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Aug 20, 2001 04:06 PM

Northern Chinese -- King Tsin?

  • r

Various recent discussions about Northern Chinese food and Peking Duck had me thinking about "northern" Chinese food, and then I read an essay about Berkeley in the '60s that mentioned King Tsin (on Solano) and that it was the first Northern Chinese restaurant in the East Bay (opened circa 1969) and claimed it was one of the inspirations for the East Bay food revolution of the early '70s.

I believe it was the first "northern" Chinese restaurant I ever ate in (circa 1977), and it was our family favorite for several years. Their pan-touched chicken is still one of my all-time favorite Chinese dishes (and has never been duplicated).

I have no idea how "authentic" it is, whether it is still any good, or how it stacks up now against all the other places that came after it.


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  1. Ruth, I tried King Tsin about the same time you did. It was one of my first introductions to non-Cantonese or non-Chinese-american cooking and I thought it was weird! In that same time frame, Berkeley had many non-Cantonese Chinese restaurants start-up. Taipei, Yet Wah and others came to town, expanding the diversity of tastes. I suppose that may have had an effect on shaking up the food world.

    I didn't know it was still around.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      I had done a web search and come up with several recent mentions of people who had had banquets there recently, and another recommendation for the Pan-Touched Chicken (when I first stared eating there it was on the menu as "Pan-Tuffed Chichen " -- observing my rule: never eat in a Chinese restaurant that doesn't have typos on the English menu).

      I can pinpoint exactly when I started eating there, because I was first taken there by my freshman year college roommate's boyfriend, who had what was in 1977 the mind-boggling allowance of $300 a month (he lived at home) and thought nothing of taking the whole gang to dinner. He was a math (or physics?) major at Cal, and half the the waiters were classmates of his, so we always got great service!

      I loved the food and started taking my family there. First time I had Moo Shu Pork (back in the '70s the waiters would demonstrate how to wrap it up), and potstickers (the steamed ones (Kuo Teh?) were considered to be the correct choice), and the fabled, never equalled, pan-touched chicken (a whole chicken breast, lightly pounded, egg-battered and (presumably) pan-fried, and sliced but left assembled, with an unthickened sauce of rice wine, garlic and cilantro).

      Speaking of Yet Wah, I worked on Pier 39 for several years when it first opened ('78-'81) and ate many a potsticker at the bar at the Pier 39 Yet Wah. They are still my benchmark for potstickers: wonderfully garlicy and gingery. In an informal (but exhaustive (g)) survey, Yet Wah also made the best strawberry daquiries of the then-dozen or so restaurants on the Pier (and they never asked for my ID, which considering I was only 19 was critical!).