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Feb 18, 2013 03:02 PM

china village reopening [Albany]

run into Mr, Yao and he said they will be reopening mid march

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    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I drive by a few times a week, and they're still doing construction. The same signs are posted.

      1. re: ernie in berkeley

        The Express reported a few weeks ago that "Chef-owner John Yao said he's now just waiting for a final inspection from the city — if all goes well, he expects he'll be able to reopen sometime in early April." But you never know whether an inspection is the final one until the inspector tells you it is.

      2. re: Robert Lauriston

        I called last week hoping to have lunch there when I was home sick. The message still says March, hopefully not 2014.

      3. Any word on this? Just moved to the area and dying to try!

          1. Passing through the East Bay yesterday afternoon, I hopped off of 80 to detour up Solano Ave to see for myself what the state of readiness for reopening might be. So glad I did, as peeking through the window, Mr and Mrs Yao were inside inspecting the delivery of new chairs. They invited me to come in for a behind the scenes look and we had an extensive conversation. Mr Yao said everything is ready. They're just waiting for PG&E and should open the beginning of May.

            The kitchen is the same size as before, but with a more efficient and rational lay-out and has more refrigeration space. There are six wok stations, separate steaming stations, and a long center prep counter big enough to break down whole pigs. Additional tanks will make it possible to offer more live seafood. The bar has moved to the front by the entrance and they’ve hired a consultant to come up with some cocktails. The small dining room in the back corner that was mostly used for storage has been refitted for private dining and meeting space with speakers and flat screen TV. When this room is opened up to the side dining area, total capacity for banquets can be seven tables of 10 (and I started the conversation about organizing a chowdown). I was a little surprised that the décor for the interior seems to be much the same, not tarted up in the remodel. As we chatted more, it’s clear that the Yaos still intend to keep China Village as a neighborhood restaurant and a comfortable place for their longstanding, loyal customers that live nearby and those in the University community.

            I asked which chefs would be returning. Mr Yao said the three main chefs (including the current chef at El Cerrito’s Lao Sichuan/Happy Golden Bowl) and some of his previous service staff were ready to come back, and he would be the executive chef himself. I told him that I’d visited his original chef in Fresno at Hunan Restaurant in December learning then that he had made an offer to Chef Liu that was under consideration. Yao said that he would like to create a role for Chef Liu (a Bocuse d’Or alum), maybe as a consultant for special banquets.

            To start off, the menu will be the same as before supplemented with specials. I confided that I’d been praying the restaurant would open before the end of crab season so we could have Ma Po Dungeness Crab again. He laughed and said that other restaurants have copied his idea but don’t have the right technique down. He talked about the importance of renewing Sichuan cuisine by innovating with new ingredients and staying ahead of the competition. I mentioned that in the past year, consumers are more concerned than ever about ingredient sourcing and I asked what he was doing about increasing the use of local and organic ingredients. He said that the organic chicken dishes would still be offered as specials. While he feels that the organic chicken does taste better, he said he wasn’t sure that most customers could taste the difference and without that appreciation the cost differential was a barrier. From our involved discussion about some of his challenges and criteria, it was clear he’s put some thought and research into finding new sources. I’ll continue to ask for this and point him toward potential suppliers. And I bet that if other customers make the request, he’ll move that much faster in this direction.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Thank You Melanie, you made my whole week! Can't wait to have some really good Chinese food. Maybe I can get the family to do a Mother's Day meal and bring some wine from my "cellar". I hope corkage will still be reasonable.

              1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                Well, we're more than a week into May and I haven't gotten a phone call yet that CV is opening. Hope you have an alternate Mother's Day plan.

              2. re: Melanie Wong

                great work, Melanie, thanks!

                i think when they open, we may have to do a chowdown.... hopefully with enough advance notice! probably good to give them a bit of time to let them get used to the new configuration?

              3. Can a solo lunch diner at China Village have a decent meal?

                I have been there twice for lunch and it was not good...bordering on bad.

                What should a single lunch diner order?

                Should I avoid all the lunch specials?

                I will order two dishes...if that is what it takes.

                Or should I just go for dinner with at least 4 people?

                8 Replies
                1. re: Mission

                  two of us have enjoyed excellent lunches there, but we didn't order the lunch specials. we had either a chow mein or hearty soup (enough for two, supplemented with a dumpling appetizer) featuring the hand cut noodles.

                  1. re: Mission

                    if i were alone, I'd order the cold sliced bacon cut pork with spicy garlic sauce, and then the spicy tan tan noodles (or ma po tofu.) if i had to take some home, win-win! if you go with someone, you should order the Westlake 1000 chilies fish fillet soup. it has tons of chiles on top, but they're removed prior to serving, and the soup is addictive - spicy, but not unbearable. although, if you take it home with the chiles, it gets hotter and hotter. wonderful.

                    i'm fairly new to szechwan cooking (in the last 4 years or so), so i don't know what an aficionado with more knowledge would order.

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      Thanks Maria,

                      Those dishes do sound great!
                      I will for sure give them a try in the next week or two.
                      And report back.

                      Plus if anyone else has some specific dishes to order for lunch...I would love to hear about them too.

                    2. re: Mission

                      Definitely don't order the lunch specials.

                      Moto and Mariacarmen's suggestions are both good.

                      When I go solo for lunch, I order the the Village Special Seafood Noodle Soup and take home the leftovers. No idea if the pricing will be the same when they reopen, but at least before, the soup (an enormous bowl) may have even been cheaper than the lunch specials.

                      1. re: sundeck sue

                        when we order a noodle soup there, that's the one we go with. it serves two of us easily for lunch, even if we didn't get the dumpling appetizer.

                        1. re: sundeck sue

                          There were two categories of lunch specials: the list at the top of the menu that included standards like kung pao chicken, but also the excellent Village Special (cumin) lamb and fish fillet in hot oil. The bottom of the page was more adventurous, with ma po tofu, seafood and tofu in clay pot, the loofah with dried shrimp dish, etc. You can eat well from the specials if you choose carefully.

                          And yes, the Village Special Seafood Noodle Soup, with hand-pulled noodles, is the best comfort food around.

                        2. re: Mission

                          Sure, although since the place has been closed for more than a year, there's no telling what might change.

                          This thread from 2007 has details on a good part of the menu, as the tables ordered different things to cut a wide swathe through the repertoire.

                          1. re: Mission

                            I had zha jiang mian and charred stir-fried cabbage, more than I usually spend but worth it.