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Cheap eats – Zen Yai (Civic)

By Alexandra Craig - 4 March 2015 5

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What do you do after a massive gym workout that’s left you shattered? Eat your calories back in Thai food, obviously. I took myself off to Zen Yai in Civic for a lunch time treat that’s a bit more interesting than your average salad.

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Zen Yai is in a pretty accessible location in Civic situated in the Sydney building, close to the bus interchange, and a few doors up from Mooseheads on London Circuit. However, over a year ago now there was a fire in the Sydney building which has left some businesses closed and a big old ugly construction site starting right next to Zen Yai. Local media last  year reported that the restaurant was struggling because of reduced foot traffic and also because people assume the restaurant has closed down due to the fire.

Zen Yai was one of the first restaurants I ate at with the first new friends I made when I moved to Canberra four years ago. I hadn’t been there for at least two years so was looking forward to trying it out again.

I remembered it as a warm restaurant with nice lighting and comfortable chairs, but it looks completely different now. The carpet has been ripped up to reveal green concrete, the chairs are mismatched, the wall artworks have been removed and I think a whole wall that used to conceal a private dining area has been taken down. I was a bit shocked but hey, I was there for the food – not the decor.

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Zen Yai has a lunch time special of $10 meals (or $9 if you opt for takeaway). Some meals are more expensive if you choose seafood instead of chicken or beef, but they still scrape in as a cheap eat for $14.50. There are 16 options, including favourites like mussamun curry, pad thai, laksa, and tom yum.

I picked a takeaway chicken laksa and a soft drink (only $1.00 for the soft drink!) and took a seat to wait for it to arrive. I was in a rush to get back to work so was pleased that the service was very quick – I had my laksa within about five minutes.

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The laksa was packaged in two sealed containers. The first contained regular noodles, vegetables and crispy noodles, and the other contained the soup, chicken and tofu. Zen Yai earns points for this – it would be easier to just put it all in one container, but the meal travelled better back to my office with all the components separated. After all, no one likes soggy crispy noodles!

This laksa was delicious. I’m no laksa expert so I’m not sure about how spicy they’re meant to be, but this one was probably a tiny bit too spicy for me. I could eat it, but I had to guzzle a lot of water with it. There was a really decent amount of chicken in the laksa too – I know some establishments can be a little stingy with the amount of meat they put in their dishes but this definitely did not disappoint. There was also a fair bit of tofu in the laksa. I’m not a huge tofu fan but this tofu was really soft and easy to eat. Not sure if this is how tofu should be or not but it was to my liking anyway.

The veggies were fresh and crispy which added to the appeal of the dish. The overall serving size was huge. I didn’t finish it and I was super hungry after exercising so I think most people would find it filling. For a total price of $10 I’d definitely go there again.

What: Zen Yai
Where: 111 London Circuit, Civic
Opening hours: Lunches 11.30am – 3.00pm; Dinner 5.00pm – 9.45pm (7 days a week)
Delivery: Yes! They do delivery; 5.00pm – 9.45pm (7 days a week)
Website: http://www.zenyaithai.com.au/

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5 Responses to
Cheap eats – Zen Yai (Civic)
Evilomlap 4:03 pm 04 Mar 15

Alexandra Craig said :

Evilomlap said :

In the interests of balance, my review of Zen Yai is quite simple – will never go back there. My experience there was showing up exactly on time for a 7.30 dinner reservation to find they had given our table away. We were then offered a table -smack bang up against one right near the noisy kitchen where they stack the dirty plates. We were then ignored for 20 minutes, despite animated attempts to flag down one of the wait staff. When we finally ordered, they stuffed up our entrees, bringing us the wrong food not once, but twice. Needless to say we ended up walking out and won’t be going back.

Oh no! That sounds really terrible. When did this happen? 🙁

Would have been about six months ago. The food might be good but after service like that we weren’t interested in trying it much less paying for it. The first incorrect entrée was a seafood one, and in sending it back we mentioned that my friend they brought it to was allergic to seafood. The next incorrect entrée that arrived in front of her was also seafood. That was the moment we up and left.

thisisme 1:46 pm 04 Mar 15

I ordered a laksa the first time I went to Zen Yai. Commenced eating and then got to a wad of raw chicken! They gave me a new one (which ended up being amazing), but it could have ended up much much worse! I have been many times since and have always had good meals, especially the red duck curry. As others have said, the service can be a little slow sometimes. Ill have to make a point of trying the laksa again next time!

Alexandra Craig 1:33 pm 04 Mar 15

Evilomlap said :

In the interests of balance, my review of Zen Yai is quite simple – will never go back there. My experience there was showing up exactly on time for a 7.30 dinner reservation to find they had given our table away. We were then offered a table -smack bang up against one right near the noisy kitchen where they stack the dirty plates. We were then ignored for 20 minutes, despite animated attempts to flag down one of the wait staff. When we finally ordered, they stuffed up our entrees, bringing us the wrong food not once, but twice. Needless to say we ended up walking out and won’t be going back.

Oh no! That sounds really terrible. When did this happen? 🙁

Dame Canberra said :

I like anywhere that does a good laksa. Like you, Alex, I’m definitely no expert but it sounds like this is a decent place to try – particularly the day before public service payday!

I could totally go a laksa for lunch today…. but instead I will eat my brown rice, quinoa, tuna lunch. Sigh.

Dame Canberra 1:21 pm 04 Mar 15

I like anywhere that does a good laksa. Like you, Alex, I’m definitely no expert but it sounds like this is a decent place to try – particularly the day before public service payday!

Evilomlap 1:11 pm 04 Mar 15

In the interests of balance, my review of Zen Yai is quite simple – will never go back there. My experience there was showing up exactly on time for a 7.30 dinner reservation to find they had given our table away. We were then offered a table -smack bang up against one right near the noisy kitchen where they stack the dirty plates. We were then ignored for 20 minutes, despite animated attempts to flag down one of the wait staff. When we finally ordered, they stuffed up our entrees, bringing us the wrong food not once, but twice. Needless to say we ended up walking out and won’t be going back.

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