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FeldmanFest at China Village (Albany, CA)

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Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:18 AM

Friday night, Dave Feldman accompanied the Gang of 34 for a Sichuan banquet at China Village in Albany. The goal of the local chowhounds was to demonstrate that our own favorite eatery could hold its own and indeed beat out Manhattan's Grand Sichuan. According to Dave, China Village hit the target and more.

The menu, as revised and in the order of service, is listed below. The salon is open - please discuss among yourselves.

Six cold appetizers of the chef's choice plus special condiments shown in the picture below, from front to back - duck, jellyfish, cucumber in spicy garlic sauce, celtuce stems with red oil, light shadow beef, and pressed tofu with roasted peanuts, plus a centerpiece of rolled chicken, celery, fat choy, and bean curd.

Flash-sauteed geoduck clams with scallions

Shrimp "pasta" stir-fried with three flavors

Double-boiled herb and organic chicken soup with green spinach dumplings filled with ground pork and crab

Eight treasures duck

Stir-fried fresh abalone slices with oyster mushrooms

Water dumplings (shui jiao) with spicy sauce

Beef and enoki mushroom roulade with garlic spicy sauce

Chinese okra braised with golden sauce

Live Mandarin fish steamed with a blend of garlic, fresh chilis and pickled chilis

Glazed banana fritters filled with sweet red bean paste

Fresh fruit platter

Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

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  1. m
    Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:23 AM

    Something went awry in the kitchen with the planned dessert - I have no idea what happened or what was planned - but we were happy with the crackly glazed banana fritters filled with sweet red bean paste that they'd pulled together. Served flaming, this time the server was prepared with the ice water to crack the carmelly coating. "Estnet" said she'd been looking for these for more than 20 years since she had the apple version in Hong Kong.

    The fruit platter was a carved watermelon, done in tiki hut style at our table. The 'hounds ate it all while I was settling the bill - someone else will need to fill us in on the fruit.

    Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong
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      estnet RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 11:07 PM

      Wow -my first ch event - got to sit next to Melanie so I got quite an education. Met many wonderful people and as Melanie said - recovered a fond memory from many years ago. Had apples fried, then dunked in ice water MANY years ago in Hong Kong - both my children and I loved them, but when we returned to the states and asked were either told the restaurant didn't know what I was talking about or "labor costs too much here". These were served still on fire (blue flame) and Mr. Yao commented that it takes a very skillful chef because of the danger of setting one's arm on fire! (from the flambe part?)

      1. re: estnet
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        Melanie Wong RE: estnet Sep 9, 2004 12:33 AM

        Estelle, I got to sit next to you!

        I'm glad you caught the whole presentation and show. I was afraid that I might have had them extinguish the flames a bit too quickly. (g)

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      Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:26 AM

      The pickled chilis are housemade, brined for two weeks. Mr. Yao said this was a very typical Sichuan preparation, using a live freshwater fish with a blend of chili heats.

      Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

      8 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong
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        Dave Feldman RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 02:58 AM

        If I could go to China Village right now, this is the one dish I'd most like to repeat. The fish was fresh and bracing, and steamed expertly in a Cantonese manner, but the combination of chilies made this dish for me. The photo and your description doesn't indicate so, but not all the chilies were pickled, were they? I could swear that some of them were standard red chilies that were fried along with the pickled chlies. I loved the crunchiness of the chilies and the pickly flavor they provided.

        It left me feeling refreshed at the end of the meal, rather than stuffed. This is what critic Robert Collin called a "Platonic dish."

        1. re: Dave Feldman
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          Ruth Lafler RE: Dave Feldman Sep 5, 2004 11:44 AM

          I agree. I'd love to have this dish as part of a smaller meal where I could manage to eat more than a couple of bites of it!

          1. re: Ruth Lafler
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            Melanie Wong RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 8, 2004 11:49 PM

            Yes, this dish has fresh and pickled chilis in it.

            Mr. Yao said that they've been offering it as a special for about a month. So far, he said about 30% of the customers who try it, don't like it. No word on whether this is too high for it to continue in the repetoire. In any case, there's a good chance you can order this again.

            1. re: Melanie Wong
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              Dave Feldman RE: Melanie Wong Sep 9, 2004 01:29 AM

              Maybe you could share the feedback from CH'ers about the Mandarin fish. Along with the soup and possibly the duck, it seems to have gotten the most mentions as a favorite dish.

              1. re: Dave Feldman
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                Joan Kureczka RE: Dave Feldman Sep 9, 2004 04:10 PM

                I really liked this too. It was spicy, but not overpowering, and quite light after the previous dishes... sort of refreshing in a way.

        2. re: Melanie Wong
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          vespaloon RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 08:55 PM

          although i enjoyed the chilis and the flavor of the dish, i thought the fish too bony for my taste. i think this stems from my childhood, so nothing i can do about it!! that said, the flesh of the fish was nice. i would have enjoyed the same preparation with a slightly more fleshier fish (maybe like garoupa or something?)

          1. re: vespaloon
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            Melanie Wong RE: vespaloon Sep 8, 2004 11:53 PM

            The live fish used for this dish is the aucha perch flown in from China. It is part of the food culture in several Asian countries. This is the first place I'd had it fresh, though I didn't grow up with it, there's something about the taste and texture that feels like a long-loved thing. Also, it's not muddy like other freshwater fish can taste.

            You might want to order the Mandarin fish with a sweet and sour preparation. It can be a whole fish, or for a premium, fileted and rolled up. The fish is deep-fried and then tossed with a beautifully sweet and sour sauce.

            1. re: Melanie Wong
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              vespaloon RE: Melanie Wong Sep 10, 2004 01:21 PM

              the sweet and sour sounds delicious. although many restaurants typically make the awful gloppy stuff that is supposed to *cater* to *caucasian* tastes, i must say that a well-prepared sweet and sour sauce is tasty. my father used to make a really good one when i was growing up, so i have good memories of delicate sweet and sour flavors.

              thanks for the recommendation, melanie!

        3. m
          Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:29 AM

          Loofah aka Chinese okra braised in a thick, boiled down stock. To make the sauce to serve three tables, three chickens and 30 quarts of water with pork bones, dried seafood, and other goodies started the slow reduction process at 10:00 that morning.

          Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

          3 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong
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            Dave Feldman RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 02:52 AM

            I was a little disappointed in this dish compared to presentations I've had in New York and Los Angeles. However, this was presented at the same time as the Mandarin Fish...

            1. re: Dave Feldman
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              Melanie Wong RE: Dave Feldman Sep 6, 2004 04:31 PM

              Actually, I was too, as I was expecting more intensity of flavor, a yellower color (from concentration), and more body in the sauce. Yet, as served, the sweetness of the loofah came through more directly. I enjoyed the leftovers of this very much for dinner the next day.

            2. re: Melanie Wong
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              vespaloon RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 08:52 PM

              i didn't care for this as much. kind of mushy, and the sauce didn't have much flavor, although my palate may have been tweaked from the earlier spicy things... i could see that this would have better flavor the next day, but i probably wouldn't order this on my own.

            3. m
              Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:32 AM

              The one truly spicy hot dish of the night.

              Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

              2 Replies
              1. re: Melanie Wong
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                Joan Kureczka RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 10:09 AM

                Another real winner, this is one I'd like the recipe for. The thin slices of tender beef were wrapped around the mushrooms. This was an exceptionally good match with a zinfandel I brought.

                1. re: Joan Kureczka
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                  Melanie Wong RE: Joan Kureczka Sep 9, 2004 12:40 AM

                  Ah, and what zinfandel did you bring? Guess I should post a list of what we had at the other table myself.

                  The saucing on this dish was a little out of balance to my taste. The hotness in the end stood apart from the rest in a disjointed way for me. Loved all that garlic though, and was impressed that the enoki in the middle of those beef rolls were crisp and near raw - that's a trick.

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                Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:35 AM

                A gift from the kitchen in addition to the agreed upon menu - shui jiao with spicy sauce. I order this almost every time I eat at China Village, guess they thought I should have it at this banquet too.

                While it's not on the menu, just ask them to substitute shui jiao for the wontons in spicy sauce. No advance notice required.

                Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

                6 Replies
                1. re: Melanie Wong
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                  Dave Feldman RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 02:50 AM

                  Loved these dumplings. We were busy trying to figure out what these were ("These don't look like a beef roulade!).

                  1. re: Melanie Wong
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                    Joan Kureczka RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 10:07 AM

                    These were definitely another favorite. Many at our table remarked upon the sauce which included a sweet element in addition to the chili oil.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
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                      Richard Sowalsky RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 06:09 PM

                      The dumplings were so good and flavorful that they didn't need a sauce. But then, of course, we would have missed the terrific sauce. And that would have just been wrong. Very nice, indeed. Glad to hear they're available all the time.

                      1. re: Richard Sowalsky
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                        Melanie Wong RE: Richard Sowalsky Sep 9, 2004 12:51 AM

                        I think the usual offering of these dumplings on the menu is just with a seasoned soy sauce for dipping and you can add some of the hot chili condiment at the table. But they are scrumptious with this sauce, aren't they? I may be mistaken about the name of the sauce - it could be "home made sauce" or "homestyle sauce".

                      2. re: Melanie Wong
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                        vespaloon RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 08:49 PM

                        and WHAT a gift these were!!!!! i have never had such wonderful dumplings. these were the lightest-skinned, tastiest morsels! and the chili/soy mixture that they were doused in was absolutely amazing. the kitchen really has a great hand with these. often doughy things can be a little heavy, but apparently not when done made by the experts. i could have eaten the hold plate of these myself. normally, i prefer pan-fried dumplings to boiled ones, but i would order these any day!

                        1. re: vespaloon
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                          Melanie Wong RE: vespaloon Sep 9, 2004 01:16 AM

                          I've had more than my share of bad, heavy dumplings too, so I feel the same way! The handmade skins have a nice lightness to them - couldn't help but think about these again when I was eating thick, heavy pierogi last night. The quality of the shui jiao goes up and down with the various dim sum chefs, and the best ones were when Chef Liu made them (but I've only had his dumpling handiwork once). It's a good sign that the kitchen is turning out such good dumplings these days.

                          The seasonings are typical of the usual offerings on the Sichuan menu here. Complex, rounded, deep, and layers of chili flavor and not just heat.

                      3. m
                        Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:37 AM

                        A generous serving of fresh abalone sauteed with oyster mushrooms and rimmed with Shanghai cabbages.

                        Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

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                          Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:39 AM

                          The steamed then deep-fried duck stuffed with glutinous rice and eight savories was present whole and then cut into portions at the table.

                          Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Melanie Wong
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                            Dave Feldman RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 02:48 AM

                            We literally and figuratively butchered the gorgeously presented duck. Does anyone have any idea how long this was deep-fried? It was deftly and lightly done.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong
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                              Victoria Libin RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 02:03 PM

                              This was my second favorite dish of the nigth. The duck was perfectly cooked with fat rendered, meat moist, although the skin could have bin a bit more crispy, but still excellent flavor. The suffing included chestnuts, shrimp and other seasonings.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                estnet RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 11:11 PM

                                This was an amazing dish - so much so that I am thinking of trying it myself (with no hope at all of it coming close but it should be a fun adventure). My first challenge will be doing the boning of the duck. Haven't been able to find any recipes that describe the method of steaming then frying - can anyone point me in the right direction? (eg is it steamed while stuffed then the whole thing is fried at the end?)

                                I sure wish I lived closer to this marvelous restaurant.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                  Richard Sowalsky RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 06:06 PM

                                  I found this dish to be tremendous--well seasoned and excellently prepared duck stuffed with excellent sticky rice. Luckily, there was only one duck per table, as I could have easily eaten myself into a duck-induced stupor had there been more.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                    vespaloon RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 08:46 PM

                                    i would probably say that this was my favorite of the evening. reminiscent of the sticky rice-stuffed chicken at r&g lounge, i liked it even better because somehow it tasted less rich (!?!) i'm not sure how that was possible since it was duck, after all. i loved the crisp skin that was melt in your mouth, and the duck meat was so tender and flavorful, but still had some resistence and was not as melted-down as confit can be. liked the stuffing because it was sticky rice, but some of the things that studded it (beans? or something grainy) were just o.k. to me. despite that aspect of the stuffing, it was still great because of the skin and meat.

                                  2. m
                                    Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:45 AM

                                    Still can't believe that the our server carried a tray loaded with 20 individual servings of this on his shoulder.

                                    My portion had diamond-cut pieces of poached chicken skin and red wolfberries floating on the crystal clear soup. Further in the depths were some boneless dice of chicken meat, red date, a flower-cut piece of fresh ginger, and two gorgeous green dumplings. The sweet and delicate filling was made of ground pork belly and crabmeat encased in a spinach-flavored wrapper.

                                    Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                      Ruth Lafler RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 01:43 AM

                                      It would have been a disaster if he'd dropped them, considering how far in advance they have to start making the double-boiled broth. The soup was one of those deceptively simple looking dishes, but it was packed with deliciousness, from the intensely flavored broth to the toothsome noodles. One of my favorites. Too bad you can't just get an order to go when you have a cold!

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                        smiles RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 02:31 AM

                                        A lot of goodness was to be had last night. This soup, however, was incredible. I have never tasted a broth like this one. Flavors abound. Incredible. Dumplings were perfect. Dough was thick enough to taste but not too much where the filling was lost. Yummmmm. I cannot wait to have this again!

                                        Sorry mom, your chicken matzo ball soup will forever take second...

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                          Dave Feldman RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 02:45 AM

                                          This was my co-favorite dish of the evening, and several of us remarked that this was in some ways the richest and most filling meal of the meal. It took me a LONG time to finish the generous serving.

                                          Why couldn't ENSURE and other meal replacements be replaced by this soup? I think a six-ounce serving could supply all of our nutritional needs for the day, and help immeasurably with morale problems.

                                          Even the dumpling, while light, was filled with concentated bursts of flavor.

                                          A great, great soup.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                            Victoria Libin RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 02:02 PM

                                            This was my favorite dish of the evening. The broth was complex, deeply flavorful tasting of pure chicken, the herbs added another layer of flavor and finally the dumplings where there for texture and contrast. In a strange way it reminded me of the best tortellini in brodo I have had in Bologna.

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                              Richard Sowalsky RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 05:22 PM

                                              This soup was the highlight of my evening as well. It enters near the top of the pantheon of great clear soups, in competition with pheasant consommé at Gramercy Tavern and consommé with root vegetables at the Robert Mondavi Vineyard Room. The richness and depth of flavor were incredible, but not cumbersome due to their purity and focus. The garnishes were all expertly selected and prepared. It's hard to describe something that is so simple and complex at once, but, believe me, it's true. Wow!!!

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                vespaloon RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 08:41 PM

                                                definitely one of my favorites, too. the taste of the soup was really, really deep, and the red dates were a nice touch, too. reminds me of many of the soups that my mother used to make -- the kind that would cure all.

                                                the spinach dumplings were really nice and tasty, too. very delicate, but well spiced. i didn't expect much from these, perhaps given all the mediocre dumplings i've had in my lifetime, but these rank right up there.

                                                this soup would be especially nice on a chilly night, instead of the hot one we had!

                                                1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                  Stanleyaah RE: Melanie Wong Sep 17, 2004 12:25 PM

                                                  This was my favorite dish hands down. I have chickens and discovered one of my hens was not, so we dispatched with him and made soup. It was absolutely the richest tasting broth I had ever had. Then I had this soup. The broth was so complex and rich, yet subtle and satisfying. The portion was gigantic as well. In the midst of so many other dishes, I could barely finish it!

                                                  1. re: Stanleyaah
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                                                    Melanie Wong RE: Stanleyaah Sep 18, 2004 11:15 PM

                                                    Hey S, thanks for adding your comments.

                                                    It's gratifying to hear the enthusiasm for this simple yet rich soup. When I sat down to plan the menu with Mr. Yao, he suggested the flashier sharks fin or turtle soup. But I nixed using endangered species as ingredients for our banquet. It took a while for him to suggest this cleansing broth, and we both were concerned how the guests would react to it. Guess I shouldn't have been worried!

                                                    I had originally asked for a crab filling in the dumplings. Mr. Yao talked me out of it saying that crab was too strong a flavor and would clash with the essential chicken-ness of the soup. You'll note that the menus distributed before dinner said the filling was pork, shrimp and mushroom. But when the dish came out, Mr. Yao said that his chef had found a crab with a softer less stringy texture and sweeter taste that would work. Also, they used the fattier and sweeter tasting belly cut of the pig as a better partner with the crab. Wish I'd asked what kind of crab was used.

                                                2. m
                                                  Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:49 AM

                                                  The "noodles" made of shrimp invited much speculation on their actual composition to achieve the tender, toothsome texture and intense flavor. Mr. Yao said the ground shrimp meat is beaten together for more than an hour with egg whites.

                                                  Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                    Joan Kureczka RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 10:04 AM

                                                    I think that this was my favorite dish of the evening, or certainly one of them. The freshness and delicacy of the shrimp shown through, while the texture was indeed that of a tender noodle.

                                                    1. re: Joan Kureczka
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                                                      Melanie Wong RE: Joan Kureczka Sep 6, 2004 04:33 PM

                                                      The texture of this dish was very quenelle-like to me, although extruded in a different form and much more flavorful with the taste of sweet shrimp.

                                                    2. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                      vespaloon RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 08:37 PM

                                                      although this didn't look that appetizing (reminding me of playdough food that i made when i was little girl), it was also one of my favorites of the evening. they look like they should be heavy, but the beating of the mixture (as Melanie told us), made it very very light, and almost mousse-like.

                                                      i had two helpings, and since i'm not sure if i've recently developed an allergy to shrimp, that's a testament to how good these were.

                                                      p.s. i had a slight allergic reaction when i got home, but not enough to deter me!!!

                                                      1. re: vespaloon
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                                                        Melanie Wong RE: vespaloon Sep 7, 2004 09:05 PM

                                                        Omigosh, risking anaphylactic shock! They were delicious though and I almost don't blame you. I also thought they were odd looking . . . love the playdough analogy . . . to me they looked a little too science fiction larvae-like. (g)

                                                      2. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                        Stanelyaah RE: Melanie Wong Sep 17, 2004 12:23 PM

                                                        I am just finally getting enough time to comment on this exquisite dinner! This was one of my favorite dishes. So unusual and tender. The sauce was perfect and light. Excellent!

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                                                        Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:54 AM

                                                        The texture and sweetness and concentration of flavor of the geoduck clams was as amazing as promised. The tender yellow strands of leeks and "silver" of the bean sprouts complimented and did not detract from the tender bivalves.

                                                        This was the first dish to come out with the decoration of molded peaches and leaves. Someone at my table who will remain nameless commented that the voluptuous fruit shapes were semi-pornographic. The green of the leaves matched wasabi, but was only coloring without adding flavor to the flour paste.

                                                        Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                          Richard Sowalsky RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 06:00 PM

                                                          I always approach odd shellfish (geoduck, razor clams, barnicles, etc...) with trepidation, so I was very pleasantly surprised by this preparation. Very flavorful and well textured (read toothsome but not chewy) clam in a well balanced sauce with additional textural interest provided by the leeks and bean sprout silvers. I would certainly order this again were I to find it on the menu.

                                                          1. re: Richard Sowalsky
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                                                            Melanie Wong RE: Richard Sowalsky Sep 9, 2004 02:38 AM

                                                            You're a chow trouper, Richard! Glad you enjoyed it. This was an exceptional example. Ordering geoduck has been a crapshoot over the years - a dish usually costs between $25 and $40 and half the time it's not quite right.

                                                          2. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                            vespaloon RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 08:34 PM

                                                            i really enjoyed this dish, as well. the clams were so thinly sliced and tasted very much of the sea. i enjoyed the leeks in the dish -- they were very mild but lent just enough of the oniony essence. very very nice!

                                                            i had never had geoduck before... it has always scared me in the fishtank! :)

                                                            1. re: vespaloon
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                                                              Melanie Wong RE: vespaloon Sep 9, 2004 02:35 AM

                                                              Here's a picture of a live geoduck clam to show what's been scaring "vespaloon". Guess I should add that the one in the picture is not nearly as *ahem* well-endowed as some of the ones in the restaurant fishtanks. (g)

                                                              Image: http://www-sci.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/geod...

                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                                vespaloon RE: Melanie Wong Sep 10, 2004 01:22 PM

                                                                ACK!!!!

                                                          3. m
                                                            Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 12:57 AM

                                                            Cut in large sheets this time and not the delicate crispy chips of our first encounter with this dish, yet the light does indeed shine through them.

                                                            Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                              vespaloon RE: Melanie Wong Sep 6, 2004 08:31 PM

                                                              this was certainly one of the favorites of the nights, for sure. it was really what beef jerky (and crisp bacon?) aspire to be. i loved the way it shattered in my mouth, and the really nice flavor.

                                                            2. m
                                                              Melanie Wong RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 01:00 AM

                                                              The hungry 'hounds never gave our servers the chance to set up the presentation on the lazy susan with this plate in the center of a ring of six dishes, setting upon the appetizers as soon as they hit the table. Our table's was in the shape of an eagle.

                                                              Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                                Ruth Lafler RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 01:31 AM

                                                                If I understood the waiter, ours was a money tree. Matt took pictures, I'll see if he can post them.

                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler
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                                                                  Matt Austern RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 5, 2004 07:26 PM

                                                                  Yep, I did get a photo of our centerpiece appetizer. I hadn't realized that each table was different!

                                                                  Here's the URL to my pictures of the banquet. I didn't get pictures of all the dishes or people, but it's a pretty good sample!

                                                                  And as others have said: thanks for organizing this, Melanie. It was a very impressive dinner.

                                                                  Link: http://austern.multiply.com/photos/al...

                                                                  1. re: Matt Austern
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                                                                    Ruth Lafler RE: Matt Austern Sep 6, 2004 11:36 PM

                                                                    The coin-shaped objects in the money tree were mushroom caps with a piece of white meat chicken topped with decoratively cut cilantro leaves. Another masterpiece of technique.

                                                                2. re: Melanie Wong
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                                                                  Joan Kureczka RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 10:01 AM

                                                                  The third table was a butterfly. I know someone took a photo of that, so hopefully that will be posted too. These were all so pretty.

                                                                  1. re: Joan Kureczka
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                                                                    Celery RE: Joan Kureczka Sep 6, 2004 01:37 PM

                                                                    Yes, I got a pic of the butterfly - I'll see if I can post it. In the couple of banquets I've been to at China Village so far, this was by far the most elaborately garnished and artistic. Quite impressive! And the food was all great too! Thanks Melanie for organizing and Thanks Dave for giving us another reason to chowdown!

                                                                    1. re: Celery
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                                                                      Celery RE: Celery Sep 6, 2004 01:55 PM

                                                                      Here's a pic of Table #3's butterfly appetizer - beautiful isn't it?! (and it was tasty too!)

                                                                      Link: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v37...

                                                                      Image: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v37...

                                                                      1. re: Celery
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                                                                        vespaloon RE: Celery Sep 6, 2004 08:29 PM

                                                                        very pretty, indeed. i was intrigued by the texture of the mysterious parts of this appetizer. they didn't seem to have much flavor, but i thought it was fun to eat, nonetheless. given the strong and spicy flavors of many of the other appetizers, this was a nice change.

                                                                3. r
                                                                  Ruth Lafler RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 01:54 AM

                                                                  Thanks for putting together another wonderful China Village dinner, Melanie!

                                                                  I was thinking of my response to each dish and realized I didn't have a favorite -- several of the dishes were wonderful in different ways: the richness of the duck, the pure but intense flavors of the soup, the unique texture of the shrimp "pasta," the meaty-ness of the roulade, and the clean, bright flavors of the fish. Heck, I even enjoyed the geoduck, and I don't usually like clams; but they were sliced and cooked so expertly that both the flavor and texture were enjoyable.

                                                                  Great company as usual.

                                                                  How were the donuts?

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                                                                    Dave Feldman RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 02:37 AM

                                                                    The dinner at China Village was wonderful. What I was most impressed with was the variety and balance within the individual dishes and the meal as a whole.

                                                                    This is more refined Sichuan food than I am accustomed to in New York, with countervaling flavor notes in most dishes (sour accents in otherwise sweetish dishes, for example) that add complexity.

                                                                    I also appreciated that the intensity of many of the dishes was generated by a concentration of natural flavors rather than by piling on chilies or hot oil (not that there's anything wrong with that!).

                                                                    I realize that we were eating a special banquet, more complex in execution and presentation than a standard meal there, but I'd guess this would be the perfect place to take a fan of Cantonese or Shanghai cuisine who feels that Sichuan food is overly salty or oily, or relies on heat to compensate for deficiencies in quality of ingredients or talent.

                                                                    Needless to say, I was impressed with both the quality of the organization of the event and the friendliness of the assembled throng, who were most gracious to the carpetbagger in their midst. I've got some comments about individual dishes below.

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                                                                    1. re: Dave Feldman
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                                                                      Ruth Lafler RE: Dave Feldman Sep 5, 2004 11:43 AM

                                                                      Jonathan Kauffman, the East Bay Express reviewer, described the food at China Village as "intelligently spicy" because of the complex layers of heat and flavor. I can think of any dishes I've had at China Village that were too oily. Too many chiles is, of course, a matter of taste. I don't remember ever having a dish at China Village that was just hot, where the chiles and chile oil completely overwhelmed the other ingredients.

                                                                      1. re: Dave Feldman
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                                                                        Gary Soup RE: Dave Feldman Sep 6, 2004 02:24 AM

                                                                        "I'd guess this would be the perfect place to take a fan of Cantonese or Shanghai cuisine who feels that Sichuan food is overly salty or oily, or relies on heat to compensate for deficiencies in quality of ingredients or talent."

                                                                        Your logic is a bit inside out here. Sichuan places will pile on the chilis and give short shrift to the other ingredients because most of the people who profess to be Sichuan food mavens are chili heads, and the food is designed to meet their expectations. People who know Shanghainese food will be aware, at least instinctively, that some of the subtler aspects of Sichuanese food have been incorporated as a third stream into the corpus of Shanghainese cuisine over the last 60 years or so (due largely to the imposing presence of Meilongzhen Resaurant). In that sense, you are right, Shanghainese food fans might find what Shanghainese think Sichuan food is supposed to be at CV. Assuming, of course, that the cooks are forewarned of their expectations beforehand.

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                                                                        Victoria Libin RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 04:32 PM

                                                                        Melanie, thank you for organizing this fabulous banquet. I left with an even better impression of China Village. When I went there in the past, the food was excellent, but I ordered the more typical super fiery, drowning in chilis and chili oil dishes. This time the skill of the kitchen really showed. All I can say is fantastic!

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                                                                          Rafe Mazzeo RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 04:50 PM

                                                                          I had never been to China Village before, so this
                                                                          banquet was quite the eye-opener. A very impressive
                                                                          meal from beginning to end -- absolutely no missteps!
                                                                          It's hard to add anything to everyone else's comments
                                                                          (and the photographs). I will say at least that
                                                                          the Chinese okra was an understated but quite extraordinary dish. The broth in the soup was as
                                                                          unbelievably intense as everyone else has reported.
                                                                          Even the jellyfish: one person at my table at first
                                                                          said she was not fond of jellyfish and passed it up, but was pressed to try it, and I saw her not long afterwards taking seconds (or was it thirds?).

                                                                          The great variety of terrific wines made the meal
                                                                          even more enjoyable.

                                                                          Hats off and many thanks to Melanie, not only for handling all the (obviously considerable number of) organizational details, but also for having made the effort to cultivate a relationship with Mr. Yao so that he encouraged the chefs to do their very best for us.

                                                                          1 Reply
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                                                                            Cynthia RE: Rafe Mazzeo Sep 5, 2004 07:17 PM

                                                                            ditto.ditto.ditto. At long last, seated at the China Village dinner with kudos to Melanie and Mr. Yao for the convivial feasting and the artful garnishing of blushing peaches, green leaves, swans and The Eagle. Sweet dreaming of the six appetizer plates- especially for both the cucumbers and the jellyfish; the Chinese okra was like buttah on the tongue; Geoduck Clams were sweet and tender with scallions; and 8 Treasures Duck meltingly rich. Happy happy thanks.

                                                                             

                                                                             

                                                                             

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                                                                            estnet RE: Melanie Wong Sep 5, 2004 11:16 PM

                                                                            I think I'm the guilty party about the jellyfish :D

                                                                            Thanks Melanie - this was the most marvelous introduction to a great group of people and amazing food. I am again reminded of how lucky I am to live in such a diverse and food rich area. It is hard to believe I will have a meal to top this - but I'll keep on trying....

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