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May 15, 2006 06:23 PM

china village

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took the family out for mother's day dinner at china village in albany on solano avenue... after all the comments on this blog, i expected something solid. but alas, it was not so.

we ordered the braised crab, the house specialty fish soup with the "thousand" peppers, the sea cumcumber and fish belly, the pork shoulder, the combination fried rice, prawns and honey walnut, spicy eggplant and shrimp in clay pot, tea-duck, and chicken with black mushroom...

maybe it was due to the fact that it was a sunday, or it was mother's day, or it was busy, or just because the sun was still out? but everything was super salty... not only were the sauces and/or broth salty, but also the ingredients... for example the thousand pepper fish fillet soup with glass noodles, not only was the broth salty--the saltiness was permeated throughout the pieces of fish fillet... the servers were courteous but a little hectic...

after this let down, should i try this place again?

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  1. Would you say that this was saltier than other authentic Sichuan food you've had?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      I generally find Sichuan food to be on the saltier and oily side. As previous poster mentioned, Spices III in Oakland is much more saltier than CV. With that said, I've always asked for low salt cooking in any Chinese restaurant. Whether they honor that request is another question. You can always add salt to a dish, but you can't take the salt out.

      1. re: theSauce

        Yes, that's why I asked. I agree that Sichuan food is salty and oily, as well as often extremely spicy. That's the balance point for the cuisine but might not be to everyone's liking.

    2. I would say to give it another chance, but not on a Sunday or holiday like Mother's Day. That's probably one of the worst days of the year for any restaurant: no one wants to work that shift, so you sometimes get the newer cooks and servers.

      Definitely go again, maybe on a Thursday or Friday night, and try the Cumin Lamb.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BonzoGal

        Actually, at most Chinese restaurants, Sunday is often the best day, foodwise, as that's when extended families get together to go out. It will be the most crowded, but the restaurants often have more selection of live seafood, a bigger variety of veggies, and more special dishes to choose from. Don't expect much in the way of service since they'll be trying to turn tables, but you can eat very well. I usually avoid family hour by showing up after 8pm and miss the crowds. A lot of restaurants will look like a total disaster with rice spilled on the carpets, etc., but no matter, I'm not eating off the floor.

        At China Village, both the owner and his wife are usually there on Sundays. So, if you have a complaint, it's easy to take it up with them.

      2. We were there a few weeks ago and just love it. We had: Szechwan Homestyle chicken (cold dish); water dumplings; the Village lamb (cumin); General Zhangfei's Beef (beef belly in peppercorns); a great dish of pea shoots; and of course, sesame bread. Also love the little sandwich things, but can't remember what they are called.

        1. I believe I was the original poster on China Village, and the first year and half or so I went maybe 50 times, many times solo. I definitely feel that when the "famous" chef was around everything had a distinct flair- most things were perfectly executed for what they were. After he left, things were a little less distinctive, say, vegetables just slightly past perfect, or a stir fry a little wetter than optimum. The food was still consistently tasty, though, and mainly suffered by comparison.

          After not going much for a while, over the past year I have gone a dozen or more times. Some have been lunches (ordering off the standard menu with a large group) and other times dinner with fewer people, say 2-4. I have to say that I've found it to have held up well. Again, the dishes don't seem to reach their previous perfection, but continue to taste good and reward my visits. Some of the new dishes, like Zhangfei beef, I really like a lot. This has been the most intensely -ma- flavored dish that I have had locally the two times I ordered it.

          That said, I would acknowledge that the food is salty and often quite oily, depending on the dish. Having dined there with Chengdu natives and many mainlanders my general sense is that it is regarded as reasonably tasty and authentic, and that the saltiness and oiliness are more or less par for the course. However, I like salty food, and can easily imagine that if one does not, it would be much too salty.

          Of course, its certainly possible that your food was too salty by any standard of judgment. I am only saying that I haven't really found it to be in my visits.

          You might want to avoid Spices 3 in Oakland, which I like, but find even saltier than China Village. It's going for something different, though, and my impression, from many visits since it opened, is that the cook(s)? is/are still trying to find a groove. It has not been consistent at all, though I've enjoyed most of the things I've ordered.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ericf
            Robert Lauriston

            I can easily see how someone who didn't like salty food wouldn't like China Village's. Seems unlikely that all the dishes would be saltier than usual.

            Damn, maybe I need to go there tonight. I'm craving that cold spicy "homestyle" chicken and the sesame flatbread.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I agree that it is not a cuisine or style for someone who doesn't like salty tastes. OTOH, the fish soup definitely seemed saltier than usual and perhaps a bit imbalanced in terms of flavors on my last visit. However, I was a bit out of balance also (not feeling 100%) and I wasn't sure if it was really the dish, or if it was me. No one else at the table seemed to have any complaints.

              I most often go to China Village on Sundays, and as others have noted, I don't think it is an off-night there. Not sure about the impact of Mother's Day.

              wish you hadn't said that about the cold spiced chicken...amazing how easy it is to trigger a craving, isn't it?

          2. Definitely go again.

            I've been 3 times in 2006 and have always enjoyed it.

            In my view, it's the best near Solano and I feel lucky to be able to walk to it. Anything in a clay pot is good.

            If I had a complaint, it would be the slightly soggy potsticker wrappers, but that's one dish on a decent-sized menu.