Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany: Exploring the Best of San Pablo

Unknown Dish @ Huong Tra, Richmond.

I’ve got this thing for what I call “the heart “of San Pablo Blvd, that 8-mile stretch bound by the 80 and the 580. Some of the East Bay’s most definitive ethnic restaurants share a San Pablo address, which can make eating rather convenient, even if decisions might prove difficult. Living in Napa, it’s actually taken me a few years to really suss out the best of the best on San Pablo Blvd, but I’ve always had an affinity for this stretch of road: It’s perfectly straight, it runs due north and south (well, practically), it’s restaurant-dense, and parking is relatively easy. San Pablo just doesn’t require much know-how or planning, which can be nice.

Case in point: I tried to visit Zaki Kabob House a couple weeks ago, not realizing that it was Ramadan and that the restaurant would have a limited schedule. With Zaki being closed in observation of the holiday, I drove to Huong Tra instead, and ordered the dish pictured above. According to my waitress, this dish isn’t on the menu. I asked for a recommendation, and she asked me if I liked chicken, shrimp and vegetables. I said yes, and then she asked if I wanted noodles or rice. I opted for rice, and then she told me that she would bring me something. Well, it was delicious.

• • •

Lamb Shawerma Plate @ Zaki Kabob House, Albany.

Zaki eventually re-opened, and I ordered the lamb shawerma plate, pictured above, this week. I had been craving Zaki’s lamb since my ill-fated visit during Ramadan a couple weeks ago, so it was great to finally scratch that itch. The lamb at Zaki features a depth of seasoning that is addictive, although I probably prefer the lamb inside a gyro, as pictured below.

Lamb Gyro @ Zaki Kabob House, Albany.

• • •

Pad Thai @ Sa Wad Dee, Richmond.

Should Pad Thai be the yardstick for any Thai restaurant? Perhaps, but I tend to prefer Pad See Iew, with its large flat noodles and its slightly sweet sauce. Anyway, I ordered the Pad Thai at Sa Wad Dee just to revisit this dish. It was good, but their Pad See Iew is stellar.

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