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Sep 2, 2001 01:35 AM

The Great China in Berkeley

  • t

Well, maybe some of you have discussed about this place already since many of my Chinese friends swear that it is one of the best northen Chinese places in the Bay area.

So when two friends fresh from Beijing dropped by, I decided to take them for a try at lunch time on Saturday. It is located on Kittridge Str between Shattuck and Oxford right next to the California Cinema in a really non-descriptive little place. Normally, the lines are pretty long at dinner time.

Well, I asked the waitress for recommendations and she suggested "two pieces of skins" :) as the appetizer followed by Peiking Duck, Steamed Clams, and bean leaves. The "skins" turned out to be bean-flour noodles surrounded by an assortments of shredded appetizers in a 11 inch plate! The mixed portion was big enough to make us half-full! The roasted duck was OK. The pancakes were authentic but the plum sause was a little too sweet. The duck was expertly sliced but the skin was a little too redish. Of course, you really can't expect Quanjude taste here, plus I miss the fat on the skin. Now, the high point of the meal was the Clams(not on the manu, $5 a piece). They were about 5 inches across with the meat nicely sliced and cooked with ginger and scalion. The flavor was light and full at the same time!

Well, we were quite full by the Peiking duck and two clams each person basicly sent us to our limits. We ended up packing the bean leaves and the rest of the the duck away. The whole meal came up to ~90 tax/tip included. It's a small place and tends to be crowded at peak time. I don't know if they take reservations.

2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley 510.843.7996

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  1. m
    Melanie Wong

    Hey Tingting, welcome to the board! No, you're the first, as far as I can tell to report on Great China. We haven't heard much about Northern style restaurants, so this is a welcome contribution. In fact one of our more recent posters, Panpan, has been working her way around various reputedly northern restaurants trying to find the food of her Manchurian youth. You may want to do a search on the main Chowhound page using "panpan francisco" to locate her posts on this board.

    While not up to Quanjude standard, finding a Peking duck served with pancakes is a rarity around here. This will attract attention. The clams sound really special too.

    P.S. We called my younger brother Ting-ting (his Chinese name is Wei Ting) when he was small, until he asserted himself around the age of 7 and insisted on being called by his given name.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Thanks for the tip! I'd like to try out the restuarants Panpan has found.

      I heard from my friends that the "two piece of skins" were actually very authentic Manchurian food (which is famous for a stew of bean curd noodles, cabbage and pork). I was told the bean curd noodle were streched right on spot. It is definately worth a try.

      The Peiking duck was OK. The chef has excellent skill with the knife when he deboned and shredded the duck meat--I think he took off all the fat because of the clientille. I've never had the kind of pancake outside of China though. The ones served in NYC were the kind similiar to Mooshu.

      Well, well, Tingting is my GIVEN name. It's actually a quite popular one--I think there's some Olympic diver also named Tingting.:) My parents had a knack of using pet names as given names. My sister uses Deng Xiao-ping as consolation.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I've been a big fan of Great China for a long time and
        often try to plan a meal there when I'm in Berkeley.
        The dish which Tingting mentions is called Double
        Skin on the English menu there and it comes in four sizes. It is always brought first, so I've often had
        the experience of eating too much of it before the
        other good things arrived. I've never
        seen this elsewhere in the states, but it's quite
        wonderful. The broad noodles are made from mung beans,
        I've been told. I agree that the duck is good but not
        the best. They also have some other great and unusual dishes, including one called `Ant crawling on
        tree', another rich but delicious one (whose name I forget) which is a fried mixture of crab and egg, and one called something like deep fried steamed pork, which is rather fatty but has an incredible rich taste. I've also had a very good version of this at another often very
        good Chinese restaurant, Kirin on Castro St. in Mountain View.

        1. re: Rafe Mazzeo
          Melanie Wong

          Oh, that crab dish sounds really good.

          That's the second mention of Kirin in the last few days, would you mind starting a new thread and telling us what you like there? Thanks!

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Melanie asked me to describe some of the good things at Kirin, but unfortunately it is one of those places where I have not been too assiduous in my research! In fact, I've had much better luck going there with Chinese friends who ordered off the menu, but when I've not had that luxury I've had very decent food, though I've rarely found anything particularly exceptional or unusual on my own (except a few times by pointing at dishes on nearby tables.) So I'd be very happy (!!!) to have recommendations of things to try there, since
            the place clearly has real potential.

        2. re: Melanie Wong

          This place is quite popular with Berkeley profs/grad students. It is, in my experience, hit and miss. Certain excellent dishes: the two skins, the duck (I like the lack of fat, and that the chef takes all the meat off the bone), I've had excellent hot stuffed giant oysters there. But there are also plenty of sub-par standard Chinese-American dishes to avoid: like lemon chicken, etc. (the dishes you sample when having large group meals).

        3. Not much to add here, but it is temporally and topically appropriate, so I thought I would chime in. I actually ate at The Great China almost exactly a year ago - I broke my Yom Kippur fast (first one in years) there with some Berkeley folks. The double skins and ants climbing trees were quite memorable. I think those in charge of ordering specified those two, and otherwise put us at the mercy of the chef.

          My recollection is that we also had one or two ordinary dishes, as warned against elsewhere in this thread, but if you order well, but it is my impression that you'll really enjoy yourself. The only other thing I recall is that it was on the pricier side for a pretty informal place, so if you don't get good stuff, you may be disapointed in the cost/value matrix.