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Restaurants & Bars 2

Ruen Pair downhill alet

Windy | Dec 20, 200301:07 PM

I'd only been to Ruen Pair once, and then, for lunch, with a skinny friend who doesn't share. So the only memory I had was a truly delicious green curry--light, flavorful, spicy, the way green curry should be but rarely is.

I had lunch there with a more fun companion this week, and I'm sorry to say the food was tasty but mediocre. Definitely not worth driving across the bridge for.

We ordered:

a very odd deep-fried banana appetizer, supposedly with seafood or pork and dusted in panko. Served with a sweet dipping sauce. Interesting little bites, but all I could taste was the banana.

tom kha gai. Not sweet like many renditions, but saltiness predominated. Big pieces of chicken. White button mushrooms, including at least one slice that shouldn't have been in the soup. Disappointing. Is Cha Am's tom kha gai still the gold standard in the east bay?

for entrees, we shared a sliced duck rice place and the fondly remembered green curry, which I ordered vegetarian and medium spicy. The green curry that came was chicken; we didn't have time to send it back. The pieces of chicken were scrawny uneven bits, not the chunks from the soup. The only vegetables I can recall were eggplant and a few strands of bamboo.

The duck in caramel sauce was more successful, tender and thinly sliced. Still, the skin was soft once you put the caramel sauce on it, and the portion seemed a little skimpy and would have benefitted from a few more carrot garnishes; I think I prefer Chinese duck with crispy skin. This was the most successful dish.

Nothing was even mildly spicy. Service was friendly and attentive, but I'm sad to say Ruen Pair seems to have lost its punch. Would love to hear reports to the contrary.

Two appetizers, two rice places, two drinks, came to $35 plus tip. I was glad I wasn't paying.

On the positive side, we headed first for Berkeley Bowl and then to Crixa, where we got a merengue snowball (called a cameo?) with a thick, delectable cream filling and a Hungarian crescent-shaped cookie filled with plum paste. We also enjoyed their tea selection (5 assams--my dream!) but noted the teas are $1.50 a cup to go but $3 a pot to drink there.

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