On recommendation from a colleague, I recently tried this tiny Thai restaurant, tucked inconspicuously inside a house on a residential street near Mills College.
The experience of eating here is, at first, a bit unnerving, as you have to knock loudly on the door before the owner emerges, unlocks it, and lets you in. There are bars on the windows, and the owner locks everything back up before he shows you to your table. (I teach only a few blocks away and don't find the neighborhood that worrisome, but it is still east Oakland.)
Once inside, we found a smattering of tables and booths under a thatch awning. Everything was a bit worn around the edges, as if this place was a vestige of another decade, but we found the vibe intimate and cozy, like eating in someone's home. When we were there on a Saturday evening, only two other tables were occupied; both couples had just finished their meals and struck up a spontaneous conversation, exchanging happy sighs about their dinners.
The food here is intriguing enough that I will definitely return. We had a tasty fish curry and one of the specials of the day, a deliciously smoky eggplant dish that still taunts my memory. The closest thing I can compare it to is the eggplant at the Cambodian restaurant, Battambang, in downtown Oakland, but the sauce here was even smokier, the flavors more interesting. My husband, who usually hates eggplant, couldn't stop eating it.
After our meal, the owner brought out two complimentary bowls of a green dessert. It reminded me of the silky, gelatinous desserts at Champa Gardens, though this one was not soaking in coconut milk. We were surprised at how good it was.
The restaurant appears to be a two-person operation. The owner, a shy but kindly presence, takes all of the orders, and his wife does the cooking. Altogether, it was an enjoyable meal and definitely a bit more offbeat than all the Thai places in the East Bay we've tried. Have other chowhounds eaten here? If so, what dishes do you recommend?
Old Weang Ping Village
6217 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland