When you think about take out, what kind of food comes to mind? Chinese, pizza, fast food? Well, one particular place a couple miles away from me is Champa Garden, a Laotian restaurant. Although I’ve eaten at the restaurant located in the Ivy Hill hood, on the corner of 8th Avenue and E. 22nd Street, there are a couple reasons why take out is the preferred option. One reason is that it is an awkward location. The restaurant is located in a residential neighborhood (there is even housing above the restaurant) and not the best neighborhood in Oakland. Let’s just say I would not be comfortable walking around the area alone day or night. The bigger reason for take out is that this restaurant is fairly small and gets crowded with long waits. I once unexpectedly waited an hour to get seated. Whether you dine in or take out, there is no doubt that you will enjoy the food from Champa Garden.
I always order the fried rice ball salad as an appetizer because it’s my favorite thing on the entire menu. It can feed a few people as an appetizer, but I definitely can enjoy this alone as a one person meal. This really is a lettuce wrap that is filled with a mixture of fried rice, preserved pork, green onions, chili peppers, and lime juice topped with fresh cilantro and mint.
Tonight I tried the pad thai with shrimp for the first time. Although my BFF didn’t think it was that good, I thought it was pretty good and ate most of it. Her complaint was largely due to the fact that they didn’t include peanuts and didn’t have enough eggs. I thought the flavor of the noodles were good, had fresh bean sprouts, and large plump shrimp – some key ingredients to a good pad thai. After taking another look at the menu, I think they forgot the peanuts and gave us some tofu as a bonus.
I typically order green curry, but the last time I dined at Champa Garden with some friends, one friend ordered the panang curry. After having a taste of hers, I knew I would order it the next time. The panang curry is an orange curry that is made with red and green bell peppers, carrots, keffir leaves, and white meat chicken. It’s creamy, nutty in flavor, and has a nice kick. I still enjoy the green curry, but think there is good enough reason to mix it up.
If you haven’t had Laotian food, you are definitely missing out. Oakland has a growing population of Laos people and I’m glad their food is represented.