Zhen Yai's phat kraphao

Hey there Zen Yai Thai and Sai Jai Thai, oh and even Thai House Express or Osha. In my book, you all sorta fall under that category of “the other Thai” when talking about Thai food in the neighborhood. Okay, Thai House, you just suck service-wise and I’ll never set foot in you again. Osha, your silver noodles are horrid, your soy sauces are foul and you make my stomach hurt every time I go to you, so I stopped. But for Zen Yai and Sai Jai, you’re actually good, but, well, you’re not lers ros. It’s okay, not everyone can be, but it is true that a lot of folks sometimes recommend the two of you over lers ros, so let’s look at why.

Zhen Yai's prawn yellow curry

Zen Yai is a decently nice spot. It’s not the coziest of interiors being just one big non-descript room, but it’s okay. The dishes have good flavors overall. As for a singular standout dish, the curries are pretty tight, but again, everything is generally alright and if you’re in their area, you should check them out as their prices are good as well. During lunchtime they have a noodle bowl for only $2.99 that is surprisingly quite tasty and unsurprisingly quite popular as the Civic Center crowds hits them up for lunch. They also run a pretty brisk takeout service.

Sai Jai's famous pork shoulder

For Sai Jai, we had heard endless, heaping praise about how good they are and that we absolutely must try them. Hell, even a couple of somewhat reliable friends swore by it. I had heard to especially try the pork shoulder. Once there, we even bumped in to Jeff from “the loin” who lives nearby, thus making it an obvious choice.

After all these expectations, overall, I was let down. The pork shoulder was alright (although I think pork is always a safe bet everywhere, can anything go wrong with this glorious animal?) and things were generally okay except for the deep fried jerky items which were super-oily and salty, making my arteries cringe as I ate them. But in spite of nothing being particularly bad and some things being actually good, I felt there was no reason to rave about it at all. Also, the prices are not so cheap. Of course, since eating there, one avid admirer of the place mentioned that he finally tried lers ros for the first time and realized why we like it so much better than these other Thai places.

Sai Jai's take on beef jerky (can't remember how it was called)

I mean, it’s a lot like how the mantle of best Indian food in the hood has been passed around for awhile. Undoubtedly, lers ros will be knocked down by some new place or an old one that sees a resurgence. Or maybe they’ll tank once they open their second location in Hayes Valley (eww). I suppose in the end, we’re super spoiled to have this many choices in good Thai food in our neighborhood. My hometown only has choices in Taco Bell as there are two of them, which is one of the defining reasons as to why I don’t live there anymore and why I enjoy the Tenderloin so much.

Sai Jai's phat kraphao