I was by myself the other day when I stopped in for lunch at SerenTori restaurant, 5748 34th Avenue South, Minneapolis, so I could only try one dish, which made it kind of a tough choice. The $6.95 lunch specials didn’t sound that appealing – they’re mostly Chinese take-out classics like Sesame Chicken, Egg Foo Young, and Mongolian Beef (all come with fried rice and choice of eggroll or cream cheese wonton).
But the rest of the menu sounded much more interesting: Thai tom yum, Vietnamese Canh Chua soup with pineapple and okra, Nam Pik Pao beef salad, Ban Xeo (a Vietnamese pancake stuffed with pork, shrimp and vegetables, two for $7.95), pad Thai, and lots more. The American favorites section offers burgers, halibut and chips, chicken wing basket, Chicago dog basket, shrimp basket and more, served with fries, cole slaw and a can of pop, mostly for $8.95 or less.
I opted for the Lao Gang Som ($7.95 with chicken, $10.95 with catfish), a mild but very tasty Laotion cousin of Thai tom yum soup, flavored with tomato, green onions, kaffir lime leaf, Thai basil and lime juice.There’s a lot more on the menu that I would like to try, including the Four Regions Sampler, a chef’s choice of authentic dishes from Laos, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese ($29.95 for four) and the Vientiane Street-Side Meal with beef jerky or roast hen (half), papaya salad and sticky rice ($16.95). (The menu also mentions lunch and dinner buffet, but these are not available during the summer.)
The chef, Jee Soulisak-Hoang is from Laos, and her husband and co-owner Hoa is Vietnamese, which helps explain the multi-cultural menu. I wondered whether the restaurant’s name meant something in Lao, but Jee explained that it’s the names of her two daughters, Serenity, 4, and Satori, 3.
SerenTori will have a booth at the Hmong Arts Festival, Saturday, August 16, 2008 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Western Sculpture Park on Marion Street in Saint Paul, serving Pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup), fried rice, beef salad and fresh spring rolls.
SerenTori Restaurant, 5748 34th Avenue South, Minneapolis, 612-726-9034.