Lion Dance Cafe [Oakland]

We ordered takeout from the new-ish Lion Dance Cafe in Oakland. I thought it was very good. The food is vegan-Chinese-Singaporean, and even though I am not vegan or vegetarian and typically wouldn’t be attracted to a vegan SE Asian Restaurant, I was impressed.

We tried:

Shaobing sandwich
“Smoked and three peppercorn-braised Hodo tofu, chye poh 1,000 island dressing and preserved black bean pickled cabbage in our signature freshly baked sesame-crusted flatbread. Served with prawnless crackers.”

I thought the sesame flatbread was amazing, and even though the tofu itself was fairly simple, the combination of ingredients worked well. Prawnless crackers were fine, though serving was pretty small.

LDC Nuggets
“Six crispy brined and breaded Hodo tofu nuggets with curry leaf, Thai basil and served with sambal mayo, half sour pickled cucumbers from Lee Farms, and lime.”

Loved the nuggets which somehow stayed very crispy despite 20+ mins of travel. Loved the pickles. Sauce was OK but was sort of bland. Had no idea it was sambal until reading this description just now. I think these would be better with some sort of sweet/sour sauce or chutney.

LDC Laksa
“Spicy coconut curry rice noodle soup with countless variations across Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. At LDC the rich broth starts with our own scratch-made spice paste and is loaded with rice noodles, tofu puffs, pulled yuba, roasted pumpkin, and laksa leaf, and comes with pumpkin seed chili crisp and dried chili sambal.”

Perhaps it was because of the travel time, but this ended up being quite thick and more stew-like. Maybe the noodles absorbed too much of the liquid. But it didn’t matter, because we all thought it was delicious. I was impressed that it didn’t contain any fish sauce or shrimp paste, because it still had a good amount of umami flavor, and was a really nice version of laksa! I’d return just for this.

LDC Caesar
“Crisp lettuce, radishes and shiso in our creamy umami sesame dressing, with fried capers, nori dusted wanton chips and shaobing croutons.”

I liked the addition of shiso and radishes to a caesar salad, and I’m going to try this at home. But the creamy dressing didn’t have enough umami flavor for me. It was fine but this was a dish where I was really missing the typical anchovy. For someone who is vegan/vegetarian who otherwise doesn’t get to enjoy Caesar salad, this might be a fun treat. But for me it was only OK.

A.S.S. Cookies
“Almond-sesame-shallot cookies. Melt-in-your-mouth.”

These cookies were dry and had a coarse texture. At first I thought they were too salty and not sweet enough, and I said they were just OK. Then I proceeded to eat 2 more of them, so I guess they grew on me. Still, I personally would make these with a bit more sugar and a bit less salt.

If you like Singaporean food, this place is definitely worth a try. If you are vegan or vegetarian, then this place is DEFINITELY DEFINITELY worth a try. I’m looking forward to trying it again soon.

Right now it’s pre-order ONLY, on certain days of the week. I think times/dates are subject to change, so best bet is to check their web site.

380 17TH ST, OAKLAND (OHLONE LAND), CA 94612 | HELLO@LIONDANCECAFE.COM

https://www.liondancecafe.com/

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I agree with @vamped–this is a great place for omnivores such as myself and blows other Asian vegan/vegetarian places I’ve tried out of the water.

The shaobing changes weekly and the one I happened to get matched up well with my flavor preferences–I could have sworn the excellent-textured fried tofu was marinated in superior stock, with it’s rich, somewhat gelatinous umami flavor, but it was soaked in one of their homemade sambals.

The nasi lemak balls I tried were fried perfectly and delicious. I didn’t think the sauce went with them that well, bu they were flavorful enough on their own. I also appreciated how in my experience they have kept to schedule on their orders, which are scheduled for a 15-minute pickup window and my order seemed to be freshly fried and available shortly after I checked in.

I also enjoyed the laksa, and was impressed with the depth and richness of flavor without any animal products. The size was a bit smaller than I was expecting for the price, but that’s how it goes in the Bay Area–I’d order it again. I found myself liking the A.S.S. “cookies” more than I thought I would, nibbling on them after I was full. They are more of a savory shortbread than a cookie with the sweetness tamped down, which works for me, as I’m not that into sweets.

Their normal vegetable sides are solid, but completely in line with what I expected from their descriptions, like charred mala broccoli or sambal potato tomato salad. The sort of thing I could throw together at home.

I’ve ordered twice, and will order again. For now pre-orders open Wednesdays at noon for pickup on Friday or Saturday evening. They just started a walk-up brunch on occasional Sundays.


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