Sayvepen Sengsavang displays one of his signature dishes at Mu Noi Brunch in Auburn. It’s a Laotian style chicken and biscuits, called Mother Clucken Buscuit, with two enormous biscuits, red curry brined fried chicken thigh, kale sautéed with pineapple vinegar, a sunny-side egg, red onions, pickled mustard seeds, fish sauce and chili aioli. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Mu Noi Brunch promises to bring a blend of dishes unlike any other to Lewiston-Auburn.

Owner and chef Sayvepen Sengsavang describes the food at the Center Street restaurant as modern American with a focus on southern comfort and southeast Asian flavors, paying homage to his Laotian roots.

While he said some of the dishes on the menu are a bit “out-there,” his wife and co-owner Elise Sengsavang pointed out not everything on the menu is different. They still offer traditional breakfast foods like waffles, she said.

But, even the familiar foods sometimes have a twist.

Sengsavang said he is constantly trying new things and tweaking traditional recipes. The restaurant has a set menu, however the specials change week to week.

“It’s really about us having fun discovering new ways to do things and then just throwing it out there,” he said.

While he said his family is very traditional, that isn’t Sayvepen Sengsavang’s style. His wife jokes that he always loves to make his grandmother mad, taking a dish she has made the same way for years and putting his own spin on it.

“We don’t want to be traditional,” Sayvepen Sengsavang explained. “I think the most important thing to us is we’re trying to stay away from traditional flavors, or traditional ways to do a dish … I love super traditional food, but that’s not my food, that’s not what represents who I am. That represents my mom and dad who grew up in Laos, but growing up in the United States now, that story’s going to be different.”

Cooking these types of dishes is nothing new for the couple. They also own Le Mu Eats, an Asian fusion eatery in Bethel.

Lewiston-Auburn was a natural choice for their second restaurant, he said. The diversity of cultures and eateries in the area provided an ideal place to bring his unconventional fare.

His wife said she is excited by the response they have received from the local community. In the beginning, their customer base mostly included friends, family and regulars from Le Mu Eats. Soon however, they began to see new faces coming in.

In just the first three weeks, the couple said they’ve been surprised by the diverse crowd visiting their restaurant, from young “hipsters,” to men with big trucks and old couples out for a meal.

“Honestly, it’s something that I didn’t expect when we came out here, how diverse that demographic was going to be for us,” Sayvepen Sengsavang said.

The couple opened Mu Noi Brunch on July 8 after deciding to rent the property in February. Starting a restaurant is difficult at the best of times, but the pandemic brings a whole new set of challenges.

Even before setting their sights on the property in Auburn, the Sengsavangs said they had hoped to open a restaurant with one long community table.

They reached out to woodworkers from Purple Shed Woodworks LLC to make the community table. The plans were drafted and the project set, but the pandemic hit and forced the couple to adapt to social distancing-friendly seating.

“That hurt, that was something we envisioned from before we got this space,” Elise Sengsavang said. “We always wanted to have a restaurant with a big community table.”

Instead, they commissioned wooden benches and had them installed around the dining area.

Just like their food, their restaurant name is unique too. Mu Noi, she said, means “Little Pig” in Laotian.

It’s funny, she said, because it’s a nickname her husband used to be called when he was a kid. Now they’ve passed it on to their daughter who will celebrate her first birthday in a week.


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