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Cha Am, Berkeley

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sundeck sue Aug 8, 2013 10:09 PM

Upcoming weekday dinner in Berkeley w/ friends I haven't seen for a while who aren't into food.

I led off, emailing possible places to meet: China Village, Bowl'd, Cesar's. And then added, "or someplace else."

One replied, that she loved Cha Am; and let's go there.

I said OK, wanting to be agreeable and un-controlling. But to say I'm not looking forward is to speak in understatement.

I'm asking for one of two kinds of help.

One, maybe I'm selling the place short; and I can have an OK meal there. I'd be grateful to hear that.

Two, maybe I'm right that it's likely to be terrible--and someone can suggest a hook that lets me say, let's re-think this and go someplace else--without sounding like I'm lording it over as a food snob.

  1. bbulkow Aug 9, 2013 12:15 AM

    Up until about 2000 Cha'am was my default thai in berkeley. I always considered it to be pedestrian (there is no good thai in berkeley) but if you get stern on "make it spicy" they'd do OK.

    What makes you think it would be terrible? Have there been serious downhill reports? I would expect it to cruise along at some standard altitude and velocity for many decades.

    Here's an idea: It looks like the corkage there is $8/bottle. Get a _really_ nice bottle of wine, enjoy the company, and you won't even notice the food.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow
      moto Aug 9, 2013 12:25 AM

      worked in that neighborhood, just a few years after your time in those parts. if Cha Am is the place on the corner that has a slight Lao influence, it was reasonable and decent, not distinguished, but also not flawed.

      1. re: moto
        bbulkow Aug 9, 2013 09:16 AM

        That's Darda (unless they changed their name again)

        Cha'am is the place directly next door to the north doing straight-up thai.

        Re: wine, Vintage Berkeley is a fairly short walk, that's where to get a good bottle. Open till 8.

        1. re: bbulkow
          Melanie Wong Aug 9, 2013 09:46 AM

          I think you mean Dara, not Darda.

    2. Robert Lauriston Aug 9, 2013 09:03 AM

      I didn't think it was terrible.

      1. Robert Lauriston Aug 9, 2013 09:49 AM

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/44015

        1. eatzalot Aug 9, 2013 09:56 AM

          bbulkow:  "(there is no good thai in Berkeley)"

          Some experienced, gastronomic Thai expatriates say that about the whole United States, as you may be aware. Now this may be a topic for a separate thread: but given that Thai restaurants in the Bay Area _began,_ in part, in Berkeley 30-some years ago, and were early more popular there than in much of the Bay Area, I wonder if bbulkow could recommend some good Thai restaurants elsewhere in the Bay Area today?

          I have a current favorite or two around lower Peninsula, but do not claim any sort of comprehensive, shall we say Ramen-List, Bay-Area-Wide knowledge of current Thai restaurants, so am curious.

          (Haven't been to Cha-Am in Berkeley in 25 years, but I remember it as solid, about the 5th or 6th Thai restaurant to open there during that first wave in the 1980s. Cha-Am in SF near Moscone Ctr. served some fine Thai standards not long ago.)

          1 Reply
          1. re: eatzalot
            Robert Lauriston Aug 9, 2013 10:30 AM

            The best Thai near Berkeley is Ran Kanom in Pacific East Mall. Mostly takeout. All the other places I've tried are mostly Americanized. There's no sitdown restaurant as good as Lers Ros on Larkin in SF. Best is maybe Soi 4. There are good Lao places.

          2. nicedragonboy Aug 9, 2013 10:30 AM

            Cha Am is a perfectly fine if not super creative Thai restaurant. If the purpose for you and your buddies to get together and catch up, maybe it'll be better that you are going to Cha Am so that it doesn't completely become a foodcentric conversation.

            If you are looking for something a little more creative, I actually think Sweet Basil on Solano Ave has improved a lot since I first went there.

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