1007 Clay Street, Oakland, CA | website
M-Sat: 11:00am – 9:30pm; Sun: 5:00pm – 9:30pm
I used to visit this restaurant a lot more when we lived in Oakland and I was very pleased when my friends jaycee and suzywoo invited me to a Red Egg and Ginger buffet to introduce their darling daughter MJ. This is a Chinese custom where the proud family throws a bash to celebrate and welcome the infant and re-introduce the mother, as both of them probably haven’t been out and about very much. Historically, infant mortality used to be more of an issue so there really was great cause for celebration when the baby reached its first month of age.
Traditionally guests bring gifts of lucky money in red envelopes and are given eggs that have been dyed red, which symbolize happiness and the renewal of life. The color red is considered to be lucky. Red ginger is important because in the yin (cold) and yang (warm) balance of food, it adds a touch of heat and is considered to be very healthy. I stuck with the ginger as who wants to fill up on hard boiled eggs when there are mounds of delicious food to be conquered?
This little piggy adds another layer of symbolism as little MJ was born in the lunar year of the pig. We arrived a little late, but I bet this was a big pile o’ pork when it was served. This was one large pig and I still can’t figure out how they got such a beast so crispy on the outside… a humongous deep fryer, a gigantic walk-in oven? It boggles my mind!
I had really good timing because they just refilled the Spicy Fried Chicken Wings right when I pulled up to the buffet line. These had the classic characteristic of well fried foods where the marinade and juices cook and infuse the meat and are sealed within delicately crispy skin.
There was a time when I came Le Cheval just for the Cube Beefsteak, which are tender morsels of tenderloin (shaped like dice) marinated in a sweet garlic mixture and then quickly pan fried on high flame until medium rare and the sugar caramelizes. It is stir-fried with a sweetly acidic sauce and served with a peppery citrus dip and is a delicious combination that is an explosion of fresh clean flavors. The best thing about a buffet is that you can go back and get more of what you like…
A variety of zesty condiments from the left, a savory peanut sauce for the fresh spring rolls, Nuoc Mam which is a sweet chili garlic that is good on everything, and the Citrus Pepper sauce for the beef.
Orange Flavored Chicken, breaded and fried with a spicy sweet and sour sauce.
With all of the meaty dishes, it was good that there was Sauteed Garlic Green Beans with Red Onion at least feel like you are eating something light and healthy. The beans were still crisp and fresh tasting.
Simmer Fried Eggplant with Tofu in their special sauce
Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage was fluffy and fragrantly perfect. Shame on me, there were a few dishes I missed including noodles, the fresh spring rolls, a curried fish dish that were down to dregs when I passsed through the buffet…
They had four different cakes, and again I happened to be there just as they set out fresh slices and I grabbed a huge corner piece which means extra frosting and goo!
And it had a delectable creammy strawberry filling but I was overwhelmed by my piggy choice with so much frosting… The guest of honor made an appearance just as we were leaving. She had been peacefully sleeping on her auntie’s shoulder but when she woke up, she was ready for a snack and began loudly proclaiming this fact to her gathered fans and was quickly whisked off to a private dining area.
Mr. K and I both agreed that it had been way too long since we had visited Le Cheval, and as far as we could tell the food is still vibrantly flavored and deliciously fresh tasting. When I started out writing this post, I went to the website and was very excited to see that they have expanded and now have locations in Berkeley and Walnut Creek. What really caught my attention is the description of a couple of feasts that they serve: Five Courses of Seafood ($20 per person) and Seven Courses of Beef ($27 pp). They describe the Vietnamese feast as consisting of five different flavors, plain, salty, bitter, sweet and sour. Combining the flavors keep your palate’s desire in balance and harmony.
I have always admired this dragon carving in the entryway and look forward to seeing it again when we come back to restore our balance and harmony with 7 courses of beef.