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Fire at China Village (Albany)

ernie in berkeley Mar 31, 2012 11:27 AM

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. Robert Lauriston RE: ernie in berkeley Mar 31, 2012 11:35 AM

    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
      shanghaikid RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 31, 2012 06:28 PM

      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
        chefj RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 1, 2012 11:09 AM

        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
          Kim Cooper RE: chefj Apr 29, 2012 11:14 PM

          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. escargot3 RE: ernie in berkeley Mar 31, 2012 03:05 PM

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

        1. arktos RE: ernie in berkeley Mar 31, 2012 04:58 PM

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

          1. b
            Bigos RE: ernie in berkeley Mar 31, 2012 06:16 PM

            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. mariacarmen RE: ernie in berkeley Apr 1, 2012 12:29 AM

              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
                Ruth Lafler RE: mariacarmen Apr 1, 2012 09:40 PM

                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
                  wally RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 1, 2012 09:57 PM

                  I thought that they had disappeared when China Village appeared.

                  1. re: wally
                    Ruth Lafler RE: wally Apr 2, 2012 09:23 AM

                    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
                      kc72 RE: Ruth Lafler Apr 2, 2012 09:37 AM

                      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
                        mariacarmen RE: kc72 Apr 2, 2012 09:50 AM

                        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
                          mariacarmen RE: mariacarmen May 7, 2012 10:19 PM

                          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
                            moto RE: mariacarmen May 8, 2012 02:26 AM

                            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: moto
                              mariacarmen RE: moto May 8, 2012 06:35 AM

                              ah, thanks for that.

                            2. re: mariacarmen
                              Ruth Lafler RE: mariacarmen May 8, 2012 05:02 PM

                              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
                                mariacarmen RE: Ruth Lafler May 9, 2012 03:02 PM

                                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
                    wolfe RE: mariacarmen Jun 24, 2012 05:27 AM

                    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
                      mariacarmen RE: wolfe Jun 24, 2012 04:23 PM

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

                  3. Scrapironchef RE: ernie in berkeley Apr 1, 2012 06:40 PM

                    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
                      wolfe RE: Scrapironchef Apr 2, 2012 04:38 AM

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

                    2. Chandavkl RE: ernie in berkeley Apr 2, 2012 10:00 AM

                      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. s
                        SLRossi RE: ernie in berkeley Apr 20, 2012 01:22 PM

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

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: SLRossi
                          Ruth Lafler RE: SLRossi Apr 20, 2012 02:05 PM

                          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. Scrapironchef RE: ernie in berkeley Apr 22, 2012 12:55 PM

                          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. k
                            Kim Cooper RE: ernie in berkeley Apr 29, 2012 11:18 PM

                            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
                              chocolatetartguy RE: Kim Cooper May 8, 2012 01:45 PM

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

                            2. e
                              ernie in berkeley RE: ernie in berkeley May 23, 2012 02:17 PM

                              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
                                chocolatetartguy RE: ernie in berkeley May 23, 2012 07:40 PM

                                "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: chocolatetartguy
                                  wolfe RE: chocolatetartguy May 23, 2012 07:51 PM

                                  Billy Pilgrim thought so too.

                                2. re: ernie in berkeley
                                  BigWoodenSpoon RE: ernie in berkeley May 24, 2012 09:45 PM

                                  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
                                    Ruth Lafler RE: BigWoodenSpoon May 24, 2012 09:48 PM

                                    Ark does a pretty good version of cumin lamb.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                      BigWoodenSpoon RE: Ruth Lafler May 24, 2012 09:58 PM

                                      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
                                        Ruth Lafler RE: BigWoodenSpoon May 25, 2012 11:13 AM

                                        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
                                          Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler May 25, 2012 11:22 AM

                                          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
                                      Robert Lauriston RE: BigWoodenSpoon May 25, 2012 07:57 AM

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

                                      Champa Garden has Navarro wines.

                                  2. g
                                    goodhown RE: ernie in berkeley Jul 1, 2012 07:35 PM

                                    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: goodhown
                                      lmnopm RE: goodhown Jul 1, 2012 09:42 PM

                                      Yes, even in the future ;)

                                      1. re: lmnopm
                                        chocolatetartguy RE: lmnopm Aug 21, 2012 01:09 PM

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

                                    2. Robert Lauriston RE: ernie in berkeley Aug 21, 2012 12:34 PM

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

                                      9 Replies
                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                        Kim Cooper RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 13, 2012 09:30 PM

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

                                        1. re: Kim Cooper
                                          abstractpoet RE: Kim Cooper Oct 13, 2012 09:43 PM

                                          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
                                            goodhown RE: abstractpoet Oct 13, 2012 10:56 PM

                                            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
                                            chocolatetartguy RE: Kim Cooper Oct 15, 2012 02:05 PM

                                            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
                                              ...tm... RE: chocolatetartguy Oct 15, 2012 03:13 PM

                                              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
                                                sundeck sue RE: chocolatetartguy Oct 15, 2012 03:26 PM

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

                                                1. re: sundeck sue
                                                  Robert Lauriston RE: sundeck sue Oct 15, 2012 04:12 PM

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

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    amydeastbay RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 16, 2012 01:10 PM

                                                    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
                                                      jillyju RE: amydeastbay Oct 30, 2012 03:24 PM

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

                                          3. e
                                            ernie in berkeley RE: ernie in berkeley Nov 15, 2012 04:12 PM

                                            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. s
                                              sundeck sue RE: ernie in berkeley Dec 27, 2012 03:52 PM

                                              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
                                                gordon wing RE: sundeck sue Dec 27, 2012 10:47 PM

                                                Maybe they're shooting for Chinese New Year ?

                                              2. Melanie Wong RE: ernie in berkeley Feb 10, 2013 09:02 PM

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

                                                6 Replies
                                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                  UglyPlate RE: Melanie Wong Feb 11, 2013 12:08 AM

                                                  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
                                                    BigWoodenSpoon RE: Melanie Wong Feb 11, 2013 12:41 PM

                                                    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
                                                      SteveTimko RE: Melanie Wong May 2, 2013 12:20 PM

                                                      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
                                                        Robert Lauriston RE: SteveTimko May 2, 2013 12:45 PM

                                                        Latest update says May:


                                                        I like Daimo in the 99 Ranch parking lot.

                                                        1. re: SteveTimko
                                                          SteveTimko RE: SteveTimko May 4, 2013 02:37 PM

                                                          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.

                                                          1. re: SteveTimko
                                                            Robert Lauriston RE: SteveTimko May 4, 2013 04:01 PM

                                                            Reportedly the chef is going back to China Village:


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