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Aug 26, 2006 02:54 PM

Champa Garden Chowdown part 2

As part of an effort to include more people 13 hounds met for the second lunch at Champa Garden. We were lucky to be able to use previous posts and the experience of the Wednesday group to choose our menu! In accordance with the unwritten rules of Chowing, we ordered many more dishes than can be possibly finished...yet we did a great job of consuming almost evrything!

The company was great and we were also treated to some of Joel's wine (thanks!)

Fried spring rolls
Fried Rice ball salad
Angel wings
Sour sausage with three hot sauces
Eggpland stirfry with bean sauce and basil leaves
Lue noodle soup with fermented bean
Lao noodle soup with rice flour noodles
Whole tilapia in sour tomato sauce
Catfish in penang coconut curry
Papaya salad (thai style)
Beef Larp
Pork Pad se-ew
Green dessert (friday's only)
Mango and tapioca and agar dessert

My own favorites (though I enjoyed all dishes! Not one was below average):

Angel wings were crispy and delicious with the sweet chili sauce.
The catfish is a reason to fly to Oakland from anywhere else in the country!
Fried rice salad is a very satisfying dish combining ying and yang: soft, crispy, salty, sweet, hot, cold!
Larp was my least favorite...a bit too spicy and the beef was almost too mushy.
The soups, particularly the Lue were true comfort foods. The stinky taste added a wonderful note not usual in american cooking.

Thanks to everyone who attended and especially for the owners and staff of the restaurant who were truly incredible (their excitement at having a large group was wonderful) for a great lunch...all for $18 per person including tip!

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  1. My favorites were definitely the fried rice ball salad and the fried spring roll. I could probably eat the rice ball salad everyday, and these spring rolls, stuffed neatly with vermicelli threads and wood ear fungus, were unlike any I've ever tried before. Excellent crunch without the grease I usually associate with spring rolls.

    I also loved both of the desserts, especially the mango-tapioca-agar (although I thought the mango was cantaloupe?). Served atop small ice cubes floating in coconut milk, it was light and refreshing. Was the green dessert really made of cucumber? Whatever it was, it had a wonderful slippery texture.

    The young owners were incredibly enthusiastic and friendly, and the business here is definitely hopping. (Okay, I'll admit it...I went back there at dinner time for a take-out order of the rice ball salad. I just couldn't get it off my mind! As at lunch, the place was packed.)

    Thank you again, Marlon, for organizing, and thanks to everyone for the spirited company!

    1. Marlon, Add my thanks for organizing, ordering, etc.! Having more than one Chow event so that more of us can enjoy a small place was/is a wonderful idea!

      Personally, I consider making the trip from Menlo Park just for the fried rice ball salad totally worth it - this dish reminded me of the crispy rice salad with sour sausage at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas! I'm with Lillian, I could have eaten a whole dish of this by myself! Loved it.

      Loved the sausage too - I found that I liked it better rolled in a lettuce leaf.

      The fried spring rolls were better than any commercial version I've had in quite a long time. I've pretty much given up ordering them because they are usually so disappointing but these were quite nice.

      The eggplant/fried tofu dish was one that I could keep on eating too; eggplant is so nice at this time of the year and the Thai basil leaves and chiffonade of Kaffir lime leaves gave it such a nice fresh taste.

      Being a total sucker for anything made with coconut milk, I really liked the Penang cat fish curry - yummy stuff.

      All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable meal, but what made it so much more enjoyable for me were the warm personalities of the young men who served us - explaining the dishes and just their friendliness - plus the company of the Chow members in attendance! Good friends, good food and good wine - what more can you hope for!

      1 Reply
      1. re: RWCFoodie

        Yes, when Robert Lauriston asked in his report if any other place made the rice ball salad, I thought "it's a little like the crispy rice and sour sausage at Lotus of Siam."

        This place is Oakland in the very best way: warm, unpretentious, and a reflection of the multi-ethnic community that's natural and uncontrived.

      2. Great food and evne better company. The spicing was more like the real thing (just a little under what Thai would like it, I know because ChowFun was not sweating enough). I would have liked in more if it was a little hotter.

        The sour suasage was the closest to Los of Siam I have had. Dave Fledman you need to come here next time for a chowdown.

        All the dishes were good to excellent expect for the fried fish. I found it a little ouer cooked and just my opinion some fishes are better fried and others are better steamed or poached. That fish should have been steamed and poached not fried.

        I would go for just the suasage, rice salad and curry catfish. Next time in the area I will most likely do that.

        Great find.