Oakland's Champa Garden Brings Laotian Food to Ingleside

Categories: Opening

Pete Kane
Lao tacos at Champa Garden.
Ocean Avenue is pretty strip mall-y, but good Asian food isn't hard to come by. The latest addition to Ingleside's commercial zone -- within walking distance of City College -- is the San Francisco outpost of Oakland's Champa Garden.

The national cuisine of Laos sits midway between Thai and Vietnamese (uncoincidentally, because that's where Laos is geographically), and you may have to scrutinize the menu for something that feels properly "Laotian," to the quasi-initiated, anyway. Much of the menu is fairly interchangeable with that of a standard Thai restaurant, although you can also find quail and fried bamboo.

Pete Kane
Laotian-style larp at Champa Garden.
Larp -- aka larb, the minced meat salad with lots of greens and fresh herbs -- comes in the Laotian style, which is to say, with fish sauce. Spicy and hearty, you may want to take a bite before reflexively laying on the Sriracha that sits in a caddy at every table. Laos tacos with pork sausage are quite the tasty little bites, albeit somewhat watery, but fall victim to the same problem that afflicts many an Asian taco: They're tiny! At two for $6, you could do better at any Mexican taqueria, although at least you're not waiting 25 minutes at a food truck for them.

In the end, the quality of the ingredients and breadth of the menu demonstrate that Champa Garden is more than a cut above the fast food and anonymous eateries in its environs. The West Bay is lucky to get it.

Champa Garden, 613 Faxon St., (415) 349-4186.

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