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Apr 2, 2013 06:43 PM

Where to go for an adventurous, affordable East Bay birthday dinner for 2?

I'd like to take my fiancé out to his kind of restaurant for his birthday, as we usually go to my type.

His kind means adventuresome: he likes to ask for the non-English menu, to try the unusual (chicken tendons, frogs legs, chrysalis soup, whole sheep head, that's his thing). Spicy food is great, he is always asking for food served not white person spicy, actually spicy (my paraphrasing) but hasn't met his match yet (he's searching for it). The food should be actually really good, not just unusual. He loves big, bold flavors. He likes big filling portions and peasant food, and is not a big fan of fusion/pan asian/California cuisine, especially when it comes with small plates. He wants to be full after a meal.

I'm thinking maybe Asian: Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Thai you name it. I can't eat pork or shellfish, so there needs to be an English menu or a waitstaff who can find me something I can eat, but I'm not picky. This is about indulging his love of the new.

I can go up to about $60 for two people, no drinks, no dessert, but if I can do less, that would be great. We'll be going on a Wednesday night. It doesn't have to be a romantic feel if it's great, but I would like a place where it's quiet enough that we can actually hold a conversation.

Looking for someplace in Berkeley, Oakland, etc. If it's amazing and affordable, I'd go a little further afield but not into the city. Either with reasonable parking nearby or near BART.


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  1. Try Chai Thai Noodles in Oakland and ask for Thai spicy. Get the papaya salad with dried shrimp and crispy mini-crabs, try some of the northern thai dishes you can't really get anywhere else outside of Pok Pok. It's the only thai place where they bring out the spicy carousel of hot sauces, and I don't need it. Too bad China Village isn't back open, that sounds perfect for this.

    1. Padi, the Indonesian restaurant in Berkeley, is good for spicy food. Their sambal is great (over fried hard-boiled eggs or smashed fried chicken); I've never dared to ask for it at the spiciest level.

      Kang Tong Degi serves chrysalis soup and other adventurous Korean items. It's my favorite of the Korean pubs; great vibe, but definitely not fancy. The army stew is great. Also the chicken gizzards.

      For Japanese, I'd consider B-Dama (on Piedmont Ave.) -- it's the only one of the great East Bay izakayas where you'll have a decent chance of staying within your budget.

      1. Kiraku has some out-there dishes and modest prices.

        Of the Korean places, I think Sura has the widest variety.

        1. Thanks. We had a great meal at Kang Tong Degi. We loved it, it was enough food we had leftovers plus a few beers for well under our budget and super yummy. He was delighted. He didn't try the chrysalis soup, he was considering it, as he likes to try weird stuff like that but the waiter dissuaded him, saying its pretty gross. We split the short ribs and the spicy chicken wings. They came with lots of sides of pickles and rice and such, and we got the salad that comes with the grilled meats. He was so happy. Thank you for the suggestions.

          (Full food report will be under the Bay Area Korean Recap thread.)

          1 Reply
          1. re: Magelet

            Thanks for reporting back -- chrysalis soup is pretty intense, and not really in a good way. =)