James Syhabout's pet project Hawker Fare has been open for about eight weeks now and has generated some serious buzz. Syhabout set up shop where his mother's Thai restaurant used to be, launching his take on Bangkok street food. Green papaya salad and rice bowls are a far cry from the tweezer-intensive menu he serves at his first restaurant, Michelin-starred Commis. The big question remains whether or not Syhabout can garner star cred in the casual cuisine realm as well.
The Ambiance News: Birdsall's recent review called it "the kind of place you seek out after pulling a double shift, sweaty, craving beer and a mixtape soundtrack seeded with Handsome Boy Modeling School." And Sig. Lucchesi found the vibe to be "very casual, friendly and basic, though there are still linen napkins; no chopsticks though...Pretty sure you can’t go wrong looking at vintage posters of Bruce Lee and Count Basie." [EBX, ISSF]
The Fare News: Food GPS summarizes: "Hawker Fare didn’t exactly evoke memories of stalls in Singapore, Saigon and Bangkok, but it’s still a high value addition to Oakland." Seppo. H of Yelp shared, "the dishes keep evolving...So far, every time I've gone back, it's been better." Though Yelper Andrew C. had a complaint: "I didn't like the rice at all. It was somewhat dry & clumpy like it was leftovers from last night's dinner service, and for a rice bowl place, that's a bit surprising." [Food GPS, Yelp]
The Papaya Salad News: The EBX's Luke Tsai doesn't take to the green papaya salad: "this is a funky-tasting plate of food, with the fish sauce flavor kind of smacking you in the face. It wasn't my cup of tea, but I could see how you might crave this if it was a flavor profile you grew up with." While blogger Lisa Mani-Chang had a different take: "thank you, Hawker Fare for bringing back childhood memories just with a bite of your Som Tum." [EBX, Lisa Chang]
The Bauer News: Bauer mentioned it twice in his favorite dishes posts last month, calling it "simple and satisfying," and noting surprise at the poached chicken and "beautifully steamed" Jasmine rice: "Who knew chicken and rice could have so much flavor?" [ISSF]
The $$ News: Luke Tsai/EBX shared, "everything was reasonably priced...You'll eat well, and relatively cheaply." And Abstractpoet of Chowhound offers his opinion: "I continue to be impressed by the value here, in terms of price to quality/quantity of food ratio, especially with the pork belly (three generous slices)." [EBX, Chowhound]
The Service News: Creuset/Chowhound said, "as expected for an opening restaurant, the service was very on top of things. major kudos to that. If they didn't know the answer to a question (what is this delicious herb in the bowl?) they would do their best to find out.[sic]" [Chowhound]
The Casual Shyabout News: Birdsall thinks the chewy pork belly is "evidence that Syhabout isn't trying to make the food ethereal or delicate just because he can...When he wants to, he can take a hackneyed Thai restaurant dish like coconut-milk green curry, break it down, and reassemble it with all the Commis-grade intelligence in his arsenal." Chowhounder Daveena disagrees, "I'd been hoping to see some of the innovative twists Syhabout is known for, or maybe some Momofuku Ssam Bar influence, given chef [de cuisine Justin] Yu's experience - it looks like they're aiming for more classic, homey fare instead." The last word goes to Birdsall: "call it counter-intuitive. Call it fucking with expectations. Call it straight-up Oakland." [EBX, Chowhound, EBX]
What say you? Have you been to Hawker Fare yet? Do share your take below or in the tip jar.