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Great China, Berkeley

Craving some good Chinese, I searched some old posts for advice on choices outside of the (berift) town of Alameda. We settled on Great China in Berkeley, on Kitteridge and overall, had some good food. Based on Robert Lauristons recommendation, I made sure we ordered a small double skin. I thought it was a great mixture of flavors, textures, temperatures etc but my husband was initially off put by the appearence of the (rice?) noodles and after a perfunctory bite, passed on more. We had a fried selection plate for 2 that had wonton skins, spring rolls and breaded shrimp. Very average, more crunch than anything else. The combo fried rice (requested no squid) was good, fairly plain with lots of mixed meats and fresh vegetables. Sweet & Sour Beef (hey, we're from the Midwest) had lightly fried crispy beef covered in a flood of sweetish, vinegary brown sauce with some cabbage, thin sliced cucumbers. Obviously, we are not overly adventorous but we will go back and branch out. I think a small double skin and a Peking Duck dinner would be great but will have to wait for a different dining companion and I hate to give up my favorite date!

Lots of choices on the menu and everyone else (it was full all the time we were there) looked happy. Portions are huge and we took lots home. I am happy to report that the cold double skin makes an excellent breakfast salad ~ wasn't soggy, still had clear tastes and textures and the mild mustard dressing is easy and perky in my stomach this morning.

Any other recommendations for Chinese for the appreciator of good food but mainstream? East Bay preferred. No ultra spicy or ingredients that need to be looked up in reference books, most innards are out but not the same old Mongolian beef, cashew chicken, or shrimp with snow peas either. Thanks ~

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  1. The "double skin" noodles are made from mung beans.

    China Village on Solano in Albany and Daimo in the parking lot of the 99 Ranch / Pacific East mall complex in Richmond are my two other favorite Chinese places.

    1. For "mainstream" Chinese, Alameda isn't that bereft. Ark is pretty good for "northern" Chinese, and East Ocean is very good Cantonese and Cantonese-American food. Plus East Ocean is one of the nicest Chinese restaurants I know of to eat in -- they just redid the interior last year, and the people who run it are both very nice and very professional. Chef's Wok has some more interesting "upscale" HK/Cantonese dishes as well. Both have more-than-respectable dim sum.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        i agree.. .east ocean seafood harbor restaurant (emeryville) is really very good. my gf had her wedding banquet there. it's right on the water too and has these floor to ceiling windows, so it's really very nice.... the food is really very good. i liked the lobster dish we had. in oakland chinatown, silver dragon has been one of my favorites since the 80s... os course they have different chefs since then and it's not as good as the 80s, but i still enjoy going there. for dim sum i enjoy goind to jade villa and restaurant peony. i've never eaten at restaurant peony outside of the dim sum time frame, but their food is really actually very good, so i would naturally think that their menu items are really good too. in fremont, there is ho chow's. in union city there's roses. there are 2 roses restaurants, same owner, but i prefer the one at the movie theater when i am in town.

        1. re: kinipela

          I was referring to the East Ocean on Webster St. in Alameda. Apparently the people who founded the one in Alameda were originally associated with the one in Emeryville, but they are not under the same ownership.

          1. re: kinipela

            Oh no, not the Emeryville East Ocean. The Alameda East Ocean is the good one.

        2. If Great China is the place I'm thinking of, they're korean chinese -- that version of sweet and sour beef you had is called tan soo yuk. As I recall, they do ja jamyung (noodles with brown sauce) well, too. If you liked them, you might want to give San Tung in SF a try. I'm also a huge fan of China Village, which Robert mentioned, but be forewarned -- they can be spicy!

          7 Replies
          1. re: a_and_w

            Everytime I go to Great China all the front people speak Mandarin and all the cooks speak Cantonese. Not a word of Korean can be heard.

            1. re: PeterL

              That's true of most Korean-Chinese places since the owners are typically ethnic Chinese who spent some time living in Korea. I'm pretty sure I recall my mom speaking to someone in Korean at Great China, though it's been a while. It's not unusual for staff at such places to speak only Chinese, but the sweet-and-sour beef the OP described is a dead give-away to a Korean-Chinese influence. If you haven't tried it, definitely do so -- one of my favorite dishes.

              PS: I could swear I read that the owner of China Village is also an ethnic Chinese who spent some time living in Korea. Can anyone confirm?

              1. re: a_and_w

                Yes, the Yaos are Shandong Chinese from Korea.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Thanks Melanie -- further research reveals I originally read that tidbit in one of your posts! Incidentally, that part of the East Bay used to have a bunch of Korean-Chinese places. King Dong on Shattuck was one we used to frequent when I was growing up...great dry fried chicken. Anyone know if they're still around?

                  1. re: a_and_w

                    yes, king dong is still around, and for some reason my favorite dish there used to be the tomato beef chow mein with thin noodles (you have to request the thin noodles)

                    1. re: a_and_w

                      Actually, I've been noticing a lot more spots everywhere that might be Korean-Chinese. The hint is a marquee that promised "Mandarin, Szechwan, Hunan", none of which are K-C but the menus have a lot of made-up Americanized dishes with hot chili peppers next to them indicating spicy. Usually there will be an extensive noodle and dumpling section too. But for whatever reason, we've heard about few of them here. There may be unsung dumpling and noodle masters out there waiting to be discovered.

                    2. re: Melanie Wong

                      Yep, we went a few weeks ago based on comments from this board. My wife is Korean, and I lived there for 3 years. Great China is Korean Chinese. The double skin dish which they are known for is a chinese restaurant standard in Korea, although the name does not translate well from korean, and we did not know that was what we had ordered.

              2. Alameda berift of good Chinese???!!! You went to Great China and didn't order Peking Duck???!!! That's pretty much the only reason to go the Great China (double skin is very good too, but mostly it's all about the Peking Duck).

                Alameda has at least two, probably more very good Chinese restauarnts. East Ocean (not the one in Emeryville) is one.

                4 Replies
                1. re: PeterL

                  Great China's tea-smoked duck is also very good.

                  1. re: PeterL

                    Yes, I say berift, maybe not to your taste buds but to mine. Of the current crop, I have tried the Ark, Harbor View, Chef's Wok, China House, Van Seng, Panda. All of these seem heavy and gloopy, maybe because I mostly eat there for lunch. Even soups have an excess of cornstarch. I have not tried Gim's or Bamboo Hut. You mentioned East Ocean, what else do you think is good? Or sorry, Good???!!! (g)

                    I like the XLB at Ark but the poor service irks me and I don't go much. The newish Ching Hua is ok but more expensive and in 3 visits, I have been brought the wrong entree all 3 times, tricky since the choices are limited. I have eaten at East Ocean and while dim sum is usally good, most of the entrees and all the noodle and stir fry dishes have too much oil for me to enjoy. I like to eat Chinese leftovers and while I would be the first to admit this is not a critereon for judging food quality, greasy leftovers leave me (no pun intended) cold.

                    Thanks also for your comment about missing the duck but my husband wouldn't enjoy the duck so as I said, I would order it with another dining companion. I also noticed the Korean slant and asked the server if the kim chee was made in house. She said it would so I know I'll be back!

                    1. re: foodfan

                      Hmmmm ... I've never thought of the food at East Ocean as being heavy, gloopy or oily. Or at Chef's Wok, for that matter. But then, I guess it depends somewhat on what you order -- I don't order a lot of stir fries, and I don't usually order noodle dishes at Cantonese restaurants.

                      At Ark, I think the noodle dishes are the best. The cumin lamb is also good, although not as good as China Village. I would never recommend China House, Van Seng or Panda -- all pretty bad. I don't know Harbor View. Bamboo Hut I avoid -- I just assume because it's been there for a million years that it's probably very much in the same Americanized Chinese food vein as China House. The one thing that tempts me is that China House still has almond pressed duck on the menu -- I might have to get that one day. Another restaurant some people like is Kapok Seafood House on Webster.

                      I have a fondness for Gim's, but it's definitely gloppy and oily -- to me, that's a form of comfort food! It's also really uneven depending on who's cooking. Sometimes it's better than average and sometimes it's almost inedible.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Generally I would agree with the noodles at Cantonese but East Ocean has so many that it seems they are a feature. I have had a good duck with preserved vegetable noodle dish that was good there, but only fresh (not for breakfast) and way too much for one person, one sitting.

                        I'll try the cumin lamb at the Ark. Come to think of it, I don't think I have been since the old chef left and the fusion banner went up ~ XLB still good? I think they called them juicy dumplings.

                  2. Double-skin, or Liang Zhang Pi, is made from Mung Bean noodle sheets, a specialty of Shandong cuisine and a dead giveaway that it is a Korean-Chinese style restaurant run by Chinese of Shandong descent.

                    Great China is known for its Peking Duck dish (though not a Korean-Chinese specialty). One of the few and best places around bay area for it. Another nice item is the Crab meat and egg dish in lettuce cup (sorry, don't remember the exact name). Generous portions of hand pulled crab meat and egg whites lightly sitrred together creates a marvelous flavor. These are probably the best dishes there. I would not even endorse their noodle dishes even though it is a specialty of Korean-Chinese genre. Their versions are not that well done.

                    For more information on what Korean-Chinese is, please see:
                    http://eat.tanspace.com/index.php?s=k...

                    -t

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: tanspace

                      Hey Ed, thanks for popping in for your once-a-quarter posting!

                      1. re: tanspace

                        Thanks for the tip on the crab in lettuce cup, I'll have to try that next time.

                        I like their tea-smoked duck even better than their Peking duck.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Not sure, but I think that the crab was served with soft buns the time I had it.