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Teach Me Something New About Berkeley/Albany -- Anything

I'm fixed for pizza--Nizza La Bella, Gioia, Cheeseboard, and Pie in the Sky--but that's about it.

Otherwise, my ignorance is vast. I'd especially like to know about pho, Thai noodles, Indian chicken and lamb curries, Mexican-American.

But really those are just examples. Anything you really like a lot is great.

G

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  1. Best Thai food in Berkeley is at Wat Mongkolratanaram, the Buddhist temple, 9-2 on Sundays.

    Indian: Vik's, Udupi Palace, Indus Village

    Mexican: go to Oakland

    17 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I love both Vik's and Udupi Palace and they fill my vegi Indian niche quite nicely. I've been wondering about Indus Village for a while, so I'll check it out.

      Thanks for the tip on the Buddhist temple as well.

      G

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I've been wanting to try the Buddhist Temple on Sundays. Tell me a little more about it please.

        1. re: SamuelA.L.

          My favorites there are the papaya salad, the pad thai, and the coconut-chive dumplings for dessert.

          1. re: SamuelA.L.

            It helps to bring friends. If you don't, you'll have to stand in one line after another. I like the papaya salad and chicken with sticky rice.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            I recommend Plearn, on University (near Ryowa).
            For Indian, still have a soft spot for Naan n' Curry Telegraph.
            Pho Hoa on Shattuck is good.
            Haven't had good Mexican in Berkeley yet.

            And, since we've been talking abt Chinese, no one mentioned Shanghai Restaurant on Durant & Telegraph. 3 for $15! Can you beat that? I recommend the pork spareribs, lion's head meatballs, pea sprouts, and the EGGPLANT with pork. Oh, and of course the xiaolongbao (altho they can be off sometimes).

              1. re: Gerard

                One of the first Thai places to open in Berkeley. It's been at 2050 University between Milvia and Shattuck for years.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I'm curious, is that also the same one as in Walnut Creek?

                2. re: Gerard

                  I think I was one of Plearn's best customers while I lived in Berkeley. I somehow got an invitation to the grand opening of their current location, a buffet, and still remember one unique dessert (not on the menu). One thing you find about their cooking: they are little heavier on the sugar than other places. I believe the owner is from Hat Yai, in Songkhla province, which is not far from Malaysia (but, fortunately, mostly spared the current violence in the three Southernmost provinces). As far as I can tell, though, the menu does not especially feature Southern Thailand specialties (no gaeng som, no kua kling).

                3. re: diluxe

                  Plearn? It's still there? It used to be my favorite Thai restaurant. Their stuffed chicken wings were fabulous. I heard that they'd gone way downhill and haven't been there in probably 5 years.

                  1. re: diluxe

                    The Berkeley Shanghai closed. Oakland branch still good.

                    1. re: diluxe

                      Plearn has great Tom Ka Gai. I cant find anyplace which makes it better.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      When I went to the Buddhist Temple I found the food extremely mediocre. The soup tasted overwhelmingly of five spice. Everything was bland and lukewarm. The food was overpriced too. It is touted as a donation kind of meal but then there are prices on it. What gives???

                      1. re: finchycocoa

                        It's a fundraiser for the church.

                        The papaya salad's $3, cheaper than any of the Thai restaurants I know and better than any in the East Bay. I don't know anyplace else to get those coconut-chive dumplings, which come hot off the cooker at $3 for a dozen (sometimes more) are a bargain.

                        1. re: finchycocoa

                          Yes, most of the food there is mediocre, as it is donated by the samem restaurants that we love to pan here. The trick is to find the things like the papaya salad that are still made by the loving hands of the volunteers. Otherwise, you might as well eat anywhere on University Ave. where at least the food will be hot. At the other two Thai temples, the volunteers still do nearly all, if not all, the cooking and the overall quality is better.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            I never knew that. All the stuff I like, I see them make it on the spot.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              The stuff you like (me too) --- mango rice, papaya salad, fried chicken, kanom krok --- those are made on site. Most of the steam table stuff is not. As the meal at the Berkeley temple became well-known, it was just impossible for the church ladies to do all the cooking themselves. The price of success.

                              That's why I prefer San Bruno's temple. Yes, it's smaller and has less selection on nonfeast days, but it is much more consistent and the food has the personal touch. What's there is really good. The fried chicken is very consistent, whereas I've had some overly dry birds in berkeley. In San Bruno the green papaya is cut by hand with a knife, the old-fashioned way. And, now that it has kanom krok too, I have no reason to go to Berkeley's temple.

                      2. Not sure how much of this is "new" but these are some of my regular spots:

                        Indian lamb and chicken curries - Ajanta on Solano
                        Japanese noodles - O Chame on 4th St.
                        Thai satay and spring rolls - Andy & Cindy's @ the Tuesday & Saturday Farmers' Market
                        Casual French, great lunch - Gregoire on Shattuck
                        Breakfast/Brunch - 900 Grayson
                        Mexican American (if you don't want to go to Oakland) - Picante on 6th

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          Tried 900 Grayson on your rec. Thanks. The "Demon Lover"--spicy chicken paillard and waffle with white gravy--was very good.

                          G

                          1. re: Gerard

                            where is 900 greyson? and what kind of food is it?

                              1. re: fatz

                                Good for breakfast. Haven't tried anything else.

                                G

                                1. re: fatz

                                  Cal-Cuisine greasy spoon. Big portions of well executed comfort food featuring excellent ingredients. Open for breakfast brunch and lunch.

                            1. For noodles, try Ryowa Ramen. Order the Ryowa ramen with special noodles. (Special noodles are no longer listed on the menu but they still have them.)

                              Picante is bland. If you must go, try the papas y chorizo. But really for Mexican food you want to head south to Fruitvale or north to Richmond.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                I liked Ryowa. I should go back.

                                After spinning the little wheel in my head, I've finally settled on not liking Picante. One exception is the soup, which is decent.

                                G

                                1. re: Gerard

                                  Yah, the soup is one of the better things, if not the best.

                              2. I've compiled a list: Kirala, on Shattuck for Sushi.
                                Picante, on Sixth for just simple fresh mexican like tacos. I agree they're tacos are only OK, but he said he wanted places in Berkeley/Albany. But my view is if you want real good mexican go to the Mission or Fruitvale. But go to Fruitvale in the early evening for obvious reasons.
                                China Village on Solano for szechuan chinese food.
                                And Dara for lao cuisine( Very similar to Thai). Dara is right next to Cha-am on Shattuck.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: SamuelA.L.

                                  China Vilage is great. Try:

                                  Szechwan home style chicken
                                  West Style Spicy Fish
                                  dry-cooked bamboo shoots

                                  Kirala's fine but lots of other places do sushi as well or better without the long wait in line.

                                  1. re: SamuelA.L.

                                    I like China Village a lot.

                                    Dara shoots to the top of my list. Thanks.

                                    G

                                    1. re: Gerard

                                      next time you go to china village get the lamb (i forgot what it was called exactly but its spicy and sliced) with the sesame flat bread. why the combination is as wonderful as it is i have no idea, but they are divine together!

                                      1. re: fatz

                                        The Village Specialty Lamb is the only lamb on the menu beside Mongolian Lamb which wouldn't be what you ordered. I heard the lamb was a little dry, but I'll try it.

                                  2. I'm not sure if Mexican in Berkeley is completely hopeless. I've generally enjoyed tacos (especially the prawn and fish tacos) and burritos at Cancun, most of the salsas in the elaborate salsa bar need a little salt on some days, but not always, if you taste and then add a little yourself they can be really great. Juan's down on 6th is also good for giant plates of sit down mexican food, I haven't been in a while but I remember liking the enchiladas. Long wait usually, but lots of fun. With your request phrased as Mexican-American I think either of these would fit the bill nicely, the former being in the Californian/Low Grease/Lots of interesting salsa's slant, and the latter being in the more heavy Mexican-American vein.

                                    For non-sunday-morning thai food I've always liked Cha Am on Shattuck, particularly the Cha Am Noodles which are nice and spicy with ground chicken, green beans, and basil.

                                    Rick and Ann's over near Clairmont is also amazing for breakfast. Red flannel hash was particularly good as I remember.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: China

                                      Cancun can be decent, especially if you're looking for a healthier burrito option, i.e., the grilled chicken. Not the Holy Grail, though.

                                      G

                                      1. re: China

                                        > Juan's down on 6th is also good for giant plates of sit down mexican
                                        > food, I haven't been in a while but I remember liking the enchiladas.

                                        I may not have been since the 1980s (!!), but back then I loved the flautas. It's actually closer to 8th Street.

                                        1. re: Jefferson

                                          Juan's is on the corner of 9th and Carlson. It's exactly the same as when I started eating there in 1983 (except for the prices!).

                                        2. re: China

                                          I thought Juan's Place was bad, the kind of Mexcian-American food I'd expect in, say, Nebraska. Would not go back.

                                          Same goes for Celia's.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Yeah, I did not like Juan's. Mario's La Fiesta is better if you like those huge plates. I thought Cactus was pretty good. But the best Mexican (tacos, I mean) I have had are at September 16th on Internat'l Blvd in Fruitvale (stop by the market a few blocks away for tamarind on a stick, dipped in your choice of sugar or chili powder...MMM). The closest thing in Berkeley is probably the taco truck on Bancroft & Telegraph. Not the best, but pretty good. My favorite is carnitas.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              oh oh... mexican from juans would've been a BLESSING when I drove across country through nebraska (or was it south dakota?) ;)

                                            2. re: China

                                              Rick and Ann's Red Flannel Hash YUM! I miss that place.

                                            3. Great China on Kittredge has some great dishes: double skin, tea smoked duck...
                                              Chaya on Shattuck for veg from japanese temple cuisine.
                                              Venus has a nice brunch.
                                              For cheap and good Shanghai cuisine try Shanghai on Durant by the food court.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: maus1

                                                We went to Great China the other night. As always, talked about trying something new but ended up with "double skin" and tea smoked duck. Found out from the server that "double skin" refers to the mung bean noodles--they're made in folded-over sheets or something. Also learned that what I thought was textured soy something is actually sliced pork tenderloin.

                                                1. Sushi Sho for sushi is amazing though the seating is limited.
                                                  Ajanta for Indian. Kennsington Bistro for Sunday brunch. Seasalt for their oyster happy hour (although that's by University).

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Missmoo

                                                    Kensington Bistro ... yes, yes, yes ... get the Sunday scones ... and the English muffin bread ... and the Number nine ... I gotta go back there for those blue cheese potato chips

                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                      I really need to try this place, especially since it's in walking distance.

                                                      G

                                                    2. re: Missmoo

                                                      I really like Ajanta. Before it made the list of fish not to order, I regularly enjoyed the Tandoori (Chilean) Sea Bass, which had perfect spicing and texture. Last time I went there, we sat on the opposite side of the restaurant from our usual table, and it was the first time I noticed a huge mural of topless women along one of the walls. Not what you expect when having lunch out with your Mom!

                                                      1. re: Missmoo

                                                        Sushi Sho will close in a few years when the current lease runs out. Rents are just too high. From the mouth of Aki-san. That's why BenDean next door closed so quickly.

                                                        1. re: Mark in CA

                                                          That's a shame! Sushi Sho is fantastic.

                                                      2. awesome israel food at holy land restaurant on College. Try the Israeli malt drink too (albeit a bit expensive)

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: dkgoody

                                                          I liked it a lot.

                                                          Still looking for a more Lebanese-y shawerma, though (and La Mediterranee doesn't do it for me).

                                                          G

                                                          1. re: Gerard

                                                            holy land shines on the falafel front and has excellent hummus. A good shawarma string on the hound might be worthwhile. Israeli shawarma is gennerallyy turkey. Arab is generally lamb. Both good a bit different. I have not been able to find Turkey shawarama anywhere in the Bay Area.

                                                            1. re: Gerard

                                                              Best shawerma is at the top of solano near the tunnel.

                                                          2. i practically lived off buchannon (sp?) for the longest time. i really can't remember all the names but we used to dine on solano ave often, most memorable is gordo's for mexican and zachary's for deep dish pizza. other places we'd go to is the durant food court, the italian place in there is great and so is thai basil. thai food is actually abundent in berkely/albany/richmond. there's a thai joint on san pablo opposite of the target in richmond. it's located in a hotel and on a raised platform/bridge almost. the thai place on san pablo in albany is very good, i can't remember the name but it's by griffen motorwerke. taupe colored house with a colorful neon sign. on university ave there's a good thai place as well next to the good will. crepes a go go is always a hit, and so is top dog. i can't remember everything, but i am fond of kips, blondies, and fat slice for pizza. you have to remember this is all on a college student's budget.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: wchane

                                                              I find Zachary's doughy, gloppy deep-dish unacceptable given the alternatives of Little Chicago (takeout only) or heading into SF for Little Star.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                I agree. But I'm someone who hates deep dish anyway. A thin New York Style slice is the pizza that I grew up on.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Last time a tried Little Chicago's number (this was a few weeks ago) their number was disconnected. I'll have to see if they switched phone numbers.

                                                              2. Nefeli Cafe on Hearst and Euclid for homey Greek food and an everchanging fruit salad with yogurt and nuts

                                                                1. I do enjoy the tostada salad with pollo asado.

                                                                  1. the cheeseboard at shattuck is just awesome. great cheese and pizza.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: cheesy boy

                                                                      It is very good, but as a native New Yorker, I find the dough a bit too bready.

                                                                    2. Trattoria de Siciliana on College south of Ashby across from the Elmwood theatre. Outstanding!!!

                                                                      Either Cactus Tacqueria; one on Solano in North Berkeley, one on College across from the Rockridge BART station.

                                                                      1. I'd just like to add in another two cents in favor of Udupi Palace. The batura bread is out of this world and is so puffy it looks like a gigantic blowfish. The mango lassis will knock your socks off.

                                                                        As for the Thai Brunch, I'd also recommend the mango sticky rice. Pretty good and starchy cure for a hangover.

                                                                        Finally, for a fancier brunch, try La Note on Shattuck. The creme fraiche pancakes are bomb.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: goatcheesey

                                                                          Wow, haven't been to La Note in years. Loved the merguez sausage and tranquil atmosphere. (I think this location used to be the Yellow House/Continental Garden when I was in college.)

                                                                          Menu: http://www.lanoterestaurant.com/menuf...

                                                                        2. Gordo's on Solano for fast no frills burrito (may get flamed for this, but I love their burritos)

                                                                          Sugata for their Yosenabe (seafood soup, veggies with yam noodles in a very light seafood broth).

                                                                          Royal cafe for their warm scones with lemon curd that comes with your breakfast (the breakfast is only so-so).

                                                                          Solano bar and grill for the value.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: theSauce

                                                                            Not by me... Gordo's Carnitas is as good as anywhere in the world, and I'll include fruitvale.

                                                                            As to Cactus - far downhill from many moons ago, but a "standard burrito" in that they have all the normal meats and a few more. Place is "kid friendly" - ie, avoid squishing the rug rats.

                                                                            At Gordo's, the regular burrito is just right - the carnitas taste just assaults you repeatedly. Although it's technically in Albany....

                                                                          2. Razan's Organic Kitchen just off of Oxford on Kittredge has surprisingly good shawarma -- much smaller version than what I had in Syria, but tasty and inexpensive compared to the rest of the menu at this tiny takeout place.

                                                                            1. For the all out best food in Berkeley (not to mention most of the Bay Area), Rivoli on Solano gets my vote.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Mark in CA

                                                                                Jeez, haven't eaten there in a few years. Do they still have those mushroom fritters? Since I learned to make them, I don't drive across town.

                                                                              2. We used to live by Lake Merritt, but some of our favorite places to eat were in Albany.

                                                                                Katana-ya on San pablo ave was awesome - they have sushi, etc, but also good ramen. Good broth, chewy noodles.
                                                                                Go further up to Richmond, and there's Daimo - Hong Kong style "cha -chan teng" cafe food, and terrific HK style milk tea.
                                                                                Daimo's also close to Saigon Seafood restaurant... Not to be mistaken for Vietnamese food. I think they erred in the spelling, as the Chinese refers to "Sai-Kung" a fishing village in Hong Kong. Lotsa fresh fish swimming in tanks - that's the expensive stuff, but their other menu items are pretty tasty too.

                                                                                If you want Pho, you should go to Oakland. Pho Hoa Lao on Int'l Blvd is the mainstay, but there are lots of good pho places on the same street. Also good pho in chinatown.

                                                                                Thai food - Asia Thai Noodle, also on Int'l Blvd. This guy and his mom used to have Thai restaurants in LA too, but moved to the North bay. They have FANTASTIC crab fried rice, and shrimp paste fried rice.

                                                                                1. I'm sad to report that Siagon has been closed for ~ 1/2 yr and probably will not be opened again.....word on the street....

                                                                                  1. Ok here's a new one...we ate at Vanessa's and it's excellent. Delicious eclectic small plates with a Vietnamese emphasis. On Solano near where Ben Dean's (we miss ya Ben!) used to be. Not to be mistaken for Bui, which we haven t tried yet. Vanessa beats the Slanted Door hands down!

                                                                                    1. Thai noodle closed, moved to San Jose.

                                                                                      1. Le Regal on center and shattuck is pretty good for Vietnamese. Though I wanna try Vanessa's on Solano. Ruen Pair on San Pablo for Thai especially if you like spicy. Their spicy will make you sweat and tear. Get their medium if you want a managable level of spicy. I also like Plearn on University. Indian - Vik's, Udupi, Ajanta use to also like Cafe Raj but haven't been in ages.