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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.


            1. We were there last Thursday and had the house specialty fish soup with the "thousand" peppers--thought it was really delicious. It was salty although at the time it seemed very tasty. I like salt. I must have consumed 4 glasses of water while I was eating. Got home and my hands and feet felt dry. Granted two of us ate the whole thing which would have been more suited for 6. How do you get the noodles out of the serving bowl and into your soup bowl let alone your mouth? Even the waiter seemed to be having trouble getting them out of the serving bowl.

              1. What a coincidence to find your comments on CH. We were there just this past Sat and we thought the food was excessively salty as well. We had the $200 banquet. John and his wife were there. When his wife asked us about the food, we said that it was great as usual but that it seemed to us to be saltier than usual, especially the garlic eggplant.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Shotgun

                  After all the comments abouve, I tried China Village on Sat. May 12th, with a guest early before the crowds showed up. I did not have the benefit of the "salty" comments in advance.

                  I had no salty reaction to any of the dishes we had. In fact, we had a wonderful experience and will be going back again soon. We started with the shwei Jiao, the water dumplings in a chili oil and a hint of sweet soy and I think oyster sauce. It was fantastic. The chili oil was perfect.

                  We had the beef and oinion w black pepper. I can't remember the name. It came in a large ceramic bowl. There had to be at least a pound of beef in the serving. No oil at all. In fact we commented on how it was done without any oil. The flavors were black pepper and onions no salt.

                  We also had the Dong po duck. It was one of the best duck dishes I've ever had. It was slow cooked (6 hours according to the owner Mr. Yao.) in a sauce with anise and cloves. Almost five spice but not as sweet as five spice. It was served with baby bok choy. It was spectacular. It was half a duck with the dark meat only, i.e. legs and thighs. We couldn't believe the portion size.

                  We also had the hot sour prawns with bamboo shoots and peppers. I'm not sure of the name of this either.

                  We may have had special treatment. While this was our first time there, Mr. Yao actually helped us order. We had just come from a Pine Ridge winery event and brought in a bottle of red wine. We gave him a taste and he spent 10 minutes with us talking about the menu before ordering.

                  Perhaps that is the trick. Anyway it was one of our best Chinese meals in the East Bay. (I'm second generation Shanghainese.)

                  I'd suggest retrying since this may mean they have a new round of chefs.

                  1. re: bluecheesewiz

                    We were there too on Sat May 12th, a table of ten.
                    We are more or less "regulars" and the owner came by to greet us.
                    The food was excellent, and not excessively salty as far as I can recall.
                    We dined quite well, and the bill was $133 before tip (including two $8 corkage fees).
                    Recently we have been ordering the twice-cooked pork which has become a new favorite. It is thinly sliced belly (uncured bacon). Rich, tender, a little bit spicy.