Old Weang Ping is one of those hidden gems that have been around forever (21 years in its case) but that somehow nobody knows about. It may have to do with its location, in a not-so-nice area of Oakland bordering the Laurel district (going there was an adventure in itself, as most of us had never been in that part of Oakland). Or perhaps the restaurant was fashionable once upon a time and with the decades its popularity just faded away. It may be on the way up, however, as I'm sure we weren't the only people who read the East Bay Express article lauding its virtues.
We went there one Friday night in August 2004. We called first and we're glad we did because it is quite small and it mostly features (worn, torn and shaky) small four-person booths. They were able to put a chair on the corner of the table for Mika, but that may not have been possible at all the other booths.
The little place has quite an atmosphere. When you go in, you are greeted by a jungle scene, complete with climbing vegetation and fountains. The restaurant itself looks like a beach dive, with holiday lights providing much of the decoration. Though there seems to be another room upstairs, the main dining room is really tiny and it appeared to be a two-person operation, with the wife cooking in the kitchen while the husband served. As you could expect, the service wasn't the fastest in the world - especially when it came to getting our bill at closing time.
Old Weang Ping prides itself in serving "country food" and while its menu is quite similar to that of other Thai restaurants, the dishes indeed seemed more rustic and less polished, with a greater abundance of fresh vegetables. Everything we had, however, was very good - and terribly cheap.
We started by sharing an order of chicken satay ($6) and corn cakes ($5). The chicken came in chunks rather than on a skewer; it was quite good and moist. The sauce was a good, yet typical, satay sauce. In all, a very good dish. We also enjoyed the crispy fried corn cakes. They were light and flavorful, and they disappeared quickly.
Entrees are priced at $6-7 and you get to choose your meat (beef, pork, poultry, duck or one of 9 types of seafood) or vegetable combination (you chose 3 of 8 possibilities) and the curry or saute sauce you prefer (13 choices). Many of these are staples at most Thai restaurants (Panang Curry, Masaman Curry, Peanut Butter Sauce) though some are more unusual (Sweet Basil sauce, Plum & Oyster, Gumbo). There are also daily specials priced similarly.
I ordered the Roasted Duck with Panang Curry sauce. I don't usually order duck at Thai restaurants as it can be very fatty, but the Express had recommended it. I should have gone with my instincts as the duck was, indeed, extremely fatty and it was hard to find any pieces of meat to munch on. The sauce, however, was delicious - not as homogenized as most Panang sauces and quite spicy, but very flavorful. I'd order it again, next time with another type of meat.
All the other dishes we ordered were just as good. We delighted in the intense flavor of the Pad Thai, and Mike loved his roasted coconut curry prawns. I don't remember what sauce Regina got with her veggies, but it was quite good as well - though not as great as the Panang. Finally, Boris got the Mahi Mahi with a sauce I don't recall and he was very happy with it. The fish was tender and moist and the sauce was outstanding. All the dishes had a little too many vegetables for my taste, and they were quite spicy, reaching the limit of my tolerance. Spicier dishes are marked with a pepper in the menu.
All in all, Old Weang Ping is worth seeking out. But bring cash because credit cards are not accepted.
Old Weang Ping
6217 MacArthur Blvd.
Tu-Su 5:00 - 10:00 p.m