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May 6, 2007 12:11 PM

Any recent visits to Da Lian in Berkeley?

There hasn't been any mention of this restaurant on the board since last fall. Anybody been there recently? Would be nice to have good go to Chinese in the Gourmet Ghetto. Some of the reviews on Yelp have been positive, but I've had my suspicions.

It seems that they specialize in Northern Chinese, any recommendations? How does it compare to Great China?

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  1. I dont' have an answer, but I'd be interested in recent reports. They changed format changed something last fall and I was wondering if that was a good thing or not.

    1. My wife and I just went back last night. The "Chicken Strips on a Sizzling Plate" was outstanding. We have plans to go back with a large group this weekend and try more dishes from the "Chef's Special" section of the menu.

      As for how it compares to Great Wall, we both think that it is far better. It is our favorite Chinese Restaurant in Berkeley. Really, the only dish that we have not cared for in our 5-or-so visits to Da Lian was the "Chicken with Honey Glazed Walnuts."

      2 Replies
      1. re: jdub

        Thanks. Do you know anything about the change that went on in the past year? Was it just a remodel or did the menu change?

        1. re: jdub

          Just to follow up on the OP's question re:comparison, the Great China and the Great Wall are not the same restaurant.

        2. It was just on KQED Check Please, it looks like a great place to eat Northern Chinese food. Any recent reports?

          Signature Dishes: : Lamb or Oyster with Chinese Pickled Cabbage Soup, Shrimp and Chive Boiled Dumpings, Sesame Bread with Green Onion, House Special Smoked Pork

          Da Lian Restaurant
          1674 Shattuck Avenue (at Virginia Street)
          Berkeley, CA 94709
          Parking: Street (easy)

          Phone: 510-883-1883

          Da Lian Restaurant
          1674 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

          7 Replies
          1. re: hhc

            Is this in the Yangtze River Restaurant space?

            1. re: hhc

              I went a couple of months ago for a hurried lunch. It was OK, but I don't even remember what I had. Not that impressed with food knowledge of people on Check Please either. I think there was a salad with a nice vinegary dressing.

              I went to Yangtze River at this site many times and wish it was still here. I think the other M Wong suggested that one should ask for the Da Lian specialities. I tried but the waitress didn't really speak English and I had a mandatory non-mandatory meeting to attend.

              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                yeah,. i ate many weekend lunches there during the late 80s and early 90s.. always the soy milk, chinese donut and various noodle dishes. then it went downhill in the late 90s.

                1. re: kc72

                  I ate the braised beef noodles and the Family-style bean curd for many years.

                  1. re: chocolatetartguy

                    yes.. the braised beef noodles also -- another old reliable.

                2. re: chocolatetartguy

                  Another hand waving here to check on recent visits. I also saw the thingy on Check Please and went, but neglected to ask for long menu. Sauteed Three Ingredients was okay (prawns, scallop and squid), but sauce was not really spicy, and kind of sweet. want to try lamb and pickled cabbage soup next time for sure. Anyone else eaten there lately?

              2. All this chatter piqued my interest so we went last night for dinner.

                The restaurant was only a quarter full on a Saturday night, the host was shocked when I spoke Chinese to him, and the menu was very blah - I started to have a bad feeling about having chosen the restaurant. However, the three dishes we ordered turned out to exceed our (now diminished) expectations. The Zha Jiang Mian (bean paste noodles) was excelent - just the right amount of bean paste, pork slivers and cucumber slivers - both the topping and the noodles are better than the Korean version at Yet Nal Za Zang in Oakland. The smoked pork was billed as a house specialty, and it was good - smoked lean pork slices stir-fried with cabbage, leek and dry chili pods which added a nice little kick to it. However, China Village's stir-fried cabbage had a more interesting sauce, and their twice-cooked pork was smokier with more tender meat. We also ordered the Sizzling Chicken, which had high-quality meat that was very tender, though the flavor was rather familiar.

                While these three dishes were not bad, we will likely not go back any time soon. The restaurant has somewhat of an identity crisis in my opinion. It is not a true regional Chinese restaurant - aside from the dishes we ordered and a couple other items (scallion bread, oyster claypot), the menu is stuffed with chow mien and broccoli beef type of items - I don't think we will be able to come up with three new regional specialties. It simply does not take enough culinary risk to warrant repeat visits from Chinese food aficionados, when compared with Great China just down the street, Shanghai in Oakland Chinatown, and great Sichuan places such as China Village, the place in the 99 Ranch mall and Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill. On the other hand, despite the updated decor (nice wall color, tiled floor and dimmed lighting), the menu is too worn and plain to attract generic American diners when Shen Hua is just a quick hop away. All in all, I am not really surprised by the largely empty dining room.

                1. Went for lunch yesterday with my wife, who was actually born in Dalian, though she grew up in Changchun, a nearby city. Our expectations were not high, but we were actually very pleasantly surprised. Everything we got was tasty and fresh. We had the Sesame Bread with Green Onion, the cumin lamb, the tea smoked duck, and the dish made with eggplant, peppers and potato (di san xian in Chinese - didn't notice it on the menu in English). Cumin lamb wasn't the best I've ever tasted for sure, but it was very good. The duck was nice and crisp. Jing felt the food wasn't as salty as other northern Chinese food she's had in California, and she liked this. Sure there was a lot of blah sounding stuff on the menu, but the dishes we ended up ordering all made the grade.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Martin Strell

                    Thanks for the report! Were there other items on the menu that were not translated into English? Are there more hidden regional specialties? Is there a Chinese-only menu or specials board?

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Didn't notice any Chinese only menu or anything. Jing just chatted with the waitress. The disanxian may have been on the menu - I just didn't notice it. Everything else we ordered was definitely on the menu, except for the steamed buns (baozi), which were, in English, on the specials board. We got the baozi to go for our 5 year old - I didn't get to taste them.

                      1. re: Martin Strell

                        Any other dishes that seemed promising? As in, what would you want to order next time?

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          As it turns out, we went back today, to celebrate my mother-in-law's 64th birthday. We had:
                          - Di san xian
                          - Lamb and cabbage soup
                          - Peking duck
                          - Noodles with clams
                          - Sesame cake (da bing)
                          - Dry roasted "spicy" fish

                          Food was good, but not great. I confirmed that the disanxian is not on the printed menu, but I don't think there's anything else that is not on the menu.
                          Peking duck was good, but I like the pancakes and the sauce better at Great China nearby. The much discussed lamb and cabbage soup was good and hearty, if not very intensely flavored. After reading all about this, I guess I'd expected something a little more unusual. The fish was a little disappointing and was the one thing I'd wanted to try after eating here last time. I had visions of a fish in a sea of dried chili peppers, like I'd had in China. Instead, what we got was neither dry nor spicy at all - it was faintly sweet and in a wet sauce. Noodles with clams were chewy and good. I could see coming back here when we're in the mood for some northern specialties and don't want to drive very far. However, after two visits, I think we've tried almost everything we wanted to try on the menu.

                          1. re: Martin Strell

                            Thanks for the wrap-up. I've been curious about this place for a long time. With your praise for the noodles with clams and Maple's for the ZJM, maybe noodle dishes are the strong point here. Might be good for a lunch spot.