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Historic Berkeley Chinese restaurant query

eatzalot Dec 20, 2010 10:59 AM

Topic is Berkeley Chinese restaurants that opened before 1970. Some, I think, still operate. This discussion began in the long "Sichuan trend?" thread in General Chowhound Topics, here's a specific link, with information from buttertart (an oriental-languages scholar), with rarely mentioned local linguistic angles. Please read buttertart's enlightening posting:


First, to buttertart: (1) if Yangtze River was on Shattuck circa Delaware or Bkly Way, that was the very place whose owners (family Loum, pronounced "Lum") I knew around 1968-70. That was the neighborhood where I grew up. Another, unrelated Chinese restaurant, on Shattuck (opposite side, toward hills) just S. of University (name???) was popular, and was where we later got very hot food, mid to late 1970s. It was in a group of adjacent businesses that had a bad fire sometime in the 70s, closing some of them incl. the old Shattuck Ave. "Top Dog" location, but the restaurant may have survived.

(2) Huo Kuo House (owners Wan and Fraser Wu, who "came to the US in 1949 after the change of regime in China" according to their pre-1969 menu, spelled it with a K), on Vine W. of Shattuck, was the place I mentioned as closing 1969, until which it was my favorite restaurant as a child. What happened more precisely in '69 is that new owners or a new generation took over and changed the menu, and it became much like the average Chinese restaurant in town, plus fire pots. Until 1969 it offered the most unique long, narrow "egg rolls" tightly wrapped over a mainly herbal filling based on spinach or some other green herb. (Another "damn, I can still taste it!" taste, even after 40-plus years.) And a kind of pervasive delicacy and grace, extending even to the arrays of raw vegetables, fish, etc. that we'd cook in the hot broth in the (now surely illegal due to monoxide) charcoal-powered fire pot on our table.

Broader query: I tried and failed to recall to buttertart the name of a truly pioneering Chinese restaurant, opened late 1960s on College Ave. somewhere around Alcatraz, King something is how I recall the name. I guessed King Tsin initially, but an unrelated restaurant on Solano Ave. has that name, another place I knew and very well. The one I'm trying to recall has been discussed fondly elsewhere among old Berkelyans and is the first place in that town where I saw Kuo Teh (as a novel offering, parenthetically translated "pot stickers") and lots of vigorous Chinese spices, 1968. Recollections of the place and its juicy pot stickers precede buttertart's message in thread linked above.

Any info or memories of that place, or other Berkeley Chinese restaurants operating pre-1970, will be very welcome!

King Tsin
1699 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707

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  1. buttertart RE: eatzalot Dec 20, 2010 11:32 AM

    We lived in Berkeley from 1974-1987, on Berkeley Way near Shattuck.
    1. That's the Yangtze River I meant, a few blocks north of University, with the Northern-style breakfast on the weekends. I have no memory whatsoever of a Chinese restaurant south of University on Shattuck, banks, Woolworth's, no Chinese restaurant. The Taiwan Restaurant west of Shattuck opened in the late '70s and was reasonably good, especially when it first opened.
    2. Huo Kuo House was quite good even when we were first there, but hot pot is not my favorite Chinese food preparation. I don't remember unusual fried pastries. It would have been nice to have known it in its heyday.
    3. No memory of a Chinese place on College, but we didn't get out that way very much (no car).

    5 Replies
    1. re: buttertart
      eatzalot RE: buttertart Dec 20, 2010 11:44 AM

      Thanks. The unnamed Shattuck-Ave. Chinese restaurant was JUST south of University, near the corner on the East side (parallel to where the "island" of Shattuck Square briefly splits Shattuck Ave.). It was no Chin Szchwan (thanks for clearing that name up!!) but did have a flair with hot food. Too hot for some of my peers in college. Taiwan Restaurant too I vividly remember because when working one summer at UCB, the crew I was with often wanted to "tie one on" and we'd walk down to the Taiwan, sometimes sharing a large table with strangers (a sensible option, I wish more restaurants promoted it), and they gave ripe orange wedges to finish the meal. The lunch specials were $1.76, coming out just over $2 with decent tip. (1975 dollars, of course; 4 or 5 times today's buying power.)

      Incidentally when very young I lived on Berkeley Way at Milvia, a house that was later replaced by an apartment building, and in the 1980s had friends (family Solmonson) on B. Way near Shattuck.

      1. re: eatzalot
        buttertart RE: eatzalot Dec 20, 2010 11:56 AM

        Where the Hof-Feft hofbrauhaus was? The side of Shattuck closest to Cal? I think I do remember a place there after all, maybe a bit more expensive than the others?
        I worked at Yorkshire Fish and Chips on Shattuck betw BW and Univ for a few years in the late 70s, incidentally.

        1. re: eatzalot
          wew RE: eatzalot Dec 20, 2010 05:02 PM

          "It was no Chin Szchwan..."
          So few places are or were. It helped me get an understanding for the expression breath of the wok. Much great food and many fragrant memories.

        2. re: buttertart
          Ruth Lafler RE: buttertart Dec 20, 2010 12:38 PM

          I went to Yangtze River once with my parents and they said it had been around since -- IIRC -- their Berkeley undergrad days in the '50s.

          My favorite cheap Berkeley Chinese from the '70s was Sinopalace, on Channing just west of Telegraph, but I don't know how far before my time (late '70s) that place went back. I still crave their beef and bean curd rice plate, which has never been quite as delicious any other place I've ordered it.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler
            buttertart RE: Ruth Lafler Dec 20, 2010 12:43 PM

            It's odd but I don't remember that one either - too bad because beef and doufu is one of my favorites!

        3. nicedragonboy RE: eatzalot Dec 20, 2010 02:55 PM

          Are you thinking of King Yen on College? It's closer to Ashby than Alcatraz.

          King Yen Restaurant
          2995 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

          1. The Chowhound Team RE: eatzalot Dec 20, 2010 03:58 PM

            Folks, remember that Chowhound's mission is where the find the best chow right now. Discussion of closed restaurants is off topic for our site.

            1 Reply
            1. re: The Chowhound Team
              eatzalot RE: The Chowhound Team Dec 20, 2010 04:26 PM

              Thanks for the guidance, and please note that most of the restaurants discussed on this thread so far are still open, I checked.

              This topic spun off of a thread about Chinese-restaurant evolution under General Chowhound Topics, but I put it here because it seemed more appropriate, this part being exclusive to the Bay Area. If there's a more appropriate location, please advise.

            2. escargot3 RE: eatzalot Dec 20, 2010 06:44 PM

              I used to eat at that place on Shattuck. Favorite spot of my chinese housemate and his family.
              but I don't recall the name.

              1. buttertart RE: eatzalot Dec 21, 2010 05:48 AM

                My husband remembers the one on Shattuck s of Univ and also mentioned Emei, on Solano - is it still there? Emei is a Buddhist holy mountain in Sichuan so the intent was there to designate it as a specifically Sichuan restaurant - he remembers the food as being quite good.
                The Yangtze River was still in operation last time I was on Shattuck (2006, must go back soon).

                4 Replies
                1. re: buttertart
                  wally RE: buttertart Dec 21, 2010 05:51 AM

                  I think Yangtze River is now Da Lian?

                  Da Lian Restaurant
                  1674 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                  1. re: wally
                    buttertart RE: wally Dec 21, 2010 05:54 AM

                    Didn't notice a name change - is it recent? Different owners? In any case a Chinese restaurant has been in continuous operation there since the early 70s.

                  2. re: buttertart
                    eatzalot RE: buttertart Dec 21, 2010 07:16 AM

                    Thanks Wally: today's Da Lian indeed replaced the reportedly moribund Yangtze River about 2006, at 1674 Shattuck (one of TWO Shattuck-Ave. restaurants mentioned above; the other, E. side of Shattuck just S. of University, seems to've been Yenching). Taiwan Restaurant, 2071 University W. of Shattuck, is going strong (still with low prices and brusque servers!) as is King Yen on College Ave., though I'm unsure if that's the old one I was trying to remember on that street. The last two certainly, and King Tsin on Solano, are now among the oldest modern Chinese (i.e., not "Chinese and American Food") restaurants in Berkeley. That C&AF style is now archaic, around here anyway. (The one my parents used ca. 1960 was at or near the current Taiwan Restaurant address.)

                    This information was cobbled together with the aid of Berkeley friends and the Yelp data base (with its comments like "best Chinese restaurant in Berkeley, PERIOD" adjacent to "this place is no good!" -- by people based 50 or 500 miles away who visited once at most); nothing there on these restaurants' extensive histories.

                    King Yen Restaurant
                    2995 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                    Taiwan Restaurant
                    2071 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                    Da Lian Restaurant
                    1674 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

                    King Tsin
                    1699 Solano Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707

                    1. re: eatzalot
                      buttertart RE: eatzalot Dec 21, 2010 07:23 AM

                      Yes! Yenching. Now I remember. Northern style (as was YR pretty much).
                      Any news on Emei?

                  3. t
                    thebigjelly RE: eatzalot Dec 21, 2010 09:55 AM

                    Paulines Kitchen on College Ave near Alcatraz was around then but it was hardly pioneering.

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