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China Village substitute

Thanksgiving's over, time to start stressing re Christmas.

My extended Jewish family has spent every Christmas, having dinner @ China Village in Albany. We all love it; and it's a tradition.

But China Village, downed by fire, won't have re-opened by then.

Where to go instead? East Bay preference, but would drive for something comparable!

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  1. Does it have to be Sichuan, or just good Chinese? For Sichuan you'd probably want to head out to Contra Costa to Sichuan House in Walnut Creek or Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasant Hill.

    For just good, as you may know at least some of the staff from Great China is at Mandarin Garden until Great China reopens. Some of the favorite specialties from Great China are available there. My extended Jewish family tradition has been East Ocean in Alameda -- well done Cantonese/HK seafood plus Chinese-American standards. Reservations strongly recommended for Christmas, which they tell me is their busiest time,after Chinese New Years and Mother's/Father's Day.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Yeah, East Ocean is definitely crowd friendly with nice food, etc.
      However, The Ark on Park St. is quite tasty and we are loving the Cumin Lamb even more the the China Village version. Unfortunately, it's quite a small place, so seating a large party probably wouldn't work. But y'all might want to check it some other time. I'd advise to call ahead as they seem to keep occasional odd hours.

    2. if it's Sichuan food that particularly interests you, we have found Sichuan Fusion at the Pacific East mall (not particularly amerikanized, any more than China village was, more multi-regional fusion) an acceptable/good alternative. they have pretty good hand made noodles, actually better than those at China Village. for southern Chinese food with an emphasis on fresh seafood, Saigon Harbor down the street from that mall is above average as well. agree with Ms. Lafler, Alameda's East Ocean is another good place for southern Chinese.

      1. if cantonese food is ok, kwangtung and saigon seafood in richmond, and little hong kong in el cerrito are decent.
        sichuan fusion in pacific mall is available. (haven't try them yet).

        dalian (king yen clone) has many chinese foreign students eating there. some dishes americanized , some not.
        call first to see if any are open xmas.

        2 Replies
        1. re: shanghaikid

          What's good at Little Hong Kong? When I lived around there years back, I must have ordered from them 5-10 times, and never hit upon a particularly noteworthy dish.

          Sichuan Fusion shows a lot of promise and I'd love to hear more reports about their offerings. Their house special chicken was great, and, through the fog of the cold I had at the time, seemed to have fresher and more numbing sichuan peppercorns than I've elsewhere experienced. I was also keen on their knife shaved noodles ( 刀削面 dāo xiāo miàn).

          On the night I went, the servers spoke good English, so I'd feel comfortable venturing there with family.

          1. re: hyperbowler

            as with peony in oak's chinatown, didn't find anything noteworthy. most dishes done compentently and cheaply. (not peony.).

        2. z&y doesn't have quite the variety, but still is excellent sichuan

          1. They don't get much love here for some reason, but Happy Golden Bowl on San Pablo in El Cerrito has a lot of the same dishes as China Village, not *quite* as good, but I'm finding it a reasonable substitue so far, only one dud in several visits. Eager to return. Some of the same wait staff from CV work there and they tell me the chef is from Chengdu.

            I know, it's hard to take a place with this name seriously, but try it out! The ambience is not as nice as CV, but hey, we're going for the food!

            Note: I drive by CV from time to time...they are finally working inside, ripping things out and filling dumpsters. So at least there is finally some progress.

            Happy Golden Bowl
            10675 San Pablo Ave
            El Cerrito, CA 94530
            (510) 524-8772

            5 Replies
            1. re: sambamaster

              We've had a couple of good meals at Happy Golden Bowl, too.

                1. re: j mather

                  I'll 4th it-- I had a wonderful dinner there tonight.


                  I eat at Spices 3 a lot, largely because it's open late, and though I always enjoy the food, it lacks that extra element of subtlety and freshness that I've had at China Village. I got a whiff of that at Happy Golden Bowl tonight. I'd like to see how the chef deals with other dishes/techniques before saying it would be a good substitute for China Village, but each dish I had showed skill.

                  And to boot, better atmosphere than the other Sichuan places in the East Bay.

                  1. re: j mather

                    I wrote the second review on HGB and I think it's just as good as CV. I highly recommend the water boil fish which is actually a soup.

                    1. re: theSauce

                      Visited Happy Golden Bowl again tonight with my son, he thinks it is better than China Village, I think it is as good, or almost. Had the hand-shaved noodles..really decent, and something I don't think CV had on the menu. A spicy, numbing dish of sliced chicken which was marvelously "ma la" and quite delicious. A properly prepared dish of a-choy, with lots of garlic!

                      They have a sign on the door now which indicates they will be open on Christmas.

                      Oh, and there is a new specials board at the front door. Can't wait to try the Sichuan roasted lamb! Curious how that is done...

              1. The 3 I know of here in East Bay are
                Spices 3
                Sichuan Fusion (not very Fusiony despite the name)
                Happy Golden Bowl (the least of the 3 IMO)

                7 Replies
                1. re: chefj

                  Z and Y is outstanding in SF.

                  In the east bay:

                  We tried Sichuan Fusion in the Pacific east mall once and it was a mixed experience. The Chengdu chicken was a big flop. Maybe we didn’t order the right things. We have been meaning to go back and give it a second chance.

                  We have been to Sichuan Fortune House once and thought it was just ok. The food was overly heavy, even for Sichuan food.

                  After CV closed we tried Spices 3 in Oakland. We were super impressed and have been going regularly since. Even after CV reopens we plan on going back to Spices 3. We went last night and it was delicious.

                  Here is what we ate at Spices 3 in Oakland last night:

                  Numbing seaweed- Very interesting. Glad we tried it but not sure I would order it again. Seaweed had the texture of very al dente pasta. Sauce was very good.

                  Ma Po tofu- a really tasty, very well balanced version. Excellent

                  “steamed bacon with spicy flour” –Actually pork riblets sautéed in spicy sauce. One of my favorite dishes in recent memory. Meaty, moist and savory with complex spicy ma la flavors and interesting grainy textured sauce. Outstanding.

                  A spicy fish dish. I think it was Spicy fish with chili oil. Perhaps not as amazing as the Sichuan dry cooked fish at CV but excellent nonetheless. Silky fish with tasty gingery mal la broth.

                  Cumin lamb. A very good version. My favorite is still the Z and Y version but the version here is worth ordering also.

                  CV is supposed to be re-opening soon.

                    1. re: Ridge

                      Spices also our regular haunt.
                      Spicy Numbing Cucumbers (though there is no Numbing)
                      Explosive Chili anything
                      Tan Tan or Sesame Noodles
                      Thick Bean Paste Noodles
                      Hot Pot dishes
                      Wontons in Red oil
                      We have done well at Sichuan Fusion though have only been 3 times or so.
                      Most of the"Dim Sum" Items (I think that they also called Flour dishes?)
                      Cold Spicy Beef
                      Dry cooked Items
                      Fragrant Spicy Crab
                      Seasonal Greens

                      1. re: chefj

                        We will have to try Sichuan fusion again and try the chefj recommended dishes. Will report back.

                        Too bad about delay the CV reopening. Maybe when it reopens we can arrange a Chowdown there again. There was one a few years ago and it was really fun.

                        1. re: Ridge

                          You inspired me to dig up the chowdown report, yikes, November 2007. 41 chowhounds, 2 teams, 5 co-captains, lots of wine.

                          Then the CV primer that rworange made by reformatting the comments in multiple posts,

                      2. re: Ridge

                        Did you happen to see a new hot pot place approximately across the street from Spices 3? Heard a rumor that there was opening -- possibly by the Spices ppl.

                        1. re: kc72

                          Great tip! I created a new thread from dinner at Hot Pot House tonight.


                          I really enjoyed my food there. As kc72 reported, Spices 3 and Hot Pot House have the same owners. For Christmas, I would suggest the OP go to Spices 3 over Hot Pot House. Hot Pot House has an atmosphere more reminiscent of China Village, but Spices 3 has a broader menu that covers more of the dishes you could find at China Village.

                          As for Christmas, I asked the server. She couldn't say for sure, but suspected both places would be opened then.

                          My general advice, though, would be to do a Cantonese place--- that way, there won't be the inevitable comparisons between your traditional Sichuan stop and any temporary substitute.

                    2. This may be a little more than you are interested in, but every Christmas there is the Kung Pow Kosher Comedy show at a Chinese restaurant. This year the dates are December 22-25 (two shows a day) and the venue is The New Asia at 772 Pacific in SF. For details, go to http://www.KosherComedy.com/
                      This year is the group's 20th anniversary.

                      1. Sundeck Sue,

                        We also have "jewish christmas" at China Village every year - maybe we've seen you there! But I am very bullish on Sichuan Fortune House in Pleasanton Hill - we have already been there twice to check it out in case CV did not open on time. I am going to copy my review of my first meal there (emailed to a friend) - which is a side by side comparison of dishes between CV and SFH - take out of three dishes:

                        Dry cooked green beans: These often are overcooked when you get them as take-out as they steam in the container. I asked them to "undercook" them a tiny bit to eliminate the problem (something that China Village couldn't always get right when I got them as take-out !) They were done PERFECTLY - I was quite pleased. In terms of the flavor - I would say they may have been slightly less seasoned than CV - I personally thought SFH had the edge on this dish. We also ordered this again when we dined in there - and it was spot-on - perfect once again...

                        Cold Noodles with SesamePaste ($8.50): Interestingly they did not dress the noodles for takeout. They had the sauce in one container, cucumber in another and noodles/meat separate. I put them in a big bowl to dress - seemed to me the portion was quite large. The texture was pretty good - slightly less chewy than CV but still good. The flavor of the sauce was more peanutty - so it tasted different - still good but not the same. ..I thought the flavor was as good as CV - but different - but either way is delicious. CV might have a very slight edge here because of the extra chewiness of the noodle and sauce. Had this one again when we dined in and consensus was CV was better....

                        Cumin Lamb: (12.00) This dish seemed a little skimpy in portion size compared to CV but flavor-wise tasted exactly the same. It had red and green bell pepper and onion and the dried red hot pepper- same as CV but did not have those really hot little jalapeno pepper slices in the dish (which I actually like). I would give CV edge on this due to portion size and the jalapeno slices which I love.

                        The restaurant is physically smaller than CV but rather attractive - a little nicer than the old CV.

                        Some caveats - if you want the sesame bread - you have to call them up and order it the day before - its on their menu but not available without special order.

                        After this I went with 6 people and we dined in - had a great meal - unfortunately I don't have the menu in front of me (and it isn't on line) so I can't tell you what other things we had - but the impression of all of us is that it was very good - though the CV fanboys of the group would not concede that it was as good as CV (tho I think it is!) We all agreed that SFH was acceptable if CV was not opened by Xmas. I called and they are open for Xmas day noon to 8pm.

                        I am very interested in trying YiPing in San Ramon - to compare before Xmas... Yelpers loved it Chowhound appears divided.... see below


                        I will check it out and post my experience.

                        1. noted on the thread re. Happy Golden Bowl in El Cerrito, one of the China Village chefs has been cooking there for a while, making some of the same dishes. even the mediocre bean dessert soup w. mochi balls and fortune cookies tasting like artificial flavoring were the same as what China Village had.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: moto

                            Nice detective work!

                            Do you have to ask for the dessert soup or, as most places, do you only get offered the dessert soup if you're Chinese? We got neither last time, but took some fortune cookies from the bowl on the way out.

                            1. re: hyperbowler

                              all grandparents, both parents were from southern China so people superficially identify me as 'chinese' but culturally, linguistically am 100% californian. my spouse will never be misidentified as chinese but often asks for the dessert soup. she was the one who first recognized our waiter as a former staff from China Village, and when we ordered the crab that was a special from there, he informed us of the chef's provenance.