On the hunt for a new Thai restaurant, I came across Green Champa Garden, which categorizes itself as a Thai and Laotian restaurant. Laotian food is new to me, but I learned that it’s similar to certain types of Thai food, and is known for its sticky rice and larp, which I’ll need to return again to try. I received a raving review from a friend, so I was eager to try it out – until I saw it. The area is really discouraging and run down, and from the outside, the restaurant doesn’t look like much. I seriously reconsidered stopping there. Once I stepped inside, my worries subsided. Welcoming staff and décor eased my concerns immediately, and I quickly settled in for an enjoyable meal.
Green Champa Garden Food
We started with the Nam Kao, or Fried Rice Ball Salad, as our appetizer. This is the dish that our server thoroughly explained to us, from its uniqueness to the several ways of eating it. The dish is not really balls of fried rice nor salad. As our server explained, they’re a bit like Thai tacos (or lettuce wraps). Large leaves of lettuce are served alongside the Fried Rice Ball mixture – which includes super crispy fried rice, and a mixture of vegetables, like onions, tomatoes, and some pork. Fill your lettuce leaves like a taco shell and enjoy. Wow. This appetizer is a dish I can really get excited about. The rice mixture and lettuce are served with mint leaves and basil leaves, and some lime wedges on the side, so you can try the various added flavors or add the chili pepper oil or other condiments offered on each table. (The oil is pretty spicy, but has great flavor. Use with caution.) I love this appetizer! Crunchy, a great blend of flavors with the rice and spice, and a little sour kick with the lime. I’d come back just for this dish. But wait, there’s more! We also ordered the drunken noodle with beef, and the red curry pumpkin, to celebrate the first day of autumn. Both were delicious dishes, although none as memorable as the fried rice balls. The drunken noodle had a great variety of vegetables, like green beans and tomatoes, some tasty beef and fat, flat noodles. The curry was good, but the pumpkin flavor was not as pronounced as I’d hoped. The flavor was spicy, rather than the sweet curries that I typically get from Thai restaurants. I washed it all down with a just-right sweet Thai tea. They tempted us with their tasty desserts, but we’d had enough for one evening. They packed away our leftovers in some of the most adorably tiny take-out boxes, to top it all off. I’m really glad I didn’t let the location scare me away from this one, and I’ll be back with some friends to try more dishes.
Green Champa Garden Ambiance
The décor is Asian-inspired and clean, contrasting with the building’s exterior. On each table is a single long-stemmed rose in a tall glass vase. The chairs are large and comfortable with an elegant black and cream pattern. There are about a dozen tables in the dining area. Several lanterns hanging from the ceiling provide soft ambient lighting. At the same time, there’s a large flat screen on the back wall (on mute) and a counter for the cashier and taking to-go orders. It’s not a strange combination, however, striking a good balance between casual and nice.
Green Champa Garden Service
From the moment we entered the restaurant, we were treated very well by friendly, professional servers. We were helped by several people, who were all respectful, helpful, and generally great. We could not have asked for anything better. The guy who took our orders offered great recommendations and explanations on the more unusual dishes, even explaining different ways to eat them.
Green Champa Garden is located on Fremont Boulevard, close to Blacow Road in Irvington. The restaurant is located in a tiny, run-down strip mall, next to not only a liquor store, but also a dive bar. Don’t let the location stop you from trying this place though – I admit it made me hesitate. Parking is limited and shared by the above mentioned neighboring businesses.
Address: 42318 Fremont Blvd, Fremont, CA 94538
Tuesday-Sunday 11 am – 9:30 pm
The prices were extremely reasonable, with entrees about $8-9 each, and appetizers around $7 each.