When Battambang opened in Oakland in 1993, it was one of the very few Cambodian restaurants in the Bay Area. Now, more than 10 years later, it still is -- and it's also a pleasant place to get a sampling of the flavors of the Southeast Asian country.
Battambang occupies a well-lit row of remodeled storefronts on the edge of Oakland's Chinatown. Walls are painted in warm pumpkin hues, lit by wall sconces and decorated with precisely spaced small framed paintings and an assortment of Cambodian artifacts. Cloths cover the tables, which are set with brightly colored plates and small vases of flowers.
It's a welcoming setting, and the servers are welcoming as well. If you're unfamiliar with the food, you might ask for their help, especially since the menu is fairly lengthy. It's broken into the typical categories but includes a vegetarian section with more than 20 choices.
As served at Battambang, Cambodian food is fairly similar to what's found on most Thai menus. It's homier and somewhat less sophisticated -- and definitely less spicy -- but will be familiar to those who eat Thai food regularly.