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china village reopening [Albany]

  • t

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.

                          2. Any more updates? its ben over a year of promising to be opening at the start of the next month.....

                            1. Crossing the Richmond-San Rafael bridge and headed south to a party in Oakland on Saturday, as one would predict, traffic came to a standstill right around the Buchanan exit. I got off the freeway to take the surface streets and figured I might as well swing by China Village to see if there was any progress. The back door was propped open so I went in and I found Mrs. Yao. The place was buzzing with staff putting fixtures in place, dusting off walls, washing kitchen equipment, and stacking dishes.

                              Mrs. Yao said that the key personnel have all checked in and confirmed that they're returning. She pointed out one in the kitchen, Chef Yong, and I recognized the head waiter/manager from Lao Sichuan (Happy Golden Bowl) working in the back. She said they've passed the fire inspection and were waiting for the health inspection. The new target date for opening is July 1, and the soft opening will be the week before that.

                              The photo below is the private room (formerly a storage room) for small meetings and banquets.

                              7 Replies
                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    really not trying to get my hopes up but if it's July 1 i will BE there!

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      <crossing fingers> Come on opening before July 4th!

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        Looking forward to it! I hope we do manage to organize a Chowdown.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          So the soft opening should be this week, yes?

                                          Anyone have any more news on that score?

                                        2. I stopped by yesterday and talked with the owner. He thought the final health inspection would be today. Still waiting for PG&E to replace the gas meter they took away with a new one.

                                          1. Their answering machine message says that they're opening on July 1.

                                            1. All of the signs were off the window today, and the tables were set and the lights on. I'm guessing a soft opening very soon, maybe tonight.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                i think you're right, as i just called, and the woman who answered told me they were not open tonight, but would be open on Monday, July 1st - but there was a din in the background, so it sounded like something was going on....

                                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                                  I just called too, probably moments after--it rang and rang and finally got the answering machine, w/ the Monday, July 1, opening message.

                                              2. Popped my head in tonight and a couple people were sitting at tables, looked to be working on something. The nice lady said they weren't open yet, July 1st, but offered to show us around and see the new dining room. Getting excited! Ended up driving over to Happy Golden Bowl instead.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: raeanne

                                                  Now that their chef has returned to China Village, how was Happy Golden Bowl?

                                                  1. re: hyperbowler

                                                    I thought happy golden bowl was great last night. The cold beef appetizer was outstanding and the spicy boiled fish with red oil great as always. It was totally packed with a couple big parties. I don't know who's cooking there now but the food was excellent. Not a big fan of the cold cucumber appetizer but might just not be my style. I like the cold cucumber at Spices 3. I hope between HGB and China Village, I'll be spending alot of time up in Albany / El Cerrito :)

                                                2. I'm planning to be there for lunch tomorrow, 7/1. Does anyone want to join me? 12:30, and I'm the graybeard who will be reading the latest Lucky Peach.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                    Melanie Wong emailed to say she could be there at 1:00, so I'm rescheduling it for that time. Also, we don't know yet whether they're open for lunch, so I'll contact them and post here by late morning if they're not open.

                                                    1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                      I just called to see if they really are open and was told they will open tomorrow, July 2. . .

                                                      1. re: EileenPearl

                                                        Funny--I called earlier and got the machine. So I drove over and talked to the waiter and told him they weren't answering their phone, and he turned the ringer on--you must have called just afterwards.

                                                        They are still waiting for a final inspection today, and if it goes well they will be open for lunch tomorrow. I will update tomorrow morning.

                                                    2. Open for business right now. I just called.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        Excellent! Again, I'll be there at 1:00 tomorrow. Sorry you can't make it, Melanie.

                                                      2. the bart strike is putting a huge cramp in plans to go to China Village this week

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: hungree

                                                          I just got back from checking out the new look - quite nice! it's a soft open but more than half full .... only one paper menu ( there used to be two ) prices are similar - a dollar or two on some items but that's to be expected given how long they've been closed. Looking forward to my first meal. I'll post some pics of the menu later.

                                                          1. re: gordon wing

                                                            Thanks. Would love to see if the menu is the same.

                                                            1. re: PegS

                                                              Here is the first installment of the new menu at China Village

                                                        2. We went tonight. Place was packed at 8:30, but by the time we were done - 9:30 - we were the only ones there. We over-ordered, so joyous were we to try some favorites:

                                                          Tan Tan noodles (soup base)
                                                          Sliced "bacon cut" pork with spicy garlic sauce
                                                          Westlake 1000 chili fish soup
                                                          King Tu Princess Prawns
                                                          "Classic" Chow Mein - Combination of Homemade Noodles, with pork (this was for my dad who's 84)
                                                          Beef with broccoli (ditto)

                                                          The table was set with a wonderfully fresh kimchi - slightly spicy, not funky at all,which i actually love in Korean kimchi, but this was great. we actually asked for a 2nd helping, but our server forgot. which was just as well.

                                                          the tan tan noodles were the winner for me - perfectly cooked noodles, and a very assertive tahini flavoring to the broth. i would have preferred them much hotter (i didn't feel any numbing sensation at all), but i know neither my dad nor sister would have been able to eat them that way.

                                                          the cold pork dish was different than i remembered it - still very good, tho it could have used a little salt. very rich, nice heat, not overwhelmingly garlicky. paired nicely with the slices of cucumber in the dish.

                                                          the Westlake soup was good and comforting as always, with the fish cooked just right. i did notice that there were far fewer chilis afloat in the giant bowl this time, but no matter. we wanted to take the chilis home, as if you leave them in the soup (we had plenty to take home), it gets hotter. but we forgot to ask and the server took them away.

                                                          the shrimp dish was not described as being sweet, but for me it was like breaded deep-fried candy. not my style at all, but my sister and dad enjoyed it.

                                                          the chow mein was exactly as it was billed - classic. the noodles were great and had wonderful toothsome texture. the whole dish had a nice lightness to it, which surprised me. of course i was too full from inhaling the tan tan noodles to have more than a couple of bites.

                                                          the broccoli beef was also the standard - very tender beef, crispy broccoli - but nothing i'd order again without a Sr. citizen in tow.

                                                          i do need to branch out and try other things here, but it's so hard for me to pass up the tan tan noodles and that pork... so glad they're back. food was a tad slow coming to the table, but they were busy and it was their first full night.

                                                          a few pics...

                                                          11 Replies
                                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                                            interesting ..... definitely a lot less chilis in the soup; the fear factor is diminished for the first timer !

                                                            1. re: gordon wing

                                                              it's never spicy when they bring it to the table and remove the chilis right away - my dad, who can barely eat ground pepper, had some and liked it, did not find it spicy at all. it's only if they sit in the broth for any length of time.

                                                            2. re: mariacarmen

                                                              Heh, all that Sichuan food and the chow mein is actually what's catching my eye! Did anything about the noodles distinguish them from a fatter Italian fresh pasta (that's fine by me...)?

                                                              Thanks for the tip about keeping the chilis in the soup to make it spicier. BTW, just so no one orders incorrectly, I believe that's the "West-style" soup, not "West-lake."

                                                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                I haven't been since the reopening, but here's a change--they got a website that explains Sichuan food, touts their drinks program, has a chef bio, and has a readable menu!

                                                                I looked it up because I remember on the old menu the fish soup was in a confusing location, and was called Westlake, for reasons that never made sense to me. On the current menu, it is West-Style 1000 Chili Pepper Fish Fillet in the Chef's signature dishes section. Also, they'll give you the chilis to take home, or add to your individual soup bowl to make your soup hotter than your friends'. I found this out serendipitously when a friend joked that I'd eat all the chilis fished out of the soup later while the waiter was fishing them out, and a few minutes later received a to go box full of chiles from the busboy.

                                                                1. re: ...tm...

                                                                  thanks for the 411 on the website ..... I guess I won't have to post the pics I took of the menu ! In the paper menu that I picked up there is no Chef's Signature dishes section. The West Style 100 : ~ ) Chilli Pepper Fish Fillet Soup is listed as the first dish under the Fish section.

                                                                  1. re: gordon wing

                                                                    Still, I appreciate the first installment of the menu you posted!

                                                                    1. re: gordon wing

                                                                      The Chef's Signature dishes were on a separate sheet yesterday, and they look to be the same as before.

                                                                      "West Lake" is the name of the biggest Chinese restaurant in the world, so that might be the source of the confusion.


                                                                      There was a four-part documentary that seems to be available on line.

                                                                      1. re: gordon wing

                                                                        Ah, but it is useful--the website doesn't have the characters. Also, I noticed they listed the pork shoulder as pork shoulders on the printed version, which made me laugh because that dish is huge and the plural made me imagine it double sized.

                                                                        1. re: ...tm...

                                                                          that would be a generous portion ! : ~ )

                                                                      2. re: ...tm...

                                                                        Right, i remembered it as West Lake from a year or two ago, and the West-Style 1000 Chili Pepper Fish fillet does not say anything about it being a soup - but maybe that is what they're referring to now. We totally meant to, but forgot to ask our server for our take-home chilis.

                                                                      3. re: hyperbowler

                                                                        the noodles had more "bite" than an italian fresh pasta... i don't know how better to describe it.

                                                                        yeah, my sister has kept those chilis in the leftover broth for days - it's a quick cure for the common cold! knocks it right out of you.

                                                                    2. Ernie started a new thread for eating reports at the reborn China Village.