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Fire at China Village (Albany)

China Village is closed because of a fire on 3/24. When I stopped by for lunch yesterday, the regular staff was busy cleaning up; apparently the fire didn't do too much damage. A sign on the door said they expect to reopen in a couple of weeks.

What's going on with Chinese restaurants and fires? Saigon Seafood, L&L, Great China and now China Village--I can't think of any other local restaurant fires in that timeframe.

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  1. I wonder if Chinese restaurants are more prone to fires due to the super-hot wok burners they use?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      it could be something as simple as someone forgetting to extinguish the flames at the end of the work shift. or leaving something cooking and forgetting about it.

      by noting time of fire, it's probably the former.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Tends to be grease build up in the ventilation systems that are the culprit for many restaurant fires. With all the frying and oil blanching the buildup happens fairly quickly.

        1. re: chefj

          Many years ago, when I worked in a restaurant kitchen, the boss said they got the chimney professionally cleaned frequently -- I don't remember how often, but I think it may have been monthly. I can see that it would be tempting to do it less frequently in bad times, but it's obviously a dangerous place to cut costs. I don't know that they did anything like that, but I just meant to say it builds up very fast.

      2. yowzah! that horrible news.
        now where's a person s'posed to go for a fix of bittermelon?...

        1. That 'Spicy Fish' dish they serve there looks like it could start flaming any second.

          1. Also this fire at the beginning of last year in El Cerrito:
            "A fire destroyed the kitchen of L & L Chinese Seafood Restaurant on San Pablo Avenue Sunday morning after an employee accidentally locked himself in the freezer and apparently left something heating on a stove, fire officials said." (From El Cerrito Patch)

            1. that explains it. we tried going for dinner and wondered why they were closed. ended up at King Tsin - thoroughly enjoyable dinner, made more so by the 2-piece band and the older chinese couples dancing the tango to really cheesy chinese muzak-type songs. and the light show. apparently this happens every saturday night. awesome. very warm and considerate service. food was maybe not as special as China Village but it was all very good (my favorite was the umbrella eggs over pork/veggies/sprouts) and really inexpensive. mapo tofu was meatless - a first for me, tho i know that's not abnormal - and did not have enough of the tongue-numbing quality that i wanted. I'd definitely go back if not looking for really good and hot sichuan.

              12 Replies
              1. re: mariacarmen

                Thanks for the report on King Tsin -- it was a family favorite 30 years ago, but I haven't been in recent years.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I thought that they had disappeared when China Village appeared.

                  1. re: wally

                    Nope. I vaguely recall King Tsin was closed for a while and/or there was some talk of it going out of business, but it managed to resurrect itself, with some changes over the years.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Believe it's always been open, just different members of the family trying to run it, the enlarging of the bar/sports bar and adding dim sum. Think they offer some sort of buffet/karaoke combo on Saturday nights

                      Was a family favorite also 20-30yrs ago, went there a couple months ago and it just wasn't the same.

                      1. re: kc72

                        not buffet (at least, not this past Sat. night). they also have a sandwich board outside that says they have a special menu available - i don't recall what all was on it but i do remember there being Foie Gras available, for $22.

                        1. re: mariacarmen

                          We ordered from King Tsin the other night, take-out, to drive about half a mile. The food all held up well, and even though it was a repeat of what we'd had our first time - the pork with egg umbrella, mandarin beef, and spicy crispy beef - it was all even better than we'd remembered and maybe even better than when we ate at the restaurant - but my sister had read someone's review on CH about the pan-touched chicken and we were shocked at how terrible it was. it was like thick cardboard and flavorless, almost to the point that we thought it might not even be made of real meat - like some soy substitute or something, in a mostly flavorless sauce. really such a huge contrast to the rest of the food, we're assuming it was an off night for that dish. but our order was ready within 15 minutes of placing it, so i'm assuming it was fresh..... can someone describe how this dish is supposed to taste? i mean, it's a chicken breast, so i wasn't expecting the most tender meat ever, but this was actually inedible.

                          again, tho, everything else was really stellar. oh and we ordered a side of sauteed broccoli that was i believe the best just simply wokked broccoli we'd all ever had. super crispy but not like you feel you're just eating veggies al dente for the sake of saying you are (because i happen to also like broccoli steamed til it's soft and sweet) - this was incredibly crisp and light and super flavorful. wonderful stuff.

                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            the new crop of local broccoli is exceptionally good right now. for wok crisped green veggies, there's a common technique that enhances the texture, flavour, and color -- a pinch of sugar.

                            1. re: mariacarmen

                              Wow. Sorry to hear the pan-touched chicken was terrible. It was an old favorite of mine there. My memory is of a whole chicken breast (i.e. both halves), pounded to an even thickness, lightly breaded/ sliced on the diagonal and served with a light rice wine sauce flavored with garlic and cilantro (which in those days was often called "Chinese parsley").

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                it was just so jarring, as the rest of the food had been so good. like i said, maybe a fluke...? hope so - what you describe sounds very nice.

                  2. re: mariacarmen

                    Sorry to say the band, dancing and buffet on Saturday is no more. Did enjoy a new dessert for us steamed thousand layer cake with salted duck egg.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      what? there was no buffet when we went, but i'm sad about the band and dancing....
                      that dessert is sure pretty.

                  3. The good news is that I have seen construction work going on at L&L.

                    As to why so many fires - have you ever tried to start a flood?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Scrapironchef

                      I heard it "how do you make a tornado?"

                    2. Same thing in the L.A. area. I think it's a combination of grease accumulations plus in some cases, behind the scenes considerations.

                      1. According to a message on their answering machine the closure has turned into a 3-4 remodel. Booooo!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: SLRossi

                          Well, BOO that they're closed, but YAY for a remodel/refurbishment. It would be nice to have a setting worthy of the food.

                        2. Happy Golden Bowl now has a LARGE banner up saying they too are closed for remodeling, reopening 5/4.

                          This is getting really weird.

                          1. We went to eat at China Village today and were shocked to find them closed. There was a sign in the window.
                            Clearly, I should check with you guys before going out to eat.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Kim Cooper

                              Well, don't go to Great China either unless you are a culinary masochist.

                            2. Today's East Bay Express has an article about the Chinese restaurant fires. Because of permitting problems, China Village won't be opening until September. L&L hopes to open in June, though.


                              8 Replies
                              1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                "But in late February of last year, an employee accidentally locked himself inside the restaurant's walk-in freezer after he'd put a pot of oil on the stove. The subsequent fire destroyed the kitchen and shut L & L down indefinitely, according to El Cerrito Patch."

                                I guess if you have to be in a fire, the walk-in freezer is the place to be.

                                1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                  OH NO! Where am I going to get delicious Cumin Lamb and Sweet & Sour Pork to go with the Navarro Edelswicker for my 50th Birthday in August if China Village isn't open?
                                  Any suggestions close to or in Alameda?

                                  1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                    Ark does a pretty good version of cumin lamb.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      Thanks Ruth! I hoped you'd come to my rescue.
                                      What do you think of their other dishes?
                                      Should I bother with their Sweet & Sour Pork or would you suggest something else?
                                      Are the "hand pulled noodles" worth a trip?

                                      1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                        I like the hand-pulled noodles (make sure you order a dish that uses them, as not all the noodle dishes do). I can't speak to the sweet and sour pork. I don't think I've ever had a bad dish there, though.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          The hand-pulled noodles are on a separate menu, which the server neglected to give us. I grabbed a copy from another table.

                                    2. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                      The cumin lamb at the Ark is really good. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/845045

                                      Champa Garden has Navarro wines.

                                  2. I remember Burger King at the corner of Central and San Pablo had a kitchen fire in March 2911, So, fires are can happen anywhere.

                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: lmnopm

                                        In the year 2911, there will be no oxygen. Hence no fires.

                                    1. Answering machine now says reopening maybe by the end of September.

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Has anyone heard any more? We anxiously await their re-opening!

                                        1. re: Kim Cooper

                                          Last I heard it wouldn't be until the end of the year. I don't believe they've even been able to start the renovation yet -- still trying to get all their permits squared away.

                                          1. re: abstractpoet

                                            L&L Chinese Restaurant (The old China House), has been opened since July. The interior is very pretty and nicely done, plus its clean. As a matter of fact, I was there this morning and the place was packed. Its not a surprise because the food, and the service, is excellent. I've enjoyed it since they been back opened again

                                          2. re: Kim Cooper

                                            I just drove buy today at lunchtime hoping for some fish and black bean sauce and hot sauce, but they are still closed. There is a big sign in the window that might give more into about when they will reopen.

                                            1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                              Looks like there were a lot of delays in the permitting process. Albany Patch reports they expect the permit by the end of this month. http://albany.patch.com/articles/chin...

                                              1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                just phoned to see if there were an updated recording. it just rang and rang.

                                                1. re: sundeck sue

                                                  Per that Patch article, IF he gets his permit soon, he HOPES to be open by January.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    I'm just glad to hear that China Village will be back. The place looks so deserted and untouched that I thought it was gone for good.

                                                    1. re: amydeastbay

                                                      I just heard (through the rumor mill) that they expect to open on Nov. 30th.

                                          3. I saw the owner at the restaurant today and stopped to talk. He says that because of the permitting difficulties, they won't be open until February. Apparently, they have to completely redo the kitchen to comply with health and safety regs, along with making the place ADA compliant (accessible bathrooms, for example).

                                            1. Just drove past today.

                                              Maybe these signs have been up for a while (can't remember when I last did a drive-by). But there were big signs in the window, promising an opening (and assuring: same owners, same chef) "soon."

                                              I understand from prior post that that's likely February. But the signs cheered me up, made it seem sooner rather than later!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: sundeck sue

                                                Maybe they're shooting for Chinese New Year ?

                                              2. Outgoing message on answering machine now says re-opening in MARCH.

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  This is great news for me.

                                                  I have other Chinese spots on my list, but this is my neighborhood place.

                                                  I summon cumin-spiced lamb and westlake fish soup to me.


                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    Awesome! It'd be fantastic if they opened in time for my daughter's 10th birthday party dinner on the 9th.
                                                    <crossing fingers>

                                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                      Did this reopen? If not, what other Chinese restaurants would people recommend in the Berkeley Oakland area with adequate parking?

                                                      Looks like Happy Golden Bowl is my answer?

                                                        1. re: SteveTimko

                                                          Happy Golden Bowl is now Ancient Szechuan restaurant. Different owner, same chef and I guess the same menu.
                                                          Tbe Sichuan braised beef noodle soup was excellent.