Eight Chowers met at Battambang Cambodian Restaurant at noon on Thursday August 12 for the eighth in a series of Oakland downtown lunches. Since we had expected eleven people, we ordered a lot of food.
#26 Imperial Rolls (two orders, $5.95). These were wrapped, not in rice paper, but in rice noodles (like ChowFun noodles). Very tasty, mint and crunchy lettuce and shrimp inside, delicate dipping sauce. Unusually, they also contained alfalfa sprouts.
#27 Luk Luck ($6.95). Cubes of cooked beef in a garlic/pepper sauce. Very tasty. There was some lettuce underneath and I took the hint and wrapped.
#30 Quail. Two orders at $7.95 each. The quail is boned (or deboned, however you prefer to say it), stuffed with a pork mixture, then deep-fried. Served with a similar delicate dipping sauce, with pickled vegetables on the side. Crispy and flavorful but mostly flavored from the stuffing; the quail was an innocent bystander. Two little birdies in each order, so an expensive dish.
#31 Num Banchev ($5.95) A rice flour crepe, with a very unusual exotic flavor - some herb, I think. Served with mint and atop a pile of bean sprouts. Something like a thin omelet.
#46 Boneless Duck Curry ($7.95) Rather a sweet red sauce, with a hint of basil. The duck was very soft.
#54 Sauteed Ground Chicken with chopped mushrooms ($6.95). Unusual, delicate, different.
#66 Baked eggplant with diced prawns and pork ($6.95). The eggplant had a smoky taste and dissolved into the sauce.
#70 "Battambang's Noodles" (though the waitress said "pad thai" as she delivered the dish; $6.95). A tasty pad thai, but lacking the usual pieces of lime or lemon, which would have made it more lively.
#94 Amok Trei ($8.95, and we had two orders). Slices of fish filet, wrapped up in banana leaves, in a red sauce of coconut and lemon grass, then steamed. It is very fragrant and tender. There was fresh mint on the side, also an unusual mild herb with small, heart-shaped leaves (and a tiny white flower on one sprig).
#97 Crispy fried pompano ($9.95). Yimster deboned this with his usual panache (the "panache" is a special Chinese tool he uses). I was impressed, and with the theme of boneless quail, boneless duck, and deboned fish, I asked him in a chiropractic way to work on me, but he found I was spineless. Anyway, the pompano comes (frozen) from Asia. It is deep-fried to crunchiness, then covered with a sweet/sour sauce with lots of ginger and sweet red and green peppers. All the bones are edible except the spine, but it gets soggy after a while (so does my humor).
The food was a bit sweet to my taste, and not spicy enough -- too late, I noticed jars of condiments on other tables (hot peppers and some sort of pickle).
The place was packed, but reasonably quiet (the carpeted floor helps). The crowd was diverse, perhaps a bit older than the crowd at Huynh, so maybe they were more focused on eating than on networking, hence less noisy. Also it's a bout half the size of Huynh. Service was brisk, efficient, pleasant; the serving was well-paced. As usual the best part was dining with fellow ChowFolk.
Fortunately, eagle-eye Marc noticed that the $133 bill already included the tip, so we left $17 apiece (he claimed that 8 times 17 is 136). This was by far the most expensive Oakland lunch. Would have been less if the three no-shows participated (I ordered the food before I found out they weren't coming). We managed to finish the food but did not have room to try the desserts (I recommend the Jackfruit steamed in banana leaf). They have lunch specials for $6.95.
Our next outing will be Tuesday August 17, for Northern Chinese. If you are already on my Evite list, no action need be taken; if you want to get on the list, email me at jtchowhoundAThotmailDOTcom
(speaking of "outing", one of our group "outed" herself as a professional dietitian).
850 Broadway (between 8th and 9th)