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The good and the bad at Berkeley's Great China...

slew Oct 11, 2009 05:32 PM

Hello SFBA CH community...

We have a dinner reservation at Great China in Berkeley... And since they seem to require a minimum of $15 per person...

I'd/we'd like some suggestions, or warnings, on what's good... And what to avoid... At this fine dining establishment...

Thank you for your input... :)

  1. s
    slew Oct 13, 2009 02:58 PM

    How about their dumplings?

    4 Replies
    1. re: slew
      abstractpoet Oct 13, 2009 03:49 PM

      The dumplings are pretty good--on the small side, but a very generous portion, so it's really good bang for your buck. I like Shan Dong's dumplings better personally, but these are a solid pick as well.

      The sauce that comes with it is good too--not too sweet like some places (though of course you can always mix your own).

      1. re: abstractpoet
        rworange Oct 16, 2009 10:00 PM


        Great China Restaurant
        2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

      2. re: slew
        PeterL Oct 16, 2009 10:14 PM

        Their dumplings are nothing special. They do a small number of dishes well. the Peking duck, tea smoked duck, double skin. That's about it. The others are OK but nothing you'd go out of your way for.

        1. re: PeterL
          Robert Lauriston Oct 17, 2009 10:09 AM

          My favorite dishes are:

          double skin
          fried oysters
          steamed surf clams
          tea-smoked duck

          Those plus the great wine list are the main reasons I go there. I also really like:

          sautéed crab meat
          braised lamb
          Peking duck
          pork belly with preserved vegetable (mei cai kou rou)
          ong choy
          pea leaves

          Some other people's recommendations:


      3. s
        slew Oct 13, 2009 02:10 PM

        Has anyone found any of the soups worthwhile to try?

        1. s
          slew Oct 13, 2009 08:41 AM

          Has anyone ever had the Mandarin Chicken at Great China?

          Is it like San Tung's dry-fried chicken (wings)?

          2 Replies
          1. re: slew
            Robert Lauriston Oct 13, 2009 09:05 AM

            According to the menu, it's "Deep-fried drumettes, stir-fried with a sweet, peppery sauce." I suspect it's one of the dishes the chef has on the menu to please people looking for Chinese-American food.

            If you want to eat well, stick to the dishes marked "house specialty."

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              wolfe Oct 13, 2009 09:24 AM

              Which is easier now that the list has been pared down to 32 items.

          2. a
            abstractpoet Oct 12, 2009 12:27 PM

            They also have a number of Korean-Chinese dishes, like "tan soo yuk" (fried sweet and sour beef). I thought it was pretty good the one time I tried it, but others on the board have found it too sweet--which I can understand.

            The waitresses can be a bit pushy as far as what vegetables they want you to order (at least that has been my experience). But generally speaking, whatever they say is freshest is a pretty good bet. The ong choy with fermented bean curd is great, but I don't think that'll be in season now (?).

            The Peking duck is a must-order, as far as I'm concerned, especially if you're going with a larger group.

            5 Replies
            1. re: abstractpoet
              Robert Lauriston Oct 12, 2009 12:37 PM

              Tang soo yuk is sweet and sour beef. Apparently their version is quite traditional, but it's the only one of their house specialties (conveniently market with asterisks on the menu) I wouldn't order again. I prefer Chef Yu's version.

              I prefer the tea-smoked duck to the Peking duck.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                abstractpoet Oct 12, 2009 01:25 PM

                Right, beef--I mistyped. Have yet to try the version at Chef Yu's, but I think it's the sort of thing you have to have a taste for and be in the mood for anyway.

                I liked the tea-smoked duck the one time I tried it, but find you fill up so much more quickly with those steamed buns than with the crepes.

                1. re: abstractpoet
                  Robert Lauriston Oct 12, 2009 02:44 PM

                  I don't eat the buns or the crepes. And you can always get crepes intead of buns or vice-versa.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston
                  cvhound Oct 12, 2009 04:02 PM

                  I was taught to dip the tang soo yuk beef in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar (just pour small amounts of both on to your plate), which helps to cut the sweetness. Every Korean I know eats their tang soo yuk that way.

                  1. re: cvhound
                    Robert Lauriston Oct 12, 2009 04:25 PM

                    Yeah, I do that. I still prefer Chef Yu's version.

              2. s
                scicchetti Oct 12, 2009 09:49 AM

                The best Chinese food in Berkeley, definitely. I agree with lexdevil, do not miss the double skin salad. The Peking duck is really good, but if you're on a budget you can't go wrong with the guo ta tofu, ong choy with garlic sauce, wok braised lamb if you like big flavors (ask for kim chee to go with that). Good, very reasonably priced wine list, good beer, too, in a pleasantly funky atmosphere.

                1. c
                  cvhound Oct 12, 2009 12:04 AM

                  We love the giant clams (served in huge clam shells) which are often available as a nightly "special."

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cvhound
                    yimster Oct 12, 2009 08:35 AM

                    The dish you are thinking of is the one I would recommended too. Giant Surf Clam I believe is the name of the clam. Sometime available in Asian market. Not sure if there is a season for them since they are not available all the time.

                  2. Ruth Lafler Oct 11, 2009 09:03 PM

                    The other dish I like there that I haven't seen other places is the sauteed crab served with steamed buns. And of course, you should ask about what specials they have.

                    1. fruti Oct 11, 2009 08:31 PM

                      My wife loves the Peking duck - they crisp the skin and take all the meat off the bones. Their walnut prawns are fabulous - no mayo sauce here. My wife also likes their various mu shus. There was a fried gloppy tofu dish that we weren't fond of - sorry don't remember what it was called. Enjoy!

                      1. n
                        neu Oct 11, 2009 08:03 PM

                        Try Peking duck, double skin, seafood ravioli/dumplings and pea shoots (ask for the pea shoots if they are in season but not on the menu), The lunch deals have gone up in price but are still a good deal, with large portions. I don''t know whether a minimum is a new policy or whether it is enforced; I think we've eaten there for less & not been questioned.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: neu
                          slew Oct 12, 2009 11:11 AM

                          Noted on the last page of the PDF of their menu located at their on-line site:

                          'Reservations for parties of 6 or more are taken depending on availability, and may be cancelled if you are more than 10 minutes late. Reservations are subject to a $15 per person minimum.'

                          Probably not strictly enforced... As long as you get close enough to their 'target'... ;)

                        2. Robert Lauriston Oct 11, 2009 06:48 PM


                          1. lexdevil Oct 11, 2009 05:53 PM

                            Don't miss the double skin. The shredded pork w/ dried tofu is nice. The wine specials list has some real deals. The Navarro white table wine at $16 is more than fair, and good with the food. There's also a sub $20 Bordeaux that is nearing the end of viability, but very nice and a great bargain.

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