I know that Oakland is quite away from San Jose, but over the weekend I had one of the best Southeast Asian restaurants I’ve had in quite sometime. The restaurant, Hawker Fare is located in the Uptown neighborhood of Oakland and I’m glad that I finally got to check it out because I am hooked. While the restaurant calls their cuisine Southeast style, with Hawker Fare being James Syhabout’s restaurant and with him being Thai, you can see the heavy emphasis on Thai cuisine.
I’m Thai-American meaning my parents are both Thai, but I was born here in the United States. My parents would send me back to Thailand during the summers to attend Thai school and live with my grandma there 3 months at a time every year. So, while I’m not normally picky eater, but when it comes to food in general, I do know when I really like a Thai place and when I don’t and I definitely love Hawker Fare and can see myself making the trek up to Oakland from San Jose often just to eat here. Yes, it is that good.
The restaurant itself is very casual and fun as far as decor. There’s a disco ball on the ceiling and the wall is done up with a graffiti mural and old movie posters.
Hawker Fare - Disco ball and graffiti
When we got there around 8pm, it was quite crowded but they were able to seat us right away. My friend and I decided to start with the Som Tum.
Som Tum At Hawker Fare
The Som Tum (Papaya Salad) was absolutely delicious. It made me think about the Wat Thai (Thai Temple) in North Hollywood. There used to be this lady, Auntie Noi who made the best Som Tum and she would remember you if you went there a lot and season your Som Tum in front of you and have you taste it until she got it just to your liking. She would have little buckets of lime juice, palm sugar, fish sauce, and chilli from which she would add a scoop here and add a scoop there to her mortar. She’d stop each time, tell you to try it and then ask you if it was too sweet or salty and then add more to her mortar according to what you liked. Once she remembered you, she would always get the seasoning just right on the first try. Unfortunately, the city ended up shutting down North Hollywood’s Wat Thai’s food court a few years ago and since then, I’ve been dying to have some of Auntie Noi’s Som Tum. I miss her, too. She was such a charismatic lady and was always fun to talk to.
I’m sure Hawker Fare doesn’t have Auntie Noi hidden in their kitchen, but somehow they made the perfect Som Tum, just how i like it. Thank you, Hawker Fare for bringing back childhood memories just with a bite of your Som Tum. I washed it down with some Singha beer. Thank goodness I ordered beer because it was a bit spicy. FYI, don’t ever drink more water when you eat something spicy, it’ll only make it worse. You should try to kill it with rice or beer.
For our entrees, we decided to try their rice bowls. Initially, when driving up, I had wanted to try the Khao Mun Gai. That is my most favorite Thai dish, but after seeing their menu and the other items, I decided to wait and save that for another time.
My friend got the 24 hr Pork Belly, which I highly recommend. It was absolutely delicious and just melted in your mouth. It wasn’t all dried out either.
Hawker Fare's 24 Hour Pork Belly
I ended up getting the “Issan” (Northeastern Thailand) style sausage bowl. It was very good. I also highly recommend this dish as well. You can only imagine how happy I was at this point. Everything we were eating was perfectly done and in such a simple way. It was fun, casual and really cozy and easy going in the restaurant and the food was equally comforting.
Issan (NorthEastern Region) sausage
They had a few items for dessert. We ended up getting the Hawker ice cream sundae. It was salted palm sugar caramel with candied red beans and puffed rice, lime whip topping. It was yummy.
Overall, I absolutely loved this place. This is probably going to be my favorite restaurant for awhile. It’s casual, cheap and the food is absolutely amazing. It’s got an urban feel to it, but I still would take my mom to eat there and I’m sure as an older Thai mommy who doesn’t get the whole urban thing, she’d love it because of the food.
2300 Webster St.
Oakland, Ca 94612