A very thrilling experience is to have a misperception completely shattered. One such is the initial impression of the City of Oakland. Prior to attending graduate school, my visits to the Bay Area mostly centered around San Francisco. However, after living here and working in Oakland, I have to say that there is an incubating hip scene here – a mix of strangely bearded and tattooed patrons amongst the sea of grey suits or homeless carts.
Hawker Fare is one such place that has been gaining a reputation for their food, an asian fusion mix that, surprisingly, uses some ingredients that aren’t universally palatable, i.e. pickled mustard greens (which, by the way, is delicious). If it’s strange enough to intrigue you, please go for it!
This restaurant is a mix of convenient and elevated weekday lunch joint, and a trendy and cheap place for a dinner date around Uptown Oakland, located at the corner of 23rd and Webster St. Most dishes are $10 or under. There is nothing too elaborate on the decor, black ceils and yellow walls with large posters, Empire of the Sun and other indie pop/rock music playing, and lively discussions all around. This place fosters conversation, and with about 10 people in the venue, it was loud.
Tables are set around, some in the sun, others along a large shared cushioned bench. There is a flair for the trendy, down to the piercings and full-sleeve tattoos of the servers. Wow, I really want a tattoo now.
I ordered the 24 hour pork belly, and threw a fried egg ($1.50) on top of it. This seems to be how you eat here, with an egg on it.
Service was fundamental. The cutlery was brought with and table wiped when I approached the table. They brought water without my asking. Food came out fairly quickly, a definite benefit for those on a lunch break. The food came in a large white bowl. The four pieces of pork belly cascading on top of each other, dark with seasoning. The mustard greens rest aside the rice and pork, with pieces of celery intermixed. Cilantro garnish was tucked to the side, and a fried egg balanced on top of it all. The presentation just screams – look at all the protein I will provide you!
The mustard greens had a familiar vinegary fermented taste for those accustomed to these types of Asian vegetable sides. The celery offered a fresh and clean balance to the mustard greens. The pork was interesting. When the meat portion was eaten, it was actually a little tough. However, it is divine rule that fat makes all things good, and this is what transpires here. The pork fat held its deliciously gelatinous consistency while flaking off the other parts of the meat, and the taste was of buttery sapid flavor. The pepper seasoning on the pork belly is all the more apparent as it dances along your taste buds. The fried egg was gooey! Clean and unseasoned, the entire role of the fried egg was to dispense its yolky ambrosia all over the rice and friends in the bowl.
Runny egg yolk, like pork fat, has divine rule of making everything better.
With the total bill to just under $12, Hawker Fare is an affordable, trendy, and tasty place to grab a “treat yo-self” Friday lunch or a cheap but cool “I know Oakland” date. This is probably the fourth time I’ve eaten here and I always enjoy my time.
2300 Webster St Oakland, CA 94612