Authentic Southeast Asian food in East Bay?
- Adrian Hopkins
I'm looking for good, authentic Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, or similar fare in the Bay Area. I used to live in SF, LA, and Hong Kong. So in a sense, I'm probably spoilt. I live in San Ramon now. Unfortunately, there seems to be only mediocre commercial, or rip-off Calfornian fusion cuisine (Although a place called Star Anise in Walnut Creek is OK).
Could anybody offer any suggestions? Thanks!
Here are a few suggestions (sorry I don't have exact street addresses):
Plearn Thai Cuisine, University Ave. just below Shattuck Ave. (Berkeley) has always been reliable.
Saysetha (Thai), Telegraph Ave. at 65th St. (Oakland) can be good; just be sure to tell them if you want it spicy.
Pho 84, 19th St. two blocks east of Telegraph Ave. (Oakland) has very good Vietnamese (an extensive menu and not just pho, despite the name).
Nan Yang Rockridge, College Ave. near Claremont Ave. (Oakland) is very good Burmese. Love the garlic noodles and ginger salad.
All are cheap, none are "fusion." Hope this helps.
Haven't been to Saysetha, and haven't been to the others recently, but they were all excellent. There is another Nan Yang (the original) in Oakland's Chinatown (really more of a pan-Asia town); right next door is Phnom Penh House, which always had excellent Cambodian.
Can't vouch for anything east of the hills, though. Never ventured out that way unless I was hiking on Diablo.
The previous time I had eaten at Nan Yang was back at it's original location years ago on the outskirts of Oakland Chinatown -- back then it was modest but good Chinese/Burmese food. I just went to the newer location on 6048 College Avenue around the Berkeley/Oakland border (the old one was sold a couple years ago) and was pleasantly surprised.
It's not authentic Burmese, never was, but it's now a totally different level of Burmese influenced food. I don't think I'd call it fusion as it's not a matter of mixing styles. It's extremely creative, taking new combinations of ingredients (spinach and tomatoes in a tangy tumeric sauce or mango/shrimp/onions stir fry) and expanding/improving on old recipes (extremely good chicken biryani). Only thing I had that I regretted was the curry chicken noodle soup which was a bit gloppy and bland, and does not resemble anything like what you'd expect in northern Burma (or northern Thailand for that matter).
Regarding the other restaurants mentioned:
Plearn - good not fabulous Thai (haven't found one yet that I would consider great).
Saysetha - also good Thai/Lao. Be careful if you DO ask for it spicy they will take you VERY seriously, unlike most other places.
Pho 84 - will check it out and report back.
Vien Huong, 712 Franklin- Vietnamese Oakland Chinatown - good, large variety of bun.
Vi Restaurant, 724 Webster - another good Vietnamese - Oakland Chinatown.