or seafood) with potatoes and peanuts in a huge bowl served with Jasmine rice. Not overly abundant in the beef department, I was not too disappointed because the thick curry sauce was nearly as good as the best I have ever eaten (the best was a similar curry at a small Vietnamese restaurant in Palos Verdes, California back in the late 1970s).

Our appetizers took quite a while to arrive and our entrees took even longer. I watched my wife’s Phad Phak Ruam Mitr sit on the counter for at least ten minutes until my curry was finally ready, all the while our server was too busy talking on her cell phone to bring us our food and we had to wait even longer after my curry was finally ready.

When we had finished, I gave our server a coupon we had received (2nd dinner half-off with purchase of an entree and two drinks), she told me she did not think we could use it. I asked, “Why?”, and she told me “You have to order two drinks to get the deal”. To which I replied, “We did, I had two beers” (and a couple appetizers to boot) to which she responded, “I’ll have to check with my manager to see if it’s OK”. Really? I should not have been surprised because Zen Zero is owned by the same group that owns Genovese where we had a similar incident a while back (they also refused to honor a coupon). I find myself wondering why the owners bother printing coupons if they are just going to have their servers hassle customers who try to use them.

Zen Zero had become a staple in our house and we may likely be returning in the future even though they have raised their prices rather significantly in the past year and the service was not nearly as good as it used to be. Good restaurants are not abundant in Lawrence, particularly downtown, but Zen Zero is a welcome option, albeit a bit pricier than in the past.

I gave Zen Zero 9 Bombs Out Of 10 in a past review, but with deductions for their price increases, the delays in receiving our appetizers and entrees, the weird aftertaste in the Phad Phak Ruam Mitr, and being hassled by the server for using a coupon …

CombatCritic Now Gives Zen Zero 6 Bombs Out Of 10 … Bombs Are Good!




Six Bombs Equates To:
“Good To Go”

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Zen Zero Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Zen ZeroZen Zero

Title: Lawrence, Kansas: Price Increases And Poor Service (Literally) Left A Bad Taste In Our Mouths

Key Words: travel, value, product, restaurant, menu review, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato, zen zero, zen, zero, Lawrence, Kansas, Massachusetts, Thai, Nepalese, Japanese, 66044, CombatCritic, TravelValue


Translation for Civilians: G2G = “Good To Go”

Mediocre Service, Non-Existent WiFi … Superb Thai Curry


“Mediocre Service, Non-Existent WiFi … Superb Thai Curry

The Clay Oven

McLeod Ganj, Himachal PradeshDharamsala 176219India

The restaurant sits just off the main square on the TIPA (Dharamkot) road and looks nicer than most in McLeod Ganj with wood beam ceilings, earth tones, and a nice terrace. 

The free WiFi was nearly non-existent, so don’t bother if you need to get anything done while waiting to be seated, get your menu or your food.


I stood at the counter waiting for a table for nearly 5 minutes while employees danced around me saying nothing and with just three parties in a place that seats 50. I finally got my menus another 5 minutes after the grumpy guy (owner?) at the register ignored me and I sat myself.


I ordered the green chicken (Thai) curry (200 rupees – $3.20) and waited close to 30 minutes … but IT WAS WORTH THE WAIT! Accompanied by white rice, the curry came in a clay pot, was generous in size, and hot, not scalding. The flavor was as good as any green curry I have had stateside and I have had quite a few. Spicy, but not overly hot, there were chunks of white meat chicken, mushrooms, and onion with just the right curry to rice ratio. Good stuff and at $3+ it was definitely the best value in terms of curry I have experienced!


The food quality and value alone would rate 9 BOMBS, but deducting 1 BOMB for lousy internet and another for mediocre service …


CombatCritic Gives The Clay Oven 7 Bombs Out Of 10 … MORE BOMBS ARE BETTER!








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Key Words: The Clay Oven, clay, oven, Dharamsala, McLeod Ganj, Mcleod, Ganj, India, Thai, Tibetan, Indian, curry, coffee, Italian, pizza, pasta, menu, travel, value, CombatCritic

Carpe Diem: Sieze the "Lait" … "Cafe au" That Is!


Carpe Diem Restaurant and Pizzeria
Jogiwara Road – Above Cinema
McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, H.P. India
+91-988-219-2294

Cuisine: Breakfast, Coffee/Tea/Beer, Indian, Italian, Thai

Prices: $$$$$

Rooftop Terrace

I heard good things about the pizza, understanding that they have a wood-fire oven. The place is not easy to find unless to look up to the third floor of the building above the cinema on Jogiwara Road. The indoor restaurant is up one flight of stairs, but the rooftop terrace is quite nice if the weather permits.


The indoor restaurant was empty at 8PM on a Sunday night, but the terrace was packed, leaving one table for me. The crowd seemed to be young, American/European/Australian bohemians dressed in baggy clothes with dreadlocks, which is extremely common in McLeod Ganj at least. There are six or seven tables with chairs and a sitting area with low tables and mats to sit on (do not forget to take off your shoes).

Mutton (Lamb) Pepperoni Pizza – 210 Rupees ($3.40)

The menu is eclectic, but I had to try the “excellent pizza” I had heard so much about. I ordered the non-vegetarian pepperoni pizza (210 rupees – $3.45), thinking that it would be the standard spicy, greasy, pork variety we American expect (“pepperoni” in Italy is green bell peppers). The pizza came rather quickly and looked quite good actually. Not huge, it was thin and crispy, much like the pizzas you get in Rome and the flavor was also decent … until I got my first bite of pepperoni. I actually like lamb from time to time, but not on my pizza. The pepperoni was obviously made of lamb (mutton here) and although not disgusting by any stretch, it was a little off-putting because it was not expected. Beside the taste of lamb sausage, the pizza was good, but next time I think I will order a vegetarian option or go with a Thai green curry or Indian dish.


One of the few restaurants that serves beer (you better like Kingfisher), the menu is huge and the prices are fair, a little higher than many places around town. The service was fast and friendly.


CombatCritic Gives Carpe Diem An Initial 6 Bombs Out of 10 … MORE BOMBS ARE GOOD!

Key Words: CarpeDiem, carpe, diem, Jogiwara Road, breakfast, café, Thai, pizza, Dharamsala, food, Ganj, restaurant, beer, India, internet, Italian, McLeod, McLeod Ganj, menu, restaurant, Thai, Indian, terrace, travel, value, CombatCritic

Himalayan Café and Restaurant: Fast (Free) Internet, Nice View, Tasty Food, Excellent Prices


Himalayan Café and Restaurant
Bhagsu Road (100 meters east of Main Square)
McLeod Ganj, India

Cuisine: Breakfast, Coffee/Tea, Tibetan, Chinese (Italian and Thai Available High Season)

Prices: $$$$$

Terrace and View of McLeod Ganj

I literally stumbled upon the Himalayan Cafe and Restaurant (the streets here are rough, rough, rough) while walking on Bhagsu Road, heading from the main square in McLeod Ganj toward Bhagsu Village (heading east). I might have missed it had I not seen the sign advertising “High Speed Internet”, so I walked up the steel staircase to the terrace (right).


Terrace
The covered terrace at the top of the stairs has several tables with a few overlooking the valley below and all have a nice view of the Himalayan foothills. The indoor café below has just a few tables, but is warm and inviting with a few western-style tables and one large table with Asian-style seating (pads).

Chicken Thenthuk and Tibetan Butter Tea
The menu (see photos below) is varied and the prices reasonable. They have breakfast, Tibetan and Chinese dishes year round with Italian and Thai selections during the high season. I had Tibetan butter tea (40 rupee – 65 cents) and the chicken thenthuk (100 rupee – $1.60), a Tibetan dish of handmade noodles (long, wide, and thin, then cut into small pieces) in broth with a variety of fresh vegetables. The butter tea actually has butter in it and is slightly salty, creamy, and rich, an unusual taste that works quite well actually. The chicken thenthuk was warm, delicious, and filling, chock full of veggies and noodles, and just what I needed on a cool Fall day.

Lamb Thukpa
My friend had the mutton (lamb) thukpa, a large bowl of broth with assorted vegetables, and long noodles (that look like spaghetti), topped with fine slices of crispy lamb. Chili sauce is a condiment here and can be added to any dish, making it hot and spicy, but all the dishes I have tried are well seasoned and excellent with or without any additions.

Indoor Café

Easy to miss if you are not looking closely, Himalayan Café and Restaurant is a quiet respite from the hectic pace on the street below, offering free, fast wi-fi and a chance to unwind over a cup of coffee or tea, a light snack, or a full meal. The service is efficient, but even though their English is good, I did not feel quite as welcome as in other local restaurants.

CombatCritic Gives Himalayan Café and Restaurant 8 Bombs Out of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!




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Key Words: Bhagsu Road, breakfast, café, Chinese, Dharamsala, food, Ganj, Himalayan, Himalayan Café and Restaurant, India, internet, Italian, McLeod, McLeod Ganj, menu, restaurant, Thai, tibetan, view, travel, value


Try "1006 Pho" Pho A Good, Reasonably Priced Bowl Of Goodness


Tofu Pho ($7.99)
This restaurant just opened in place of Wild Pho, another Vietnamese pho restaurant that recently closed. According to the server, the new owner, a very nice woman, apparently used to be connected to either Wild Pho or the space itself. Anywho, we thought we would give them a try considering they are so close to our home.

I asked if they had Vietnamese egg rolls, but the server did not know what I was talking about, so I asked the owner and she told me “no problem”. At $5 for four (4) pork egg rolls accompanied by lettuce leaves, sliced carrot, cilantro (no mint leaves), and a dipping sauce of rice vinegar and seasonings of unknown, but tasty origins, they were excellent or as Tony the Tiger would say “they’re grrrrrrrrrreat!” 

Steak Pho ($7.99)

My wife had the Tofu Pho. A “regular” is $7.99 and plenty big, but you can get a “large” for $9.99). The tofu is the same price as the meat (steak, meatball, chicken, shrimp, tendon?) pho and comes in a vegetarian broth option for an extra $1.50. 


I tried the Steak Pho (regular – $7.99) with veggie accompaniments and Sriracha OF COURSE! Extra meat is $1.99, which I ordered, but apparently did not get and was not charged for. No biggy because I was plenty full on the delicious broth, abundant noodles, a little sliced beef, and extra vegetables (no charge), including bean sprouts, sliced jalapeño, and cilantro.

They are updating the menu and a few dishes will not make the cut apparently, including the calamari, but if the pho was any indication of the quality and value of the meals, we will be back soon and provide an updated review as we try new dishes.


CombatCritic Gives 1006 Pho 7 Out of 10 Bombs (with room to grow) … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

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Key Words: 1006 Pho, 1006 Massachusetts, 1006, Massachusetts, street, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, pho, Vietnam, Vietnamese, food, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Thai, noodles, egg roll

Zen Zero Update … Quality, Reasonable Thai and Nepalese Cuisine in Downtown Lawrence


Zen Zero

811 Massachusetts St
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone: 785-832-0001
Fax: 785-841-8759
Hours:  
Sun-Mon  11AM – 9PM
Tue-Sat     11AM – 10PM

Email: zenzerolaw@sbcglobal.net
Crunchy Thai Chip Basket

Restaurants in downtown Lawrence are not necessarily well known for their value. Rents are high on and around Massachusetts Street, so most food is overpriced, particularly based on the quality of said, which in this case is not necessarily a positive thing. We have tried several, including The Mad Greek, Teller’s (now closed), Rudy’s Pizza, La Parrilla, Cielito Lindo, La Familia, Fuzzy’s Tacos, India Palace, The Casbah, and Curry in a Hurry to name a few, and with the exception of the last four, have yet to find great food and true value … UNTIL NOW!

Fried Pork Momos with Two Sauces

My wife had heard that Zen Zero was good and had I known it was a Thai restaurant, I would heave tried it sooner. I love Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean cuisine thanks to their abundant use of exotic and flavorful spices, particularly curry, so when I heard Zen Zero was a Thai restaurant, I eagerly agreed to give it a try.


The decor is modern, yet cozy with hints of zen influence in select pieces of art on the walls and construction with warm Earth-tone colors and an open kitchen emitting sounds, smells, and flames as chefs prepare meals in view of customers.  The server arrived with a complimentary basket of Asian rice chips, light and crunchy, likely a rice-based starter, which are tasty but an accompanying sauce to dip in would be nice.  There are soy sauce and an Asian-style chili sauce on the table, so you can easily make your own dipping condiment, but a creative and inexpensive accompaniment would be an added bonus.

Sunday night is Zen Zero night in our house and draught beer is on special for $3.00 a (American) pint. Not a huge selection, a pale ale, a wheat, and a seasonal (Oktoberfest, Irish Red), I ordered the Oktoberfest (normally $4.00), but the server quickly told me they were out, so I went for the pale ale (normally $3.75).

Chicken Spring Rolls

The App (appetizer) Sampler ($7.29) which came with two steamed veggie momos (a tasty Tibetan dumpling), two chicken satay (grilled chicken on a stick accompanied by peanut sauce) and two fried tofu triangles. It took quite a while for our appetizer to arrive considering the restaurant was only about half full, but I enjoyed a pint of pale ale ($2.50 – normally $3.75) while waiting. The appetizer was relatively small, arriving on a plate smaller than our dinner plates at home, and left me hungry for more. It would have been enough for one person, but there were two of us, so we each had one momo, one satay, and one tofu each. The momo (Himalayan dumplings with charred tomato and spicy sesame chutneys served steamed) would have been better fried, an option when ordering the momo appetizer, but not on our sampler platter, and was delicious, but it was consumed in just two bites (I could have easily handled it in just one). A steamed dumpling the size of a fortune cookie filled with veggies and served with sweet and sour sauce, momos are likely better deep fried.  

The Fried Pork Momos ($4.79) are much tastier and less healthy than the steamed variety, coming with four dumplings and two sauces, a mildly spicy red tomato chutney and an almost white sauce that reminded me of very well-blended hummus.  The Fried Chicken Spring Rolls ($4.29) come with a sweet and spicy sauce infused with chili peppers, but for the price I would expect more than two, both of which were consumed post haste.  They were savory and crunchy, containing cabbage, bean sprouts, and a few other unknown vegetables, and, beside the small portion, they were also excellent. The chicken satay ($4.99) is also good with four skewers of grilled chicken accompanied by a decadent peanut sauce and zesty onion and cucumber relish.


Phad Phak Ruam Mitr

My wife ordered a vegetarian dish, Phad Phak Ruam Mitr ($7.29), a mixed vegetable stir-fry with broccoli, onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, snow peas, Napa cabbage, scallions, baby corn and tofu and served with Jasmine rice. It was light and delicious, not too spicy for an Italian not used to eating hot and spicy foods (penne arribiatta is as hot as it gets in Italian cuisine). The vegetables were fresh and crisp, and the sauce light yet complex enough to satiate the palate.


Massaman Curry
I absolutely love curry and Zen Zero’s Massaman curry ($7.69), a coconut curry from Southern Thailand with potatoes peanuts (Sorry NO Pork Option with this Curry), was THE BOMB! Having ordered mine with the customary beef, the curry was scrumptiously rich and perfectly seasoned. A thick red curry, Massaman comes with tofu or meat (other than pork) and potatoes and peanuts in a huge bowl served with Jasmine rice. Not abundant in the beef department, I was not disappointed because the thick curry sauce was probably the second best I have ever eaten (the best was at a small Vietnamese restaurant in Palos Verdes, California back in the late 1970s) … SUPERB!

Green Curry ($7.69) with Beef ($2.69)

On our next visit I wanted to try the Green Thai Curry ($7.69 – green curry with bell peppers, eggplant, and bamboo shoots), but I hate bamboo shoots because they have the consistency of Styrofoam and zero taste, so I asked the server (Zana) if I could substitute potatoes.  Yellow and green Thai curries are excellent and normally are served with chicken, pork, or beef (chicken is the norm) with potato and peas, so I was dismayed when I saw bamboo shoots as an ingredient. Bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, another dreaded ingredient, are usually found in Chinese cuisine, not Thai, so I thought potatoes would be a rather benign request. 

I was told that there would be a $1.00 up-charge for substituting potato for bamboo shoots!  Considering the fact that potatoes are one of the cheapest staples in the produce department and much more pricey than an equal weight in potatoes, I declined and simply asked for the dish minus the water chestnuts and plus beef ($2.69 extra).  The green curry was delicious, spicy enough for the pallet but not too much for my acid reflux.  The bell peppers (red and green) were a bit too crunchy (raw) for my taste, but the dish was excellent. The “Jasmine” rice, which accompanies most dishes, seems to be merely white rice because I could neither taste nor see any hints of Jasmine.  The beef, which I paid nearly $3.00 extra for, consisted of 3 or 4 pieces of thinly sliced beef and 1-2 inches in length, nearly non-existent.  If there had been MORE MEAT, the dish would have been perfect, beside the fact that a couple of chunks of potato would have also been nice!

Phad Thai


The Phad Thai ($7.29), a classic Thai stir-fry with rice noodles, eggs, bean sprouts, scallions, cilantro and peanuts in a mild red curry sauce, was robust and delicious.  Looking much like an Italian pasta dish, it had nothing else in common with Italian cuisine other than the noodles, and was perfectly seasoned.  The vegetables were well cooked and not raw, the dish was sprinkled with small chunks of peanuts and stir-fried in a mild red curry sauce, for a vegetarian dish it was scrump-diddly-umptious!

The Dry Chicken Curry Thakali-style ($8.99) is a traditional Nepalese curry made with onions, ginger, garlic, garam masala and tomato, served with jasmine rice, rahar ko dal (yellow lentils) and potato achar. The achar sat atop the dish and was oddly cold, so I asked the server if that was the intention and it was, looking and tasting like Nepalese potato salad. With quite a few chicken chunks throughout, the dish was my least favorite of all my meals so far, somewhat boring with a bit of bite and too much jasmine rice for the amount of sauce.

Zen Zero has become a staple in our house and we will be returning frequently in the future, so expect updates to this review as I try the red, yellow, and “dry” curries, among other dishes, in upcoming months. Good restaurants are not abundant in Lawrence, particularly downtown, but Zen Zero is a welcome addition!

CombatCritic gives Zen Zero 9 OUT OF 10 BOMBS … Bombs are good!






Key Words: zen zero, zen, zero, Lawrence, Kansas, Massachusetts, street, Thai, Nepalese, Japanese, curry, noodles, stir-fry, 66044, CombatCritic, TravelValue