clay pot restaurant, albany
A group of us tried the Clay Pot on San Pablo in Albany last night, on the general recommendation of a foodie friend. The people who run the place are lovely, welcoming and attentive. So, we were sad to find the food a disappointment (I liked the staff so well, I almost didn't post our less-than-great experience). I thought the space was pleasant (despite the TV). A great fish tank w/ beautiful orange fish swimming about. Appetizers: smoked fish looked more meat than fish, was kind of bland w/ a slightly too sweet sauce. Steamed crab dumplings arrived after some of our main courses (when they brought the first main dish, and we hadn't had the dumplings, we inquired, and they explained it took them 12 minutes to steam). The wrapping was a bit tough, the filling a bit salty. Main courses: Shanghai shrimp was OK, nothing to write home about, but maybe the best of the lot, w/ bay shrimp and onions in a servicable, slightly sweet sauce. Fish in spicy tomato sauce--the sauce tasted like sweet ketchup. Sauted spinach leaves were good, the stems a bit chewy, but the garlic sauce nicely seasoned, and the leaves fine. We had one noodle dish--can't recall the name and not memorable. The biggest disappointment was the duck clay pot, a signature dish that was dull, literally and figuratively (re taste) colorless. We were speechless at the pervasive gray of the salty broth and boiled duck, still on the bone, when the server ceremoniously removed the lid of the clay pot. It was all a puzzle, given that this is one of our friend's favorite Chinese restaurants in the East Bay. Maybe it's a case of different tastes. Maybe it was an off night (when we arrived at 7, there were no other diners). Perhaps we just ordered badly, and the lesson here is: don't just get a restaurant recommendation, find out what to order.
I’ve known about this restaurant for a long time. I finally got to try it.
I am so sorry to report that it was one of the worst meals I’ve had in my recent memory.
I really liked the people. A cute pimply young woman with a pony tail greeted with a warm smile, and I used my best (which is severely limited) Mandarin to order.
First, a complimentary soup. An ominous sign of bad things to come - thin sweet & sour soup disguising the lack of flavor with heavy chili sauce and artificial flavorings.
Xiao long bao. Looked darker than normal.
Transferred to spoon. Bit into it – a disappointment, big time. Greasy, salty, almost inedible. The filling tasted pretty much like the Lions Head meatballs which came next, a dismal meatloaf.
Another complimentary dish. Eggrolls. One bite, and I put it down. Worse than bad frozen eggrolls from the supermarket.
Fish fillets with cloud ears in wine sauce – the fungus was the only thing okay in this dish.
I don’t have the energy to go on. Sad thumbs down. Way down.
I wish them well - perhaps they will find a better chef.
i guess you're referring to the shanghainese clay pot place? near the mechanics bank?
yeah, i used to live near there, and learned to order carefully too. first of all, any dish with tomato in a chinese american resto risks the deadly sweet sauce. be sure to inquire before ordering.
the shanghai shrimp dish should be subtley sweet, in balance with the shrimp and onion. it should not be little bay shrimp, and the shrimp should be served in shell. the delicious sauce will form on/within the shell in combination with the shrimp's juices, and should be sucked off/out. if done right, this is a magnificent shrimp prep.
i'm a little worried that if your group was all gringo, they might have postulated that you wouldn't care to deal with shells. to head off your complaints, they might have substituted crappy 'bay' shrimp, and sloshed on some sauce. too bad.
'shanghainese' fried noodles have never been my fave, and i'm shanghainese.
i doubt that the duck was boiled, and it should be on bone. but most importantly, it should be good! too bad your meal was mediocre. sounds like a couple ordering errors, and some kitchen/mgmt errors too.
better to try their chicken/chestnut clay pot, or the foolproof 'lion's head' clay pot. better yet, just bring me.
I've always had good luck with the food there, but maybe it's because I've ordered different things? I second the recommendation for the chicken and chestnut clay pot. I also always like the shao lung bao (spelling?) with or without crab, and the crunchy cucumber with garlic. A friend of mine really likes this dish called "rice cake" I think? (basically very thick noodle slices stir-fried with various things.)
When I go with my family, we always throw in a side order of a vegetable -- asparagus, pea shoots, whatever they have -- and that's always a nice and simple contrast to other things we've gotten.