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Mar 30, 2007 08:16 PM

Thai food in Oakland (Temescal-ish)

We live near Temescal/Piedmont Ave. and have not had any luck finding what we consider to be good Thai food. We're looking for food that we can take home and eat at our house(that's just what works best for us -- we are saving the world from eating with our toddlers) so atmosphere is not a consideration. We have already tried Saysetha on Telegraph and Pearl of Siam on College The kinds of dishes we'd typically order are standard-issue ones like green papaya salad, chicken curry, larb salad, and the like. We would venture into Berkeley but probably not too far north (Cha Am is too far for this purpose). Thanks!

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      1. re: JasmineG

        When I lived in Oakland, I used to order the larb gai there once a week to go.
        It's really good, especially when it's done right with the peanuts and ginger.
        I'd get it with the sticky rice, take it home and add more cabbage, mesclun and dried chilies.
        Not a huge portion, but a good option for the neighborhood.

      2. There is no great Thai in the Temescal or Piedmont Ave. neighborhoods. Champa Garden is just on the other side of the lake, and it has many great dishes (though some are pretty ordinary). We're talking a 15 minute drive. And you really needn't bother protecting this place from your toddlers. It's very casual.

        Soi 4 on College is quite tasty, but I like it much more for sit-down than take-out. Servings are not large (w/ the exception of noodles at lunch). They're not stingy, but they don't really fit the big bucket o' take-out mold. I think part of what you're paying for is the nice room and the neighborhood, so it seems funny to pay the price if you're not going to experience them.

        Other than that, the best option I've found is Lotus on Piedmont. Nice people and generally decent food. Not a destination place, but a decent choice if it's convenient. But only if it's convenient. Certainly better than the Chinese options on Piedmont. Quality can, however, vary. Some nights they're just off. Sad because once upon a time ago they were really pretty good. The eggplant salad and pork with eggplant are among the more reliable dishes. Curries are okay too. The sea bass special used to be amazing, but was not good the last time I had it. Do not trust them re: how long your order will take. If you add ten minutes to whatever they say, you'll be in the right ballpark.

        1. Sabuy Sabuy

          Broadway at College

          If you order the right dishes its fantastic!

          9 Replies
          1. re: Mission

            What do you recommend at Sabuy Sabuy? Haven't been there for a few years, but do recall a very good green curry that was one of the day's specials.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              The green curry was pretty good last time I was there, although more creamy than spicy. But I felt Sabuy Sabuy went downhill around the time they opened Sabuy Sabuy Jr (since they actually took one of the cooks with them!). Given that they closed that one but opened another one in Walnut Creek, I'm not sure how it is these days. They do have a nice patio, though...

              1. re: Marc Wallace

                There's also another in Berkeley on San Pablo near Meal Ticket. It gets a favorable mention occasionally. I liked it a while back, but I'm no one to reccomend Thai food.

              2. re: Melanie Wong

                At Sabuy Sabuy on College, we like the tung tong (deep-fried packets of spiced potato) and the rung nok (ground meat/shrimp rolled in strands of egg roll wrapper and deep fried). The yellow curry is very good. Panang curry is good too. Often (not always) the deep-fried fish dishes are good.

                Most of the stir-fried dishes we've tried aren't good. The pad thai was awful.

                I agree that it isn't as good as it was 5 years ago. And it isn't nearly as good as Champa Garden.

                1. re: jmarek

                  The sad thing is that about 15-20 years ago Temescal had a super Thai restaurant , right next to the old Post office.
                  They had the best clay pot Tom Yum Goong on the planet ! $3.95
                  $1 beers
                  You could eat like Kings and Queens for $10 each.

                  I still remember the huge jars of Skippy peanut butter in the kitchen that they used for some of the currys.

                  I think they packed up and opened a Thai restaurant in Davis.

                  Anyone else remember that place? I think it was called Siam?

                  1. re: Mission

                    Siam Cafe, I think. It was a favorite of ours. The location is now a Chinese place.
                    They also had a branch (or maybe the original) on San Pablo Avenue, near Alcatraz Avenue in North Oakland.

              3. re: Mission

                The last time that we went to Sabuy Sabuy, the food was horrible and the poor lone server was so frazzled and indifferent (not very Thai!) that I have not been back. SO, what are the right dishes?
                I usually go to Saysetha for it's proximity to home and the really friendly staff and decent food.

                1. re: jdm

                  We tried Saysetha based on some favorable reports, but found the food to be overly sweet, and without any layers of flavor.

                  1. re: mutterer

                    We liked Saysetha because it was friendly, and quiet (carpeted floor, high ceiling, tables not crowded together).
                    Also it's very close to us.
                    But the last time we went there, a few weeks ago, we thought the food was not so good -- maybe a change in chefs.
                    The food wasn't ever really great, though, even before this recent experience. Just a nice neighborhood place.

              4. Is it just me, or has there an across the board degradation of Thai?

                Last night SO and I went to Bangkok Gardens in Palo Alto (an old favorite of hers), and had one winner dish (duck fresh rolls) and two losers (a "hot and sour" with very overdone meat, and a thai cashew chicken without any heat).

                We usually end up at Amerin in MV, but I'm worried - again, a problem with flat cashew chicken. We tried Thaifoon in PA last week, and it was decent. We'll have to give it a few more tries before it makes the regular list.

                In Berkeley, the problem's worse. Cha'am has gone from "default thai" to "maybe, if the specials are good". Plearn went from very good to meh. Everyone likes Ruen Pair, but I've never had a dish that wowed me. I would say my favorite now is Tuk Tuk (and, actually, not a terrible shot from Temescal - cut over to MLK - parking is always better than expected) - which is likely good for takeout.

                During my time in that hood, I always thought Pearl of Siam was decent, but haven't been in years - another casualty? Pearl gets a good rating in Yelp.

                What we've gained in the last 15 years more than makes up for it (improved chinese, Vietnamese for the masses, Beer, and *Korean*), but ... is it just me? Or is there a real cycle - one wave of immigrants not being replaced? Anyone got insight?

                But - for the OP - I got no real help for you, other than an admonishment along the lines of the now-old song - love the one you're with. You've got some good eats in the part of town, and the koreans love toddlers.

                10 Replies
                1. re: bbulkow

                  I'm not sure that Plearn, Cha Am, and other old standards are any different than they used to be.

                  My own standards have gotten higher thanks to Thai House Express, Champa Garden, the papaya salad at Wat Mongkolratanaram, and some Cambodian and Vietnamese restaurants that make more or less similar dishes.

                  I find Tuk Tuk inconsistent.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Does anyone have specific recommendations for Tuk Tuk?

                    1. re: MargotB

                      The BBQ pork with half-pickled cabbage is good, unless they've run out of the half-pickled cabbage. Papaya salad's OK. Curries vary. I haven't been happy with their noodles.

                      I only eat at Tuk Tuk because they're open late.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I like their space, location, and hours, so was hoping for a more enthused recommendation! Unfortunate.....

                        Is Little Plearn on Shattuck any better than "main" Plearn on University now that it's gone downhill?

                  2. re: bbulkow

                    I'd say the degradation has been going on for at least a decade. Hardly anyone makes their own curry paste anymore, the range of chilis and herbs used is much less diverse, and pre-sliced frozen meats are now the norm.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      ... which is why Champa Garden is such a great find. From what I understand, they make almost everything in house. Just one example: the pandan "jelly cup" dessert (don't know what the proper name is) -- they make the pandan "noodles" from stratch, and milk the coconuts themselves. That's why it's only available certain days.

                    2. re: bbulkow

                      I know, I know, we truly do live in a food nirvana. We love it! But we (the SO and I) were just wondering whether we were missing something with respect to local Thai. Maybe we weren't?

                      And maybe I'm confused: is there more than one Tuk Tuk? I only know of the one near College and Broadway.

                      1. re: mutterer

                        The Tuk Tuk I know is on Shattuck near Dwight in Berkeley. They also have a grocery store on University near Sacramento.

                        Google finds no other Tuk Tuks in the area.

                        1. re: mutterer

                          College near Broadway... are you thinking of Sabuy Sabuy?

                          EDIT: Haha, I didn't see the posting directly below :)

                          1. re: shortexact

                            ooops. duh. yes i meant sabuy sabuy.