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Champa Garden SF Branch to open soon -- any favorites?

According to @Ingleside_Light on Twitter, Champa Garden's San Francisco branch could open in 2-3 weeks (613 Faxon at Ocean).

Those of you who who frequent the Oakland Champa Garden, any favorite dishes?

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  1. Appetizer sampler...everything is delicious and green accompaniments are so fresh and tasty. Make sure you request their full tray of condiments...to die for!

    3 Replies
    1. re: macadam

      Second that. Make it two app samplers and nothing else---it's the only thing we've really enjoyed there. Last time we went I was a little surprised at how sweet the rest of the food is.

      1. re: rubadubgdub

        Ordering those three dishes a la carte is cheaper than two samplers and I think more food.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          #14 Champa Sampler $11.95
          #1 Fried Wrapped Spring Rolls $7.95
          #3 Fried Rice Ball Salad - Nam Kaow $6.95
          #12 Lao Sausages $6.95
          agreed, ordering #1, 3, and 12 a la carte is a better value than two Samplers.

      1. That's exciting. I love their rice salad.

        1. Anyone know if it's open yet? Can't find anything online but I'm excited to check it out once it's ready.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Dave MP

            Where did the two or three weeks estimate come from? They're building out the space from scratch, so have a lot of permits and other hoops to jump through.

            http://commissions.sfplanning.org/cpc...

            http://commissions.sfplanning.org/cpc...

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              the timing came from the "workmen"

              this is the Twitter mentioned in the OP => https://twitter.com/Ingleside_Light/s...

              1. re: drewskiSF

                Once the work is finished they have to pass all their inspections.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Okay, so it sounds like it's still a month or two away. Thanks for the updates.

                  1. re: Dave MP

                    Could be today or next year if they're dealing with inspectors.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Inspections aren't a hold up if you do your build out correctly and you're knowledgeable enough to anticipate what the city requires.

          2. Talked to the folks in Oakland today. They said they thought they'd be open by now. Instead of saying "next month" every time anyone asks, they've given up being specific and have no date in mind. The hold-up seems to be the stricter build-out required by PG&E.

            1. Rice Ball Salad
              Lao Sausage
              Kaow Paik (Chicken Noodle Soup)

              1. Does anybody have any news on this? I couldn't find anything online. Thanks.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Offal Lover

                  Probably in the same PG&E / permit hell they were last month. This kind of stuff can drag on for years in SF.

                  1. re: atekate

                    I went by today. A crew was moving in a food display case, and tables and chairs were already in place. I was told they would open :"in a couple of days, as soon as we get our [SFDPH?] card." The menu will be the same as the Oakland location, I was told.

                    1. re: soupçon

                      I've always wanted to try the Champa Garden in Oakland, if only to compare it to my beloved Vientiane. I just googled where it will be in SF, and it looks a bit remote by transit. Could any of you lovely folks give me an idea of whether it would be easier to access the new location or the old from Union Square without a car? Either way, I am waiting with bated breath for reports on the new outpost.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        The Muni KT subway / streetcar stops a block or two away.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          One block from the Jules Avenue stop.

                          Muni Metro is free if they have a Muni passport. BART will cost $7.20 (RT for two from Powell St.)

                        2. re: grayelf

                          I think the new location will be easier to access. Honestly, the fastest way of getting there from Union Square would be to take BART to Balboa Park, and then walk. Google says the walk would take 15 minutes. If you are fast at walking, it will probably be less. It's a bit uphill, but not too bad.

                          You can also take the KT train. From Union Square, you could take it directly there. I think this will take longer than the BART+Walk route, but it would eliminate the walk. Or you could BART to Balboa Park and then take the KT in the other direction from there, or possibly another bus does that route too.

                          That part of Ocean Av. has some interesting stuff that hasn't been super explored on Chowhound. I wonder if there are other good finds in that neighborhood, too.

                          The walk from Lake Merritt BART to Champa Garden Oakland is twice as long, and the BART ride is about the same.

                          1. re: Dave MP

                            From Powell St., either KT outbound or BART to Balboa is about half an hour, if neither is experiencing delays. But why stay in Union Square?

                            Some friends live nearby and say there's currently nothing as good as Champa, so they're excited.

                            1. re: Dave MP

                              You guys are aces, thanks -- it's always helpful to get a feel for transit trips from locals when deciding where to spend valuable dining slots! I've been lucky to have local Hounds with wheels squire us to Vientiane in the past, thus avoiding the convoluted transit that destination requires...

                              1. re: Dave MP

                                Here's my suggestion for a Wednesday-Saturday lunchtime excursion--- take the BART to Balboa, walk toward Champa Garden and pick up a Zanze's cheesecake along the way. .8 mile walk total, and take the KT back.

                                Champa is 1.5 miles from Mt. Davidson Park, the highest point in SF. It houses some nice trails and a 103-foot cross most visitors to SF have never seen from the distance, certainly not up close. There are also Diego Rivera murals at nearby City College.

                                You can even make a day of it, and take the bus to McLaren Park and eat at Beijing Restaurant for dinner. Or other options while down there: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/888067

                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                  That is a great itin, hyperbowler, and much appreciated. Also the link to the other thread, which I overlooked because of geographic cluelessness : -).

                                  1. re: grayelf

                                    Enjoy!

                                    Champa Garden, being the only current Laotian restaurant in SF (is that right?), might bring some attention to the southern parts of SF. These regions are also never covered in the press, at least not since Jonathan Kauffman left sfweekly and Broken Record's previous chefs opened Rickybobby.

                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                      The other SF Lao places I know of closed.

                                  2. re: hyperbowler

                                    Zanze's - City College - Mt. Davidson... there's some distance between these locations, without much worthwhile in between. It sounds good on paper, but I would caution anyone attempting this without a car.

                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                      Balboa Bart and Zanze's is rather suburban.

                                      The walk from Champa to Mt. Davidson is nice and has some nice views and houses along the way. .9 miles from Champa Garden, en route to Mt. Davidson, is the St. Francis Wood stairway walk listed in Ada Bakalinsky's Stairway Walks in San Francisco. Another mile from there and you're at Mt. Davidson, which has another walk listed in that book. Foraging aside, nothing Chow-worthy along the way.

                                      1. re: hyperbowler

                                        People should know what they're getting into.

                                        Champa to Mt. Davidson is 1.4 miles, and almost all winding up steep hills through residential neighborhoods with no direct bus routes, no obvious resting points, and no single walking route.

                                        It's a serious, serous hike before you even get to the park, and not fit for everyone.

                                        You will not pass St. Francis Wood on direct route. That's on the other side of the mountain.

                                        Likewise, Zanze is on the other side of Ocean and would require backtracking, unless you're suggesting circling around via The Woods? That's an ambitious hike from Balboa Bart.

                                        Going by car or taking the 43 from out front City College is very, very much advised. Hikers would do better to arrive from the Glen Park side, where the distance is longer, but the streets are easier to navigate, with a flatter walk, or just start at West Portal.

                                    2. re: hyperbowler

                                      I highly recommend stopping at Zanze if you're in the neighborhood, but you've got your directions scrambled. Champa Garden is about halfway between Balboa BART and Zanze, and the total distance would be 1.5 miles.

                                      Zanze often runs out and closes early, so plan accordingly.

                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/355496

                              2. re: atekate

                                We went over to Champa a few nights ago and I can't say I was very impressed. The rice thing (rice ball salad) is OK and kind of fun, but the beef larb was just plain poor. The chicken noodle soup was tasty and the noodles were good. There is no liquor license yet so no Beer Lao. There are far better Lao places over in San Rafael (e.g. Rose Garden) and far better Thai in SF (e.g. Lers Ros). Not worth the journey from a block away from my perspective.

                                1. re: Thomas Nash

                                  Where is the Rose Garden in San Rafael?

                                  1. re: chefj

                                    I imagine he is referring to the Rose Garden in San Pablo.
                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/668391

                                    (Yeah, I got excited too at the idea that Marin had scored in the Lao department, likewise that Novato might have a 99 Ranch.)

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      I sure did mean San Pablo. Was looking right at it in my address book and typed San Rafael. All these Sans are too much for my East Coast upbringing... Sorry.

                                      1. re: Thomas Nash

                                        San Rafael having a good Lao Restaurant would be a shocker!

                              3. Interestingly enough, I just ran into an Oakland chef who knows the Champa Garden people, and told me the whole cost of building out and opening Champa Garden in SF was being borne by the City.

                                Apparently it's through Ed Lee's "Invest in Neighborhoods" program. The City's role is intimated, though not made explicit, in this article in the SF Business Times,

                                http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancis...

                                1. They are finally open! I didn't catch their hours but on Fridays and Saturdays they close at 9 PM. (415) 349-4186

                                  1. I (whoops, I just had a misfire posting this)...

                                    I just received an update from a neighbor about this restaurant. I'll paraphrase her review: Went on opening night, there were a few 'opening night kinks' to work out but othwerwise, the food was plentiful, the staff was friendly, the menu was reasonably priced and of good quality and vegetarians and carnivores alike were happy with their choices.

                                    1. The appetizer sampler and house special fish were as good, if not better, than what I've had at the Oakland location. Lettuce leaves in the appetizer sampler were huge, and made for easy eating of the rice ball salad. Plenty of mint and cilantro too.

                                      Considering that the appetizer takes up two large plates, the two top was too small for the three dishes we ordered. If they're not busy, a fourtop makes more sense for two people.

                                      The menu seems to have more Thai than Lao items, so I'm glad to have threads like this around to clarify the specialties. The servers all seemed college aged, and I didn't have a chance to ask for any insider tips.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. Had a late-ish dinner there last night. So glad to have this down the street from my house. My only complaint is the pacing and order in which they bring out food -- entrees preceeded starters, and then came out while we were still working on the starters. As we used to say, "what's up with that?"

                                        But most of the food was great. Larp (chicken) was a huge portion, very bright flavors. Spicy eggplant (with beef) and pumpkin curry (chicken) were perfectly sized portions, with fresh, well-cooked vegetables and a decent amount of protein. My son's "medium" bowl of "chicken noodle" soup was about the size of a wading pool. Leftovers for at least two. Only disappointment was the fried calamari, although the green sauce that accompanied it was good -- seemed to have either some mustard or horseradish in it. All this (plus one bowl of rice) for $55, including tip.

                                        The space is nice, although the tables are small and quickly become crowded with plates, as noted previously. Service was very solicitous. All in all, a great addition to the neighborhood.

                                        1. Had a great meal here that came to around $50 for 2.
                                          We were stuffed, but there weren't leftovers to take home.

                                          I think it's really good Thai/Laotian but not the best in the city.
                                          I've had better Pad Thai at Thai House Express (on Castro). Champa Garden uses good ingredients but the tamarind paste, and dried shrimps were barely there. This was true of many of the cuisine specific ingredients. Coconut oil and milks were more predominant than expected. The Champa Sampler was a better showcase, but there again, the basic spring rolls were no thrills filler.

                                          Service was trying, and working hard, with a smile, but they are very awkward, and rough around the edges. All our dishes came out with chicken as the protein, no matter what we ordered. We didn't say anything, but that's a pretty bad mistake.

                                          I wouldn't drive across the city or go out of my way for this place, but I also never went all the way to Oakland for it either. It's on a residential side street, not Ocean Avenue itself, and felt more set up for a neighborhood starved for a good meal they can walk to. Parking is non-existent.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            I avoid the Thai dishes at the original, they're not very good.

                                            Rice ball salad, Lao sausage, Lao-style papaya salad, and Lao-style larb are my favorites. Spring rolls are OK but the weakest part of the sampler.

                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                              It would take some effort to stick strictly to the Laotian dishes, but I can see trying.

                                              Of the 4 dishes you mentioned, 2 of them can be checked off with a single order of the sampler. Both were really good.

                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                I suppose it doubles as an average neighborhood Americanized-Thai place, but the only reason to go out of your way to eat there is to get the Lao specialties.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  And remember that the family that owns Champa Garden are Iu-Mien or Lu people.

                                          2. Ate there last night. My only other visit to Champa Garden Oakland was about 6 years ago, and I remember liking it. Last night's meal definitely lived up to my expectations.

                                            Service was still a bit disorganized. There were a few minor problems (forgotten lettuce w/ the rice ball salad, a mix up w/ our veggie dish) but overall it was friendly, and we got all of our food eventually.

                                            I thought the food ranged from good to fantastic. After reading that the spring rolls weren't worth it, we decided to skip the sampler platter and just order a la carte. There were 6 people so we tried a lot of things.

                                            Lao Sausage - Awesome. Spicy, sour, generous serving. I haven't eaten much Lao sausage, but this is the best I've had.

                                            Rice Ball Salad - Served (eventually) with lettuce, mint and cilantro for wrapping. I love this dish. Nice balance of flavors, little bits of meat in the crispy rice, and works really nicely as a wrap.

                                            Papaya salad Lao style - This dish was spicy (we asked for medium/two chilies), but not overly so. Had a very strong fishy flavor, and some people at my table didn't like it. I personally liked it a lot. Really different from papaya salads elsewhere, and worth trying if you like fishy/fermented foods.

                                            Chicken larb, Lao style - Also served w/ lettuce for wrapping, this larb wasn't that spicy. It was good though. Apparently the difference here between Thai and Lao style larb is that Lao is spicier and contains skin (for chicken) and tripe (for beef). I actually didn't notice any chicken skin in ours, but wasn't paying much attention. It wasn't that spicy (definitely less spicy than the papaya salad). I liked it.

                                            Lao Noodle Soup - I liked the homemade noodles a lot....they're fat rice noodles. The broth was too starchy for me, and a bit too salty. Sort of tasted like generic chicken soup I'd find at any Mexican place or Jewish deli, but a bit thicker. Others at my table loved this soup, but I thought it was only OK.

                                            Mango Fried Rice - I was hesitant to order this, since I was expecting it to be too sweet, but I really liked it. It was almost like a Thai-style biryani. The rice was a bit sweet, but not overly so, but also had a yellow curry flavor. It had raisins, cashews, pineapple, and beef (we ordered it w/ beef). I would recommend it and would definitely order this again.

                                            Beef w/ string beans and basil - This was good but nothing too special. Just a competent version of this Thai dish.

                                            Eggplant w/ beef - Sweet, with some yellow beans in the sauce, but also kind of similar to the string bean dish. Also just OK. Not bad, not special.

                                            This amount of food was more than enough for us, and prices were very reasonable. I actually *would* travel across the city for this food, but mainly just: rice ball salad, lao sausage, papaya salad, and larb. And maybe the mango fried rice.

                                            The space is nice, bathrooms are new and clean, and it's not too busy over there yet. Oh, and I really liked the chili sauce in the condiment tray. Smoky and spicy!

                                            Photos of: Lao sausage, rice ball salad, papaya salad, mango fried rice, and eggplant

                                             
                                             
                                             
                                             
                                             
                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: Dave MP

                                              Interesting that you mentioned the spice levels. Laotian food from my understanding is supposed to be extremely spicey. I'm someone who orders medium-spice without a high tolerance, and I'm often skeptical of abundantly spicy foods masking other flavors, but nothing we ordered had any hint of heat. In retrospect, some kick would have really been good. We didn't venture into the chili sauce or Siracha tray.

                                              I tried the Pineapple Fried Rice and it matches your description of the Mango rice. It's one of the most savory, mild versions I've had. It was almost like a brown rice dish with the grain almost rissoto like.

                                              1. re: Dave MP

                                                I thought much the same about the Lao noodle soup. Substitute egg noodles and it could pass for Eastern European.

                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3780...

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                  I had the same reaction as you and Dave MP to the Lao noodle soup, hence the title of my blog post about it.

                                                  http://noodlefrontity.blogspot.com/20...

                                                2. re: Dave MP

                                                  I tried four dishes at Champa Garden last week. Like you, I would return, though not all of the dishes were amazing.
                                                  The lao sausage was good, but not as spicy or complex as the homemade ones at Venitian Cafe in Oakland.
                                                  The duck curry was delicious, well balanced and flavorful.
                                                  The chicken soup with homemade noodles was pure comfort food. It just slithered down my throat.
                                                  The least successful dish was the pumpkin curry with pork. The pumpkin was undercooked, the pork was thin, lean, and tough, and the dish was too sweet and one dimensional.
                                                  The owner could not have been nicer, asking me how I liked everything at the end of the meal. He seemed to know that the pumpkin was not properly prepared, and said that the chef was "working on it". He then took it off my bill!
                                                  The rice salad was good, especially since it came with an abundance of fresh lettuce and cilantro.
                                                  All in all, a good meal. I am anxious to go back and try more of the menu.

                                                  1. re: Dave MP

                                                    The Lao noodle soup sounds like kao piak. Did it include cubes of pig blood? What were the condiments? The stock is usually chicken based and is boiled with charred ginger and charred onions, much like pho ga.

                                                    If kao piak, it's more of a breakfast or lunch type dish, intended to be comforting rather than challenging.
                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844169
                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8679...

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                      The menu describes "Lao's noodle soup" as "homemade noodle served in chicken broth with chicken." No pig's blood, no condiments, no flavors that would be out of place in an Eastern European or Midwestern kitchen.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        Except the flavors of Lemongrass, Ginger or Galanga, Fish Sauce, Kaffir Lime Leaves and the Lack of Carrot, Celery and Parsley.

                                                        1. re: chefj

                                                          Canonically, maybe, but what I had was quite bland, no hint of Asian spices.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            I have had it there and agree that the flavoring is subtle at best but does not taste like my family's(eastern European)Chicken Soup.
                                                            I wonder if it would be more evident for you in a side to side comparison.

                                                            1. re: chefj

                                                              If there was lemongrass, galangal, or ginger in the bowl of "Lao's noodle soup" I had, those flavors were too subtle for me to catch. Could be they were there but overpowered by much stronger seasonings in the rice ball salad and sausages.

                                                              The "Lue's noodle soup" was highly seasoned.

                                                      2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        Yes, it was the kao piak. It did not come with any condiments so to speak...I think it had scallions on top of it. The chicken broth was sort of like pho ga, but thicker and less flavorful. It didn't taste gingery at all. It definitely did not contain pig blood.

                                                    2. We had lunch there today and hated everything. It was godawful, watery, bland. No attention to flavor development at all. Never had spring rolls that were actively gross. There is absolutely a problem with the Saturday afternoon chef, whoever they may be.

                                                      17 Replies
                                                      1. re: Atomica

                                                        Wow Atomica, I'm so bummed! Did you have the Crispy Rice Ball Salad? Lao Sausage? What did you have?

                                                        1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                          I had beef larp - could not detect any rice powder whatsoever. Flavor was basically one-note sour. Beef was a really unpleasant consistency and basically added no flavor at all. I ate just a few bites. Husband had "peanut curry" from their specialties (or chef's menu, can't remember), which was that basic sweet peanut sauce over spinach. Not what he was expecting. Certainly not a "curry," and probably the worst example of that particular dish I've ever seen. Consistency was horrible--he couldn't go beyond a couple of bites. The peanut sauce was hideous, especially when mixed with limp spinach that hasn't been drained properly. My kid got the pad see-ew (sp), which she liked pretty well. (I tasted it and it was really sweet.) Spring rolls had ground chicken with a terrible consistency and no flavor and grossly overcooked noodles.

                                                          1. re: Atomica

                                                            Sounds like Champa might be okay if you avoid all the Thai dishes? We've found that at Vientian too.

                                                            1. re: grayelf

                                                              "might be okay if you avoid all the Thai dishes? "

                                                              It's essentially a Thai restaurant.
                                                              It's not a Laotian heavy menu.

                                                              1. re: sugartoof

                                                                The original Champa in Oakland has a very short menu of good Laotian dishes that are responsible for its good reputation on this board.

                                                                The menu is padded out with a bunch of average Americanized Thai dishes. There's no reason to drive past any other Thai restaurant to get to Champa if you're going to order those.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Having never been to Champa in Oakland, are you saying the menu was subdivided or featured a different menu than the new location?

                                                                2. re: sugartoof

                                                                  Same at Vientian, then -- the menu is predominantly Thai. You have to ask for the Lao menu, and seek out the Lao items on the main menu.

                                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                                    So you're suggesting people ask the server to point them towards the Lao dishes on the main menu? There's not much selection from what I can tell (unless you were saying there's a separate Lao menu), and when you lack heavy spice, it's not very Laotian.

                                                                    1. re: sugartoof

                                                                      At Vientian (not Champa where I haven't been) we've had great help from the servers each time finding the "hidden" Lao specialties on the big menu, which are few and hard to find. The separate Lao menu is, well, the Lao menu :-).

                                                                      1. re: grayelf

                                                                        From what I gather, nothing at Champa is truly Lao style either.

                                                              2. re: Atomica

                                                                I didn't report about it above but their pad kee mao was not noticeably different from what I've had at Thai restaurants, and if anything was on the bland side

                                                                1. re: Atomica

                                                                  Did you order the Thai-style beef larp? That's kind of one-note lime juice, at least relative to the Lao-style, which has a lot of mint and fish paste to balance the lime juice, and tripe for a wider variety of textures.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    They steered me toward the Lao version, so that's what I asked for.

                                                                    1. re: Atomica

                                                                      The cooks definitely need more training, then.

                                                                  2. re: Atomica

                                                                    Atomica: 4 of us had lunch today and we were pleased with every dish; our lunch sounds like the total opposite of yours...

                                                                    As an aside, among our group, we've been to pretty much all of the Lao/Cambodian/Thai places in the immediate Bay Area, so we've had these dishes many times.

                                                                    We started with the sampler: Everything was flavorful and nicely prepared & served, but I have to give the edge to Vientian for the best version of crispy rice ball salad in the Bay Area. I believe it has more of the preserved pork & pork skin, and more flavor in general. No matter though because for me, any crispy rice ball salad is better than no crispy rice ball salad! We all liked it...

                                                                    The Lao sausage was very tasty too. Again, for me, any Lao sausage is better than none at all! We asked if they will sell the sausage either frozen or uncooked, but the person who could answer that question wasn't in, so it will wait for another day.

                                                                    The Fried Spring Rolls, while nothing terribly exciting, were not bad.

                                                                    Next we ordered the Papaya Salad Lao style. Very, very funky - a little goes a long way. I think we decided that we like the clean flavor of the Thai style better than the funkified Lao version as the Thai style is so crisp and fresh tasting. For me, the Thai version is almost a palate cleanser while the Lao version is pretty much a taste bud killer.

                                                                    Next came the Laos style beef larp - the rice powder was very evident and the flavors were good. Actually it had more rice powder than I believe I've ever had in this dish. There was some book tripe included. This was a good dish too.

                                                                    We finished off with the #30 Lue's Noodle Soup "Kaow Soy" - this was a table favorite. Terrific broth, comforting wide rice noodles, ground pork, just a really good bowl of soup.

                                                                    We ordered the Papaya salad "2 peppers" and it could have been spicier for me. For the Larp we went mild, "1 pepper" so it was very mild. I would go spicier on this next time too.

                                                                    One general comment: In thinking about it, I would have liked some limes to just add that extra jolt. The Sambal Olek on the table is a really good chili sauce. I thought it might be house made, but it's from a jar - very tasty stuff.

                                                                    There was a young fellow at the table next to us who was served a plate of something that looked very yummy so we couldn't help but ask him what it was: #39 Pad Kea Moa aka Drunken Noodle, thick rice noodle pan fried in basil, bamboo, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers and chili peppers with your choice of meat. Not Lao, looked more Chinese than anything to me, but it looked (and smelled) good enough that I'd order it!

                                                                    1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                                      With our jaded palates, our mantra is 'mo is bettah' and we do relish chowing together. Nevertheless, on occasion we find ourselves seeking a Lunch for One — the Champa Sampler #14 for $11.95 would certainly satisfy. On the same track, either of the Laos style Papaya salad #16 or the Larp salad #17 for $7.95 with a side order of Sticky Rice $2.50 would be Lunch for One, also. I'll remember to bump the heat to 3 peppers.
                                                                      Returning soon for the comforting #30 Lue's Noodle Soup - Kaow Soy $7.95 - my favorite on the table. Our server also recommends the coconut broth with vermicelli and chicken in the Kaow Poont #29 and the tapioca rice noodles in the Kaow Paik #27.
                                                                      The Lunch menu is the same as the Dinner menu with no change in price or portion. There are Thai lunch specials from 11 am to 3 pm for $7.95 with house salad and soup.
                                                                      Location is easy to find and 2-hour street parking is available.
                                                                      We were the only table at 11:30 am but when we left at 2 pm, it was fairly crowded.

                                                                      1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                                        I concur with most of RWCFoodie and Cynsa's comments about our lunch. My favorite was also #30 Lue's Noodle Soup - Kaow Soy. I was looking for something a bit funkier but it was great just as it was. The #29 soup sounded good but I'm not sure if I'd be able to bring myself to pass up another chance at the #30. Guess I'll have to return with a big enough party so we can order 2 soups.

                                                                        I concur with Cynsa's suggestion that the #14 Champa Sampler would be a fine one person lunch selection, though I might instead go for the #30 soup (a whole bowl just for me, Yes!). The spring rolls were less interesting than the other sampler items and the mushy noodles on the side didn't add anything.

                                                                        The 2 pepper spicing was about right for me. The Lao style papaya salad was funkier than the Cambodian style we had at Battambang a few weeks ago. I liked it but, like RWCFoodie, would usually order a cleaner style, though in my case it would be Vietnamese style as served at Bodega Bistro. This isn't because I don't like funky, quite the opposite is true. It's just that I'm addicted to nuoc cham type dipping sauces and think they work especially well with papaya salad.

                                                                        I've had much tastier larp but enjoyed CG's version anyway. The book tripe was a nice addition. I'm sure if we had asked for some limes they would have brought us several—I asked for more mint for the sampler and they brought us a huge plate. The service in general was friendly and attentive.

                                                                        The Lao sausage was very good. I'd like to be able to compare it head-to-head with Vientian Café's version, so hopefully they'll be willing to sell the raw sausage on my next visit so I can take some home for comparison.

                                                                        It was an enjoyable meal and I'm eager to return soon.

                                                                2. Ate there Friday night, had the Champa sampler, papaya salad Lao style and a yellow chicken curry. Waitress warned us that the Laotian style papaya salad was "fishy", we loved the flavor but my 5 year old daughter said it "smells like the sea", wouldn't touch it and stuck with the spring rolls. I think it might have been a little better with a smaller dose of the dressing, the papaya was drowning in a pool of it. Rice ball salad and sausage were awesome, curry was nothing special. Love the hot chili oil condiment. Since I live in the general area I don't have to make a decision about driving across town to heat here, so will definitely be part of a regular rotation.

                                                                  Unrelated but since mentioned in this thread, we also picked up a Zanze's cheesecake Saturday - I've had them a handful of times but this reminded me that I have never had a better cheesecake.

                                                                  1. Finally dropped in here tonight after going to the Oakland location a few years back.

                                                                    By far the sampler was the best dish. We also got the papaya salad and catfish in red curry - which I'm pretty sure is a Thai dish. The catfish, as might be expected, was blah- nice texture, but drowned along with some asparagus and other veggies in the curry, which was not particularly tasty.

                                                                    The papaya salad was annoyingly sweet for my palate. I got little of the tartness and funky fishiness I expect from this dish. As mentioned upthread they use an incredible amount of dressing. Also, undoubtedly as a result of the current lime shortage, the salad had slivers of lemon in it. Understandable given the circumstances, but not encouraging.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: bigwheel042

                                                                      Which version of the papaya salad did you order?

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        We definitely asked for the Lao style. There were no peanuts in it, which the menu mentions are in the Thai style, so I assume Lao style is what we got.