Today's Deal from Champa Garden
Champa is a white orchid from Southeast Asia, and it's an apt name for this 35-seat restaurant blooming in Oakland's San Antonio neighborhood, just south of Lake Merritt. Like the neighborhood, the menu offers a lively mix of cultures: Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese and Lue. The Lue live in pockets across Thailand and Laos. This isn't gentrification, it's good eating. Even familiar dishes sing their own song here, and quite a few depart from the cookie-cutter Thai-Vietnamese menus of the Bay Area.
Phuoc Nguyen, a Cal student on hiatus, and Sam Saechao, his girlfriend's father, opened Champa Garden in February. Both are Vietnamese, but Saechao, the cook, grew up in Laos. With orchids on the tables, Champa Garden is one of the few places to eat in this part of San Antonio, where new paint on Victorians is a sign the area is on the upswing.