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Cambodian Chowhound dinner FUN!

  • c

Our latest Chowhound dinner at the Cambodian restaurant in Oakland was a lot of fun last nite! It was great to meet you all. Thanks for the wines and Caitlin, thanks for the danish (that was my husband's consolation prize since he didn't get to come to dinner! I've got the day off so maybe I'll just head over to the bakery myself - Nabolom - wasn't it?)

I don't have the menu here so can't post details (like dish names - maybe someone else can, esp for Eric in Seattle who has been on the Cambodian quest), but we ate really well. The food was much better than any Thai restaurant I've eaten at lately. Very similar to Vietnamese and Thai. Our waitress helped Melanie pick out the best dishes - and they were great!

Lots of pork and seafood. the dishes we had weren't spicy at all. A delicious fish with red lemongrass sauce (kind of custardy) steamed in a banana leaf bowl was great - as was the boned, stuffed quail - and the gooey stuffed eggplant dish - extra smokey - that was also with pork and seafood and glass noodles.

And then we finished with the traditional chocolate chip and pistachio/lime cookies (just kidding about the traditional!) that Rochelle had brought. Those were really delish - loved the pistachio ones!

Thanks again Melanie for making the plans, everyone for the wine, cookies, danishes and best of all the good company!

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  1. Any plans for a Chowhound dinner in SF? Would like to go, esp. if it's any kind of Asian food--always best sampled in a big group! thanks

    1 Reply
    1. re: Dixie Day

      Dixie, last night's dinner was Chowhound Gathering #5 in 2001. I've organized two of them, so I'm retiring and letting others take the lead now.

      If you look through older posts, you'll see that all you need to do is pick a place and a date, post a message here, and then keep track of the responses. That's all there is to it.

      Some of the things we've found that work are to choose weekdays (no pressure to turn the table and more people are available) and family style service to make it easier to split the bill and to have the communal experience of eating all the same thing. The advantage of being the organizer is that you can choose a date that works for you and you're sure you'll get a slot. If you'd like ideas for restaurants in SF for a gathering, I and others would be happy to suggest some venues.

    2. Huge thanks to Melanie for suggesting such a delicious and gracious place and for organizing a great group! Thanks to all who brought wonderful wines and to Caitlin and Mike for that killer danish. It was great to have her back in the Bay Area for a dinner, if only for a little while!

      I've got the menu in front of me so I'm just going to write down what I can remember that we had. Echoing Celery, the food was characteristically southeast Asian with the bright flavors of lime, cilantro, peanuts, lots of seafood. To me, it was a softer version, a more subtle variation of thai food. Nothing was heat-spicy but practically everything was well-spiced. I'd go back in a heartbeat for one of their house specialties-soft shell crab.

      APPS:
      -Num Banchev: a rice flour crepe stuffed with chicken, prawns, and onion varieties
      -Baksei Trung Kor: crispy fried quails stuffed with pork, bean thread noodles, onions, and peanuts (loved this!, great flavor, unusual dish)
      -Crab salad: FRESH crabmeat, asparagus, bean sprouts, mint in a limey dressing
      -Nhorm Lahong: green papaya, carrot, mint, pork, prawns, and peanuts in that lime dressing again (very similar to som tum in Thai food but no heat and not as acidic)

      ENTREES:
      -Kari Sach Tair: very mild red duck curry
      -Char Kgnei: stir fry with ginger, onion, and chicken in a very mild red chili sauce
      -Trob Trung Kor: smoky eggplant with prawns, pork, and lime sauce
      -Shrimp shish kebab
      -House specialty Amok Trei: fish steamed in a banana leaf with red lemongrass curry sauce (nearly identical to haw mok in thai cooking, loved this too!)

      Desserts were provided by Rochelle who brought to die for cookies that seemed still warm from the oven! The cookie with white chocolate cut by the lime oil was HEAVENLY!

      Service was extremely accomodating. With the size of our party, it would have been very easy to overwhelm this mom and pop type of place. However, our waitress (who is also the proprietor?) was kind and gracious. Of course, as there was good company and conversation, I never noticed if there were any lulls in service. I was impressed that they handled our table and didn't seem to miss a beat.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Tida

        it was fun! i so enjoyed meeting people and being able to put names to tastes. and thanks to everyone for the flattering feedback about the cookies, i guess this is one i'll make again.

        my favorite dishes last night were the quail and the eggplant. i had to have seconds of both! i had been expecting a stuffing under the skin of the quail (too much nouvelle?), but it was boned and the interior was stuffed then fried. it came to the table plump and round and sliced in half so one piece was breast only, the other breast and those delightful tiny legs. they came 3 to a plate, plenty for 2 people.

        steve's fav's were the duck and chicken entrees, tho he ate seconds of everything we had.

        as far as a SF asian dinner i have 2 suggestions: king of thai noodle house on clement-the best duck stew with wide noodles ever. it's a little hole in the wall and if a little dirt scares you it's not for you, but the food's good, and 2 can easily stuff themselves for less than $15. i know they have other newer places, but that's the only one i've been to.

        my other suggestion is a tableclothed place right down the street from us called bangkok 900. i'm a tom kah gai addict and they make a very nice one, bright with lemongrass and galangal. the seafood salad (bangkok bay) is always perfectly done and refreshing, especailly in weather like this.

        someone also suggested the possibility of having a potluck bbq, which i could definately go along with, but then again, when Would i turn down food?!

        1. re: Rochelle

          Just want to add to the chorus and say how much fun dinner was; the husband too had a great time. We were shocked to see that it was nearly ten when we left the restaurant.

          My favorite dish was the fish custard, would definitely return for this dish alone. The quail came in a close second. Quail is my mom's favorite dish, perhaps we should bring her to Battambang when she's next in town.

          And thanks to all for the wonderful wines, cookies and danish, and especially to Melanie for organizing the get-together. I don't suppose we'll be getting the opportunity to eat out much in the future. But who knows, maybe we'll have one of those marvelous breeds, a chowbaby -- who sleeps and gurgles peacefully during long restaurant meals! One can always hope :)

          Rachel Hope

          1. re: Rachel Hope

            where are my manners? Melanie and Nancy thanks for the great wines, where was the bubbly from? i especailly enjoyed it in the heat, light, fruity and refreshing.

            and Caitlin, the danish was delish, i was just sorry i didn't have 1/2 a dozen more...

            and Jennifer, i thought of something i should have mentioned last night re: the bar mitzvah, would you mind emailing me?

            again, thanks to all

            rochelle

            1. re: Rachel Hope

              Rachel, I'm so glad we were able to squeeze you and Tim in. It was wonderful to see you at this exciting time and pat your growing tummy. Alex is going to be beside herself when she reads what she missed out on. The original idea for this dinner was for the two of us to check out the quail appetizer here.

              For the record, the wines were

              2 bottles of Prosecco imported by Kermit Lynch (Cheryl)
              2000 Giesen Canterbury Rieling from NZ (Nancy)
              1997 Merkelbach Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett (Melanie)
              1996 Argyle Oregon Vin Gris of Pinot Noir (Rochelle)

              Sadly, the vin gris (rose') was oxidized and was probably damaged somewhere in the distribution channel before Rochelle purchased it. Tim recognized the nutty nose as characteristic of madeira, i.e., maderized.

              On a hot night like we had yesterday, my favorite was the Prosecco, but perhaps because it was first up and served the coldest!

            2. re: Rochelle

              Great to meet you! Very brave of you to take your first BART trip.

              Wonderful cookies, thanks for bringing 'em, definitely keepers. I think Tim was about to lynch me when I suggested you offer them to the kitchen instead of another pass around the table. (g)

              The quail we had at our end of the table (three orders in all) were two quail per plate, each cut into three pieces crosswise. They looked like pieces of fat sausage with a couple of wing nubs sticking out of one end and tiny drumsticks on the other.

            3. re: Tida

              Wasn't that sweet of Caitlin and Mike to bring us Nabalom's best-of-show danish? It was great to have our honorary Bay Area member in our midst. So chowhoundy of her to proselytize for a bakery that's easy to miss.

              Thank you for typing in the menu. Like Cheryl, I found the cuisine in between Thai and Vietnamese, with perhaps more French/Chinese influence showing through in its refinement. For Eric's benefit, the dishes were more complex and detailed than Vietnamese and not as sharply defined as Thai. As you say, softer and subtle, but not sacrificing any flavor.

              The amok trei was the best I've had here of that type of dish. We had the Malay version at Chowhound #2 get-together, and I've had Thai versions made with halibut. Battambang's was creamier and more luscious with coconut cream. They said they use catfish which probably gives it more unctuous textures.

              The green papaya salad sort of fell out for me, not bad, just not up to the standard of the rest. It had all the right stuff in it, but the flavors didn't seem integrated. I suspect that the dressing wasn't pounded into the papaya shreds as a Thai restaurant would do.

              The service was wonderful, even when it came to wine, which is the exception in an Asian restaurant. We were embraced like old friends.

              Let me mention that the tariff per person was only $25. That included double orders of all those dishes, several cold drinks, corkage fee, and we added another 20% tip on top of the 15% service we were charged for a large party. Such a deal!

            4. j
              Judith Hurley

              Maybe I missed something . . . could we have the name of the Cambodian restaurant in Oakland? It sounds great.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Judith Hurley

                Battambang at 850 Broadway (9th Street), next to Jade Villa. 510-839-8815

                1. re: Judith Hurley

                  I see that Tida has filled you in.

                  Judith, there's another Cambodian restaurant, Chez Sovan, in Campbell down your way that gets good press. If you have a chance to try both places, I'd love to hear a comparison.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
                    j
                    Judith Hurley

                    Well, Melanie, I'll have to try Battambang to give you a comparison report, and I'd be hopeless on authenticity in any case. We've eaten at Chez Sovan many times. It's an inexpensive family run restaurant, completely unpretentious. Sovan's children are often the servers and Sovan herself is usually in the kitchen. The food is good -- aromatic and mostly quite light (except for the stews). A large salad is large enough for four to share as a first course, and the skewered chicken and pork appetizers are delicious. The amok sounds simpler than the one at Batambang -- they offer either chicken or catfish, steamed in a banana leaf. An unrestrained dinner for four, factoring in a round or two of beers, might set you back sixty or seventy dollars. I'm not sure I'd travel the peninsula for it, but it's a great place to go after work.

                    1. re: Judith Hurley

                      Thanks for the word on Chez Sovan. I keep hoping I'll land a client in the South Bay again to give me a launch pad for checking out your many recommendations, Judith.

                2. Hey Cheryl! Could you tell how RELIEVED I was that everything turned out so well? I dropped a note to my friend Sid at Rosenblum Cellars to thank him for the hot tip on the restaurant and the quail.

                  I have the same dishes as my top three. It was pretty funny when you asked where'd the smokey aroma come from all of a sudden, and I pointed to the eggplant dish in front of you. It was definitely SMOKEY!

                  The Prosecco from Kermit Lynch was very fine. Better than the genre with light texture, strong mineral character and just a little sweetness to highlight the floral qualities. Thanks so much for bringing those two bottles! What was the producer again?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Melanie - I could definately see the relief that all was well (and so much more!)

                    the Prosecco is from (if I'm reading the label right) - Adriano Adami. I know about a month ago Kermit Lynch (on San Pablo and Cedar in Berkeley, for those SF folks who want to make a field trip of it!) was out of it - but was told they'd have some more soon. I was just there today picking up a couple of bottles that were in their latest brochure but I forgot to check to see if they'd gotten more prosecco in yet.

                    thanks again (and Jennifer - I found my menu - I knew I had picked one up, just couldn't find it this a.m., so thanks for the offer to fax it to me!)

                    1. re: Celery
                      m
                      Melanie Wong

                      Yes, that sounds right, it's a goody. A trip to Kermit Lynch can be a wonderful field trip including lunch at neighbor Cafe Fanny, pick up some bread at Acme and stop by the Cheese Board. I had friends visit from Atlanta last year and they set a day aside to do exactly that.

                  2. j
                    Jennifer Fish Wilson

                    Hope Battambang gets some more biz out of our raves--it really was a delightful dinner.
                    Thought you might enjoy my Jewish mother's email response to her baby (46 yr old) daughter going to dinner with complete strangers met on the Internet:
                    "You had dinner with people you met on the Internet????!! Don't you know how dangerous that is? Just you? It wasn't "Slavemaster" was it? That's that guy here (in Kansas City) who met all those girls on the internet and killed them. As your mother, I am going to have to start censoring your internet mail." So if you don't see me at the next Chowhound dinner you'll know I've been grounded. (g)

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Jennifer Fish Wilson
                      c
                      Caitlin McGrath

                      Jennifer, my mother told me last night that there are more than ten couples currently, and a number of now best and lifelong friends, who met via the internet running mailing list I mentioned at dinner, and they get a couple hundred people from all over at each annual meeting. In over ten years, no real people problems. I guess the key is to be selective re the virtual communities you hang out in...uh, just like in "real life."

                      P.S. Obviouslty, *my* mother didn't think my going to dinner with a bunch of folks known (previously) only on line was at all worrisome.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                        j
                        Jennifer Wilson

                        Caitlin: Pls have your mother call my mother. (g) My husband's response was the opposite of my mother's--he had no concerns bec he assumes people who are interested in food are automatically good people. Thx again for the wonderful pastries. A coworker says they remind him of cherry knishes he used to eat in NYC. (Was your Berkeley Bowl pilgrimage depressing? You can always holler and I'll ship you care packages or smuggle in goodies when I visit NYC.)

                        1. re: Jennifer Wilson
                          m
                          Melanie Wong

                          Jennifer, that's too funny! But completely understandable. Thanks so much for your legwork on the ground with dinner arrangements. Hope to see you soon!

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            j
                            Jennifer Fish Wilson

                            My mom's email response to Caitlin re her mom:
                            "Have you been making fun of me?
                            I guess it's okay to meet people who just like to eat. Just don't run away from home and take the Greyhound to meet any of them at a sleazy motel.
                            I know about these things. I watch Montel and Sally."

                            Melanie: I'm watching Oakland Farmer's Market from my office window--can see the naan vendor. Holler next time you're in Oakland on a Friday morning and I'll meet you. Idea for another Chowhound group activity--we can shop together @ Farmer's Markets!

                            1. re: Jennifer Fish Wilson

                              Like the farmers' market idea! I shop at the Alemany Farmers' Market in SF every Saturday morning (early), then maybe go to a specialty market afterwards (Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, etc.). If there's interest Chowhounds are welcome to join sometime for group shopping, then maybe lunch somewhere... June 9? June 16?

                              Best,
                              Deb H.

                              1. re: Deb H.
                                m
                                Melanie Wong

                                That's a wonderful idea. Don't wait for me cause June and July are tied up with grad parties, mother, dad and brother birthdays, fathers day, and parents anniversary. Very family intensive weekends mid-summer. But I'll be watching for the reports and will join you later.

                              2. re: Jennifer Fish Wilson
                                m
                                Melanie Wong

                                Jennifer,

                                Wasn't able to visit the market's naan guy today, but you put the idea in my head and I picked up dinner from Naan 'n' Curry tonight. Good as ever. Don't you think it would be fun to shop the Oakland market, Housewives, then stroll across the street for dim sum at Jade Villa?

                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                  j
                                  Jennifer Fish Wilson

                                  You're on--pick a Friday and we'll post the date. Jade Villa can handle a big group of us--as long as we're divisible by three like most of the dim sum. We can stop by Ratto's and stroll through Chinatown too. Let's get those Oakland first-timers back for a tour (if their passports are still good). We can store our shopping perishables in my office fridge while we eat dim sum.

                                  1. re: Jennifer Fish Wilson

                                    You've thought of everything! Just let me get through the early summer crunch...

                            2. re: Jennifer Wilson
                              c
                              Caitlin McGrath

                              Jennifer, my BB trip was wonderful. I'll just get depressed in another week when I have to leave it all behind. I'm about to go back now--on a Saturday! You see how crazed i am, I can't stay away!

                        2. c
                          Caitlin McGrath

                          Yes, it was lots of fun, and yummy! Mike and I really enjoyed ourselves and it was great to meet all of you. Thanks for giving us such a nice start to our vacation. Thanks especially to Melanie for making it possible for me to meet some Bay Area chowhounds by putting it all together and for choosing wisely from the menu--the catfish custard was new to me and very good, and Mike and I both liked the duck a lot, too, which, as Nancy pointed out, did not seem fatty but was very tender. Thanks also to all who brought wine, and to Rochelle for the yummy cookies.

                          I'm glad you all enjoyed mt favorite danish so much; I'll post location info about Nabalom on a separate thread (don't want to miss another opportunity to evangelize [g]).

                          The Bay Area food discussion was great, and I made a pilgrimmage to Berkeley Bowl today, where I spent a lot of time wandering the produce aisles, sniffing and looking, bought wonderful ripe strawberries and organic cherries, stocked up on Kozlowski Farms vinegars and fruit spread, and bought my obligatory-when-in-California Odwalla blackberry fruit shake, among other things. Tomorrow I'm collecting Meyer lemons from the family tree to bake blueberry lemon bars for a family gathering.

                          Hope to see you all again next time I'm in town!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                            m
                            Melanie Wong

                            We were honored to have you with us, Caitlin. Come home and visit more often - let's hope the fare wars for this route stay hot.

                            I was gracious and gave my share of Danish to Nancy in honor of her first ever meal in the East Bay. Maybe we can get her to come back again. And you just reminded me that I should post on another bakery.

                            Back to Cambodian, I thought the duck was quite good. The leanest I've ever seen. I had ordered the eggplant, crepe and fish custard because I've these dishes at other Cambodian restaurants and wanted to compare the results. I think Battambang is the best so far.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I had the most fantastic time at dinner and hope Melanie knows how much I appreciate her sacrifice. It certainly made a delicious treat for the drive back across the bay. My experience encourages me to return and see what else the east bay has to offer. From the sound of it, plenty. It was wondeful of everyone to be so willing to share their time and treats (i.e. cookies and pastries and wine, oh my...) Not only did the food prove to be wonderful, but the company did as well. Best wishes to all.

                              1. re: Nancy Reyes

                                You couldn't wait --- you ate the danish in the car?!? I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. Don't be a stranger, Nancy.