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Dec 4, 2007 09:28 AM

Albany - China Village après chowdown

I took advantage of the wonderful China Village Chowdown post to make decisions for a few recent meals with a friend. Thanks to all, we ate exquisitely.

In the first reply I put together many of the chowdown comments which helped us decide which dishes to order.

Meal 1

- #124 West Style Spicy Fish Filet (in soup)
- #45 Twice-cooked pork
- #150 Charred stir-fried cabbage
- white rice

There’s not much I can say that hasn’t been said better. These dishes were at the top of everyone’s list.

The fish soup has a lovely presentation. A large soup bowl is covered with another bowl. When the bowl is removed dozens of red chiles cover the soup. The server deftly removes the chiles with a chopstick … every single chile.

I asked if they reused the chiles … there were a lot and it seemed a waste to use once and toss. The server said they were not reused but some Chinese people took them home. We passed on doing that, but what would these be used for at home?

My friend still raves about the amazing broth. I liked the texture of the fish. Those noodles in the soup really are very slippery. We both graced the table with a few.

Meal 2

With the exception of the bread we ordered items not selected during the chowdown

- #1 – Hot and cold salad (Shredded pork, egg, veg, seafood in mustard sauce)
- #111 – XO sauce beef (XO sauce is a slowly made 20 ingredient sauce)
- #216 - Sesame Flat Bread
- white rice

The salad was a dramatic presentation and enough to feed six … at least. A huge platter had the following items all separate on the plate - super thin ribbons of yellow egg, shrimp, finely julienned zucchini, carrots and perhaps other veggies, chopped cabbage, flat noodles, mushrooms, scallions and probably other things we missed. The ingredients were mixed together tableside with chopsticks by the server

It was a cold salad and the ‘hot’ must refer the dressing that had hot Chinese mustard. We liked this but both thought the mustard was a little strong. If that is how it is supposed to be, my guess is this is a salad that is portioned out is small appetizer servings rather than being the main dish.

The beef in XO sauce was tender and velvety with excellent round hollow snap peas (?), zucchini and mushrooms that soaked up the sauce beautifully. While this is delicious, it wasn’t a dish that wasn’t distinguishable to me from other good beef in sauce dishes. I don’t know much about XO sauce so not sure how it compares elsewhere.

We were both in love with the sesame bread which is actually plate-sized inch-thick yeasty soft bread with layer of sesame on top of a crisp flat crust with some scallion layered in the bread … warm and with a nice chew and … mmmmm. It could serve up to 8. Though we stuffed ourselves silly with as much bread as possible ... for two there were leftovers and we both enjoyed it at home the next day.

Thanks Chowhounds for the excellent guidance.

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  1. Trying to make up my mind about which dishes to order I went through the chowdown thread and pulled out comments per dish.

    As this was for me I don’t have who said what. However, all at the chowdown were more than reliable posters whose tastes I have relied on often.

    A line break indicates a comment from a different poster.

    #2 Spicy conch
    #4 Spicy beef tendon
    #8 Homestyle chicken
    #13Widow spicy diced rabbit
    #18 Hot & Sour & Spicy Cold Fun (liang fen
    )#31 Flower bean curd
    #45 Twice-cooked pork
    #56 Steamed Spare Ribs with 5-spice ground rice
    #67 Dry Sauteed Pork “Chitlins” with Chinese Celery
    #71 Szechwan Spicy Boiled Pork Kidney (“water-boiled”)
    #78 Chongqing chicken wings
    #104 Duck in beer sauce
    #108 Spicy boiled beef
    #122 Cumin Lamb
    #124 West Style Spicy Fish Filet (in soup), $16.95
    #128 Fish Filet with Precious Wine Lees Sauce, $12.95
    #139 Traditional Eggplant in spicy sauce
    #150 Charred stir-fried cabbage
    #166 Loofa with prawns
    #171 Chengdu prawns
    #176 Fresh Calamari with Ground Chili Paste (pickled chilis), $10.95
    #192 Zha jian noodles (transliterated differently on the menu)
    #214 Lamb dumplings
    #216 (Big) Sesame Flat Bread, $4.95 x 3
    #217 Water dumpling with hot oil sauce


    The cold conch appetizer was one of my favorites, though I liked the beef tendon too.

    I'm putting these together because they were in exactly the same sauce. Like most, I preferred the conch, because it contributed its own subtle flavor to the mix, while the tendon merely provided texture, and was probably sliced a bit too thin to convey enough of that to stand up to the sauce, but I was extremely happy with both dishes.

    General impressions:: out of the cold plates, I’d order the spicy conch and/or spicy beef tendon again, but not both since they have a similar taste.

    The cold tendon and conch were some of the highlights for me. They were both really well balanced and had great texture.

    Of the appetizers, I liked the spicy tendon the best although the level of heat was fairly tame.

    I think perhaps they have toned down the spice some. Dishes were hot, but not incendiary (and not as hot as I remember in the past). What they were was, to quote Jonathan Kauffman, "intelligently spicy" -- not just blasting you with pure heat, but layers of different flavors. For example, at first we thought the conch and the tendon cold apps had the same sauce, but when we really compared them, it was clear that the tendon had an earthier toasted chile component, while the conch was brighter and slightly sweeter.


    I also liked the homestyle chicken, and enjoyed dipping the sesame flat bread in the nice sesame sauce.

    The Homestyle chicken in a "special sauce" (no, not the same as on a Big Mac) was also perfectly cooked, but the sauce reminded me of hoisin with sesame seeds sprinkled on top and did not otherwise make a strong impression on the table.

    *1/2 Cold chicken on the bone. Nice. Great firm texture and savor, superb flavors of chili and vinegar


    The rabbit didn't impress me too much,

    The rabbit was a bit spicy, but did not seem to excite the table as it held the record for the longest ride 'round the lazy susan until Simon finally allowed its plate to be cleared.

    Great write up, Curtis, and I agree with you on both the shrimp and the rabbit; the shrimp didn't have much flavor, and while the rabbit was fine, my main thought on eating it was "I don't want this to take up too much space in my stomach!" so I think that I probably would not order it again.

    #18 HOT & SOUR & SPICY COLD FUN (LIANG FEN), $4.95

    No one really called this dish by its name so I wasn’t sure when it was discussed


    The flower bean curd was a first for me (and for other people at my table who have always only had sweet "dou hua" preparations) - the ultra-tender bean curd was interspersed with filets of fish and covered in red chili oil (that was surprisingly not that spicy). I found the bean curd really soothing after a meal full of intense flavors.

    The flower bean curd was a revelation. I had never tried this style of dish-never in fact had tofu of such silkiness and tenderness. The combination of the fish, the tofu, and the just-spicy broth was a delight. I think for me, if this had arrived slightly earlier, while my appetite was not so sated, the dish would have been a higher favorite.

    The flower bean curd was good, but since the flavor profile is similar to everything else, it dropped off the list.


    Twice-cooked pork, a Sichuan standard made from pork belly that's smoked, sliced, and stir-fried with leeks or green onions, was also excellent. The sauce was spicy and sweet, and the pork was cut thinly to yield floppy strips that were meaty and fatty in every bite.

    The twice-cooked pork was just like the best bacon ever, tweaked with a little sugar and spice, and cooked in a way that gave you both the nearly crisp chewiness of the meaty parts and the melting tenderness of the fatty parts.

    Other standouts for me include the sumptuous twice cooked pork which beautifully married the smokiness of the pork belly with the sweet aromatics of the green onions. Although I tried and certainly enjoyed the twice cooked fish, I think the addition of the pork fat made this my favorite of the two similarly prepared dishes.


    The one major disappointment was probably the steamed spare ribs with 5-spice ground rice - I didn't love the texture, and it was either bland, or the seasonings were too subtle to hold up against the other, more aggressively seasoned dishes we were eating.

    I did not like the steamed spare ribs. The sauce was bland and had a gritty texture that I didn't seemed to not know whether it wanted to be spicy or sweet or salty.

    The sole underwhelming dish seemed to be the steamed spare ribs with five spice ground rice. Though they were cooked well and quite tender, the flavor didn't seem especially interesting, particularly since it was competing with dishes such as the picant water boiled eels.


    **Stir-fried pork chitlins. Oh, baby. Incredibly tasty, soft in texture and rich in flavor. Loved this one.

    Dry Sauteed Chitlins - I'm glad we got this version which was very nice and crispy as opposed to the crispy chitlins.

    Yep, the menu language is deceptive. The really crispy chitlin dish isn't called "crispy", and the ones identified as "crispy" aren't. So be sure to verify this before ordering again.

    The stir fry chiltins were a real treat, I was told they also twice cooked, quickly deep fried and then thinly slice and cooked with chilies and vegetables


    I tried both the water-boiled eel on our table and the water boiled kidney from another table, and I liked the kidney better because (1) it tasted better and (2) because it's really hard to cook kidney well, so that was nice.

    The kitchen seems to cook kidneys very well - they have plenty of flavor and the right texture. Soup Noodles and I sat next to each other and both agreed that the kidneys were fantastic.

    Another trilogy; in this case, the fish was from our table and the eel and kidney from another, all swimming in the same thick, spicy, bean-y sauce. The eel was good, but the kidney was transcendental, nicely undercooked and soft in texture, adding its funkiness to the experience, and the fish was equally amazing, but by contrasting its uplifting purity with the low-down sauce. A triumph, and not insanely spicy by any means.


    The chongqing chicken wings were fried beautifully and tasted mostly of Szechuan peppercorn.

    Chongqing chicken wings (which were fried perfectly and very tender).

    In the crispy arena, the flavor, heat and crunch of the chicken wings were divine, as was the toothsomeness and earthiness of the crispy chitlins I snagged from our neighbors.

    I was very taken with the Chongqing fried chicken which was also very popular with visiting 'hounds who were lining up to try it.


    The beer-braised duck, rich, moist, succulent

    I preferred the water-cooked beef, but I feel like the beer sauce duck didn't get as much attention as it could have in the wake of so many red oil dishes. It wasn't as spicy as the red oil dishes, but it had other herbal notes and an overall pleasing but not showy dish--it is claypot after all.

    And, tm, i do agree that some of the milder dishes might have gotten short shrift. If the West style fish soup hadn't come out early, we might not have enjoyed it so much. Thanks for mentioning the beer duck, as I've liked it in the past.


    The water-boiled beef is probably one of the best second day dishes (served over fresh white rice) I've ever had. It seems to triple in taste

    My surprise favorite was the water-boiled beef -- having heard horror stories about this being the hottest dish in the Sichuan cuisine canon, I've always avoided it. But it was delicious, and not *that* spicy.

    #122 CUMIN LAMB

    I enjoyed the flavor of the cumin lamb, but was surprised by the texture (tender from a cornstarch marinade). I was expecting crusty, caramelized bits of lamb - this was good, but not what I was expecting.

    There's potentially great lamb preparations at this place, the cumin prep wasn't my thing, but the cook did a great job on texture and making the lamb not lamb-y.

    The cumin lamb was good, perhaps one of the better versions I've had, but in general I don't like this dish. I liked it more than the version at Spices II in SF.

    The cumin lamb impressed me at first, but at second tasting, I too was a bit put off by a too-soft texture. I like a little more 'bite' to my meat.

    Additionally, the lamb with cumin was very flavorful and well seasoned.

    I wish I'd tried the lamb you ordered, as I haven't been a fan of it in the past for the soft texture and wimpy seasonings, and would have liked to just see if it's the same.


    Westlake fish soup was as good as ever. Fish comes in broth topped with a cover of chilies, which impart lots of roasted chili flavor but little heat, letting the fish and its broth shine through.

    The fish was beautifully tender and tasted of shao xing wine. I loved the texture of the fish against the texture of the cellophane noodles. And oh, the broth was delicious.

    I also really enjoyed seeing the rock cod soup cooked with about 50 roasted red chilis on top. The taste was nice too but I thought the presentation is what made it exceptional.

    My favorite of the entire meal was the West Style Fish Soup. I had never had this soup before, and I thought the presentation was really cool. The soup itself was delicious - rich broth, tender pieces of white fish and slippery, thick cellophane noodles.

    West Style Soup with Chili - surprisingly not so hot once all the chilis were removed

    I was aware of the presentation of the soup, but its actuality was as dramatic as could be, even without the surprise that less familiarity would have offered. The depth of flavor, coupled with the delicacy of the broth was a revelation. One of the best soups I have ever had. The sweetness/freshness of the fillets was a treat.


    When the fish filet with precious wine lees came out, I had a "duh" moment wishing it had dawned on me earlier that this was what I think of as a Shanghainese dish. I like the version at Shanghai East in San Mateo much better. CV's was sweeter and more yeasty, given that it had the wine lees, and not just shaoxing wine as a flavorant. It was pleasant enough, but the sauce was a bit goopy and thickish and a couple notches too sweet. This also pointed out the problem of trying to switch from an early round of spicy dishes to simpler things like this. I also felt that our seafood noodle dish fell out more than it should have because it seemed bland compared to what had come before.


    I think the eggplant at our table probably ruined my future orders of this dish from lesser restaurants, because the balance of flavors was perfect. It can often come out too sweet or too oily, or not enough flavor, or with tough eggplant skins, but this one had the perfect flavor and texture.

    My favorites were the eggplant yuxiang, a fabulous rendition of a favorite dish


    My favorite dish of the day was charred stir-fried cabbage. The humble name is deceptive: the cabbage is charred so that sweetness emerges from the caramelized edges, and the combination of that sweetness, chili spice, crunchiness, and slipperiness made this dish memorable. It's a nice lesson in how a single ingredient can yield so much flavor.

    Like David, my top pick was--strangely--the cabbage. I didn't expect to be wowed by a veg dish at all--I'm much more of a pork girl, but the caramel blended with chili was unbelievable. I think I had thirds or fourths--more than my fair share.

    My other three favorites were the cabbage (I liked the sweetness),

    I thought the cabbage was stellar-especially when tasted alongside the twice-cooked pork.

    The surprise hit of the table was the charred stir-fried cabbage which was smoky and beautifully caramelized to accentuate the sweetness of the vegetable. I have very rarely had such a simple and delicious dish.

    Like everyone else, I was awed by the compelling smokiness of this deceptively simple dish. One of these days, I'm dragging home a half-dozen heads of cabbage and doing an experiment. If I can get it to come out half this good, I'm calling it a success.


    Loofah was delicate yet flavorful, and provide welcome respite from the sea of red oil and chile pods spreading across the table.


    The Chengdu prawns are similar to the Chongquing chicken wings: a salt&pepper type coating, dry fried with an equal number of dried chile pods -- you literally dig through the pods to unearth the prawns. The coating on the prawns is reddish -- I don't know if that's because there's chile in the coating or if they just pick it up from the pods during frying.


    The only thing that I didn't like was a squid dish that came over from another table, it must have been Melanie's table, from reading over the lists. The sauce was too sweet, and had an odd flavor that none of us could figure out.

    I am afraid I would have to take the blame for the squid dish. It is stir fried with pao4 jiao1 (pickled chili), which is a traditional Sichuan ingredient that piqued my interest but is hard to find in the Bay Area. The dish turned out to be quite orange and I didn't much care for the sour pickled flavor. Sorry!

    I agree regarding the calamari dish being not great (too sweet).


    I wanted to love the zha jiang noodles, but the handmade noodles were too soft and not chewy enough for my taste, and the sauce lacked the smokiness and dark, molasses-y sweetness in other versions I've tried.

    The zha jiang mein was really tasty too (if a little shy of cucumber) and I found the chewiness of the homemade noodles perfect.

    The zhajiang mian was made with fresh noodles and was nice but nothing special, instead, any variations on dandan mian might be worth exploring since there's a great version of dandan mian in an LA Szechwan place.

    The Zha Jiang Noodles are hose made had a wonderful bite to them and the meat sauce was made liked I remembered it.

    I wanted so much to like the zha jiang noodles more than I did, but they just lacked the drama I think I was hoping for. This is a dish I WILL try again-searching for a version which will exceed my expectations. The noodles were chewy, but a bit softer than I enjoy.

    Also, the noodles were good but don't really measure up to Joy's version of knife cut noodles in both texture and flavor.

    I also enjoyed the Zha Jiang Noodles--I had only had these previously from a streetcart in New York and their noodles weren't nearly as chewy.


    The exterior was slightly rustic with a thicker, slightly chewy skin kind of like the mian. The interior was pretty flavorful and juicy which is what i prefer. The lamb dumplings should definitely be eaten hot, so I’d eat 'em as soon as they're served. They were steamed, and if there was a sauce i missed it. It probably didn't need a sauce, but zhejiang vinegar is great with xiaolongbao so that might be something to try and see if they play well together.

    CV's original chef used to make a killer chili oil condiment and I would use a little on the lamb dumplings. I didn't ask for any to taste, wondering if the chili sauce is still housemade.

    I tried asking for a less gamy, more oniony dumpling as you had recommended - he looked at me like I was nuts and said there wasn't really any way to do that. Anyway, people at my table seemed to enjoy them, so maybe they toned down the gaminess since the last time you had them. I thought they were good, but they didn't live up to my #1 lamb dumpling of all time (101 Noodle Express in Alhambra) - I think the meat might not have been fatty enough.

    I liked the dumplings mainly because they *were* less gamey than other versions I've had elsewhere. There were also lots of onions or leeks, which added a nice maybe he made it happen after all.

    If I were going back, I'd get the lamb dumplings for myself.

    I agree with pane that these were better than the water dumplings


    A 3/4" thick pancake of scallion bread, browned to an outer crispness, and with sesame seeds pressed into one side. Just the right amount of salt, firm outside, tender and scalliony inside, great stuff.

    Other dishes I enjoyed were the flat breads (solid, but nothing too special),


    I can eat a whole order of the water dumplings myself, and mopped up the garlicky sauce with my sesame bread.

    I'd discourage ordering #217 the water dumpling with hot oil

    I thought the water dumplings were just OK - same w/ the zha jiang noodles.

    Although the constant image of dumplings on the evite might have built up a bit too much hype and anticipation, I was not bowled over by the ones served with chili oil, but preferred the lamb dumplings.



    I really liked the red-chili-oil based sauce with maybe some vinegar, peanuts, and what else?

    The sauce on the chicken had such a great flavor, spicy and rich and nuanced.

    The Organic chicken was tender and very tasty with the chili sauce showing off the chicken and not covering it.

    In every case the flavors of the main ingredient were clear, and not masked by the spices. This was most evident, I think, in the chicken, which was marvelously moist and chewy (in a good way) and tasted of fresh chicken under the coating of chile oil.

    Coming back with the organic chicken was a score, if only for the tasty sauce that accompanied it. Sopping up that wonderful mixture of spicy goodness with a warm piece of sesame bread approached Nirvana for me, if only for a fleeting moment.

    Nice aged vinegar flavor with mild spices, this one shows off the compelling savory qualities of the vinegar while keeping everything very subtle. I liked this one a lot.


    Tea-smoked duck with red peppers - A preview, in the form of a tidbit from another table, was unpromising, because the duck was overcooked and dried out. But when ours arrived, most of it was reasonably moist, a very good dish wanting, perhaps, only a bit less cooking to reach greatness.


    The only not so great dish was the crispy pork chitterlings. As mentioned, the main problem is that the crispy dish is in no way crispy--make sure you order the dry fried if you actually want crispy.


    I also really liked the spicy water boiled eel, cut in very thin strips--it almost looked like eggplant. I tried a beef dish in the same preparation at another table, but preferred the eel.

    I heartily second your choice of the eel at CV. I don't think the eel was cut into julienne. I think these were elvers -- juvenile eels which the Spaniards call "anguillas". This was the dish that I overindulged in

    I'll express my appreciation again for letting me try the water-boiled eels you managed to snag from Daveena's table.


    The shrimp w/ mustard didn't seem to taste like mustard at all,

    The lone disappointment for me was the shrimp which was evidently supposed to be served with a mustard sauce. They were perfectly cooked and beautifully plated, but other than a slight hint of the cucumbers upon which they were placed, there was no discernible flavor.

    I think at our table they forgot to put on the mustard sauce - it seemed like plain, poached shrimp. Did anyone at any table taste mustard?

    I hadn't asked for a description of this dish when Mr. Yao suggested it on the phone. In my mind's eye, I was anticipating a fiery golden mustard dressing such as would be used on liang zhang pi. I thought I tasted a faint horseradish or wasabi like tone under the fresh sweetness of the poached shrimp.

    They just tasted like plain shrimp to me--no seasoning at all.

    Cold shrimp - Not much to it, plain boiled shrimp on cucumbers with no apparent seasoning. Didn't really see the point.


    The green beans were nice and perfectly cooked.

    Green beans had excellent color, texture, and symmetry.

    The green beans were well cooked and nicely perfumed with garlic, but otherwise not too surprising.

    *Cold Chopped green beans - Oh, this was nice. Little crisp 3/8" lengths of bean, livened up with tanginess, sprightly and refreshing.


    I liked the eggplant with shrimp in claypot, basically the traditional fish-flavored eggplant with the addition of some prawns. While the shrimp were cooked perfectly and picked up the lovely seasonings, I didn't think they melded well with the eggplant. I think I'd order it w/o shrimp next time for myself.

    I'm glad your table ordered the eggplant yuxiang ("fish-flavored eggplant). Beforehand my references to it may have flummoxed Ruth a bit since the menu lists it as "traditional eggplant" or something like that and she couldn't figure out what I was referring to. It is one of the Sichuan standards that I'd not tried here, and it's nice to know that CV does it well.


    Twice-cooked fish - amazingly tender considering it was twice cooked


    Did anyone try all four of the water-boiled preps? This can also be made with chicken, pork, or tripe. I missed the beef one, but of the three, I think I liked the fish the best with brighter flavors.

    Water Boiled Fish - I really loved the way this made my tongue tingle!

    I tried the water-cooked beef and water-cooked fish, and it seemed the liquid with the fish was a little lighter, to pair better with the more delicate fish.

    The water-boiled fish (our beef was excellent, though not sublime);


    Actually, I kind of liked the julienned potato from Lembert's table, too bad it doesn't come as a small appetizer plate as well. If I had four other people to go back with adding the west style fish soup with water boiled kidney and charred cabbage would be good. Maybe some sesame bread to mop up the sauce.

    The stir fried potatoes off set all the heat of the other dishes, as did the cabbage. Two great simple dishes.

    Stir-fried potato with fresh, hot green peppers. If you've not had this dish, which is long shreds of potato cooked only enough to still stay firm while shedding the crunchiness of a raw potato, it's a nice surprise and worth ordering for novelty. Unfortunately I've had much better versions of this, with much more hot pepper, sliced finer, so that the synergy of the pepper and potato flavors added a whole different dimension to the experience. Certainly good, but...


    Pork shoulder from Yimster's table - I had a piece that was all fat - glorious melt in your mouth fat with a bit of Chinese herbal medicine flavor. Yum.

    Braised Sichuan pork shoulder - I just couldn't make friends with this dish, despite the perfection of the texture, with the soft, savory gelatinous bits. The combination of 5-spice with Sichuan flavors just doesn't work for me.


    Later we were able to have the cold kidney which were cooked to a prefect texture.

    Upon realizing that we had at least 3 rabid kidney enthusiasts at our table, we thought of including a whole dish of those wonderful boiled kidneys in our order, but when the staff suggested we try this, we went for it, and were glad we did. Perfectly cooked kidneys in a mildly spicy sauce, playing up the coldness in a nice way, a winner that will be part of my standard appetizer order here when I'm in a kidney mood, which is most of the time.

    China Village
    1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

    12 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      There are places I have been that make the cumin lamb in a crunchy style.. much better than the Çhina Village version, does anybody know of a place in the Bay Area. that makes it in this style?

      1. re: jason carey

        I know a couple of places -- off the top of my head, Ark in Alameda -- but I actually prefer the China Village version.

      2. re: rworange

        Wow, I can't believe you typed that all up! Thanks a lot, this is a great tool.

        Dave MP

        1. re: Dave MP

          Well, not type ... cut and paste.

          Anyone have any favorites at CV not mentioned in the chowdown?

          If the hot and cold salad had not been so HUGE we would have orderered #58 - hot and spicy pork shoulder ... I'm a sucker for creative writing on menus ... Cuisine for an emporer for over 1000 years, it is cooked with traditional Szechwan spices. Cook approach for 6 to 8 hours until the meat is tender enough to melt in your mouth.

          Which reminds me ... they bring the food out all at once, so if looking to pace things, let them know or order as you are about ready for the next dish.

          Other chowdown items on my list to try

          #2 Spicy conch
          #31 Flower bean curd
          #67 Dry Sauteed Pork “Chitlins” with Chinese Celery
          #71 Szechwan Spicy Boiled Pork Kidney (“water-boiled”)
          #78 Chongqing chicken wings
          #108 Spicy boiled beef (if I chicken out on the kidney)
          #139 Traditional Eggplant in spicy sauce
          #166 Loofa with prawns
          #214 Lamb dumplings

          Lately there's been a claypot rabbit on the specials board which sounds good.

          1. re: rworange

            We were there Sunday and had a very nice dinner. Much of what we had is already on the list. Thanks, RWO, for collating it.
            My new favorite is Water-Boiled Chicken, which I could not find on the menu.. We were warned that it is spicy, but it turned out not fiery hot, but very well seasoned with lots of garlic.
            Another nice dish was a tofu clay pot with vegetables -- also not on the menu, we just described what we wanted and they made it. The tofu was fried cubes.
            On a recent previous visit we tried Changsha Chicken (#85) and it was just ordinary, not to our taste.
            They do a good job on whatever green veg is in season. They had just run out of pea leaves, so we had A-choy (A-tsai) instead. Very good wok-breath.
            As RWO mentioned, they will bring out the food all at once. Usually I print out a list of our order. I give them the first page (cold dishes, soup), and when we are halfway through I give them the second page. In the past we have requested that they not bring everything at once but they ignored that suggestion.
            The "Hot and Cold Salad", well described by RWO, is the same as the "Double-Skin" at Great China in downtown Berkeley. It apparently is a Korean-Chinese specialty. The owner of China Village, the genial and accommodating Mr. Yao, lived in Korea at one time.

            China Village
            1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

            Great China Restaurant
            2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

            1. re: Joel

              I think that chicken dish is not "water-cooked" chicken (which is not on the menu): "water-cooked" dishes are not particularly garlicy. You may have had the dish several tables ordered from the specials board at the chowdown: Organic Chicken in a red oil spicy sauce:

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Thanks, Ruth, but that picture does not look exactly like what we got.
                I said "water-boiled chicken" and the waiter (the very large guy) nodded as though he knew exactly what I meant. It was in an oily red spicy sauce, though, but with lots of garlic. Maybe it is the same as the "water-boiled beef" referenced above, and they substituted chicken.

                I must admit that we were on the third bottle of wine by then, so my mind may have been clouded. Or boiled.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  The organic chicken in red oil depicted above was cooked on the bone and served with the skin. Water-boiled chicken (or "spicy boiled" in CV's menu lingo) would be filet strips of slippery chicken.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Okay, but I'm still a little confused by Joel's description of it having "lots of garlic" -- perhaps I'm misremembering, but I don't think "spicy boiled" preps are usually very garlicky.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Can't comment on the garlic quotient, just thought the method of cutting and prepping the chicken pieces might be a clue for Joel.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Melanie wrote: "filet strips of slippery chicken" and that indeed is what we were served, no bones about it. An important point here is that China Village (and many Chinese places) will modify (or create) dishes upon request.

                        1. re: Joel

                          Water-boiled prep isn't just about the spicing, but also the smooth, tender texture of the barely poached meats. I haven't had the chicken version here yet.

                          Hope someone will try the mapo crab, now that crab's in season again. It was described to me by Mr. Yao as having the same seasonings as mapo tofu but no ground pork.

        2. My wife, not being one to let a perfectly good chile go unused, always takes home the chiles from CV. They're perfectly fine for daily use. ;)

          2 Replies
          1. re: chilihead2006

            Thanks for the the response. What would that daily use be? Added to scrambled eggs or beans or veggies or soup?

            1. re: rworange

              I still have a bunch from an order of Chonqing chicken. These are mingled with a good amount of Sichuan peppercorns too. I crumble one into a beef stir-fry, add to tofu dishes, drop them into chili beans, etc.

          2. Rworange, thanks so much for pulling together the posts on various China Village dishes. Your work was the basic source for two CV meals, on on-site and one takeaway, which we had a few weeks ago when we were in the East Bay. The information was invaluable in making good choices from the menu. Among other things, the rest of my family is very spicy-phobic, but all of them ended up liking several of the dishes - which they never would have tried on their own.

            First meal had three big winners:

            Homestyle chicken - the mix of spiciness and slight sweet flavor to the sauce really worked.
            West Style Spicy Fish Soup - all the spice-a-phobes were astounded over the delicacy of the flavor after the chilies were removed.
            Charred stir-fried cabbage - again, the previous posts were right on the mark as to the effect of the carmelization.

            On the other hand, the sesame flat bread was initially regarded with interest but ultimately with no great enthusiasm. It was probably a little too doughy and soft for palates that were becoming used to fresh Acme sourdough every day. The spice-a-phobes hedged by ordering orange chicken and one of the chow fun dishes. Both were fine (the orange chicken was surprisingly popular) but of course not what you go to CV for.

            On the second, take-out meal we repeated the homestyle chicken and the charred cabbage due to popular demand (both also worked the second time around). Didn't do the West Style fish mainly for fear that it wouldn't travel well. Had a few more people, so experimented with some of the other dishes.

            Spicy beef tendon - those who liked spicy really liked this.
            Flower bean curd - good, but a little bland for most. This may also be a dish which doesn't travel too well.
            Dry sauteed pork chitlins with Chinese celery - the celery is a little stringy and perhaps not anyone's fave as a veggie. But the pork was extremely good - we'd try the twice-cooked pork next time round.
            Loofah with prawns - a very pleasant, somewhat subtle combination. It worked for us as a nice change of pace.

            In addition to the twice-cooked pork, the hot-and-cold salad, cumin lamb and spicy eggplant would be high on the "next to try" list.

            Thanks again Chowhounds and especially rworange for such an invaluable roadmap to enjoying this restaurant!

            1. Tried there a few weeks ago. But found a cheaper and equally good in taste Szechuan food on San Pablo Avenue (El Cerrito). The restaurant is Golden Bowl and it's a new joint. Prices very reasonable. Just went there yesterday evening and since it's new, they are giving out discount coupons for your next visit.

              3 Replies
              1. re: durandaisy

                You are in good company.

                Happy Golden Bowl
                10675 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA

                1. re: durandaisy

                  We were at China Village last night and were very pleased. Mr Yao, the owner, recommended two dishes new to us: special mushroom (from Yunnan, I didn't get the name); it came in a metal wok over a Sterno burner. Exceptional woodsy mushroomy flavor. Also Lamb Chop in clay pot, very tender, flavorful chops, long-stewed, very sumptuous. Also pea-leaves in garlic, bright green and very fresh-tasting. We had our old favorites, West Style Fish Filet (the soup with "1000" chilis"), we all agreed was superb -- just the right amount of heat, and the Sesame Bread, also perfect.
                  One corkage fee ($8.50) for our two bottles (of course we gave Mr Yao a taste).
                  $88 for six diners, before tip.
                  I should add that we were recognized and perhaps received special treatment from Mr Yao.

                  1. re: Joel

                    Those were the tea tree mushrooms - we had them last week and they were indeed wonderful. Our meal was great and we were just 3 folks from South Bay visiting for the first time.