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China Village (Albany) is open!

I thought I'd start a new topic on China Village, now that they're open again.

Four of us (nobody from Chowhound, unfortunately), had a great lunch of West Style Fish Fillet soup, cumin lamb and ma-po tofu. All were great. The pile of red peppers wasn't very thick in the soup, but the flavor was just like before.

The menus are exactly the same as before except for a few new Szechuan lunch dishes. They redesigned the place extensively, with lots of slate and gray and brown colors--it reminds me a little of Kirin up the street.

It is so good to see them back again.

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  1. We are planning on going for an early(5:30ish) dinner on Saturday. Would be great if other Chow hounders met us there.

    3 Replies
      1. re: Ericruo

        I started an event on the east bay chow hound meetup group for early dinner this Saturday.

    1. Thanks for the confirmation!

      1. Here's gordon wing's photo viewed from the entrance, showing the new bar, and the half-height divider that defines the space better than before.

        tm linked to the new website. The owner John Yao is the executive chef. I note that there's a shout-out to Master Chef Zhongyi Liu who is now based in Fresno.

        And a shiny new FB page for updates (twitter not set up yet),

        Here's mariacarmen's dinner report,

        Re: the question about the homemade noodles, they're knife-shaved style.

        Re: West Lake confusion, this is the name of a style of soup named after West Lake in Hangzhou. Despite being an Eastern Chinese specialty, it has become ubiquitous on Cantonese-American menus featuring ground beef and cilantro (and not much like the original in Hangzhou). But it's a much different animal than China Village's West-style soup.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          New website looks great, as does the redesigned online menu.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Awesome! Love the readability and updated look of the website. I wish they had their wine list and corkage policy up though. Maybe we'll go here for our anniversary instead of the fancy dinner in the City. Definitely cheaper ; )

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I just looked at the online menu and there have been some changes. Big one is that Chinese characters have returned to the menu so that we can tell exactly what the dish is. Many of the English translations are different than before, so matching up the Chinese on the paper take-out menu and the online menu seems to be the surest way of ID'ing things. I'm glad they've made this change. I had mentioned the problem to Mrs. Yao and she said she'd heard the same from others (including her family!).

            2. re: Melanie Wong

              They've added Hot Pot

              and Live Tanks - and they put the live preparations on the menu, good for them.

              Is Joy Luck Meatballs in Clay Pot actually Lion Head ?

              1. re: bbulkow

                They are there. Though they are not served with the Brown Sauce and Bok Choy but is a Broth with Nappa and Bean Threads.

            3. i posted this on the other thread, about the long awaited opening after the fire. reposting here:

              We went last night. 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...

              4 Replies
              1. re: mariacarmen

                Is the complimentary starter called kimchi by the staff? It's pao cai, but maybe they don't use that term.

                Looking at the online menu, there is a Westlake minced beef soup available. But that's not what you were served. The bottom row photo with the chilis floating on top is West style 1000 Chili Pepper Fish Fillet from the Chef's signature dishes section of the menu.

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  Dear Mariacarmen... I am sure you didn't mean to stereotype senior citizens in an offensive way. Many, my dh included, have been eating adventurously since before many younger chowhounds were born. I haven't ordered chow mein or beef with broccoli since my children were little and found your comments a bit ageist.

                  1. re: debbypo

                    i'm sorry if that offended, i was referring ONLY to my father, who unfortunately fits every "old man" stereotype to a tee. my sister and i are taking care of him as he is 84 and has leukemia, and a sense of humor is key.

                    i'm always happy to hear that there is hope for me when i get there - which is really not all that far away.

                2. for Chowhounds who are literate in Chinese ...... part two of the current China Village Menu.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: gordon wing

                    not quite done yet ......China Village menu.

                    1. re: gordon wing

                      There are some price differences between your photos of the menu and the online menu.

                      I'd like to hear how the Mouth-Watering Spicy Organic Chicken (Bone-In) from the cold dish menu shows. It was one of my favorite dishes, and now it's made with organic chicken. Since I badgered Mr. Yao into incorporating more organic ingredients saying that that it would be important for a growing number of customers, I hope that people order it.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        "Since I badgered Mr. Yao into incorporating more organic ingredients saying that that it would be important for a growing number of customers, I hope that people order it."

                        Is it important because it tastes better that way, or is it more ethical or environmentally friendly that way?

                        1. re: vincentlo

                          This is a complicated issue and could be its own thread.

                          A few thoughts:

                          Not all coventially grown food is equivalent and not all organic food is the same.

                          Studies show that the major nutrients are similar in organic and conventional food. But it is known that classes of compounds like polyphenols have health benefits that are real. These compounds are decreased when plants are coddled with fertilizers and pesticides and are increased in organic produce.

                          Grass fed beef has higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids.

                          Antibiotics are fed to animals for no other purpose than to increase yield and profit margins. This practice is abhorrent and leading to the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

                          Mass produced food often tastes bland. Try some cheap mass produced chicken from Safeway and see what you think.

                          For these reasons I tend to try and consume organic food. But as i understand it the problem can be that in California the regulations for what is organic are screwy so there is some food labeled non organic that is more organic than food labeled organic.

                          1. re: Ridge

                            This is the kind of big picture issue that's probably better served by a discussion on General Topics than one in the middle of a thread about a specific restaurant in San Francisco. If you'd like to continue this conversation past this point, we hope you'll start a thread there and then post the link here so people can find their way to it. Thanks!

                          2. re: vincentlo

                            To stick to the conversation that I had with Mr. Yao, I pushed local and organic ingredients as important because his customers would be asking for them (for any myriad of their own reasons such as you state). China Village needs to keep up with this increasing trend. He was well aware of this. He also said that premium priced ingredients need to taste better to justify their cost, and this mirrors my own values, so we were in agreement there. He feels that the organic chicken he uses does indeed taste better and thus earns a place on his specials menu. We also talked about using certified organic produce and I was pleased to learn that this has been on his mind too. While we know that it is hard to find the more unusual Chinese brassicas, pea shoots, etc. from certified organic producers, he offered up that much of the bulk used by his kitchen such as onions, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, cilantro, etc. are readily available. I suggested that he might contract to have some things custom-grown for him by an organic farm. We thought a group of Chinese restaurants might get together in a consortium of sorts. All good food for thought.

                            Fast forward to present, a couple weeks ago I learned about an initiative to work with Hmong farmers in the Central Valley (Fresno, Merced, Sanger) who grow Asian vegetables to become certified organic producers and develop a retail/wholesale distribution hub for them in the East Bay. You can bet that I'll be monitoring this project and put them in touch with China Village when the time comes.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I have always wondered about the source of the fish used in many of the dishes. I have read here that it is basa catfish. I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding the farming of this fish in Asia and there is also concern about quality of this fish.

                              1. re: Ridge

                                The owner told me the basa was from Vietnam or Thailand (can't remember which). Seafood Watch lists it as a "good alternative."

                              2. re: Melanie Wong

                                My view is that organic doesn't taste better but the best often is organic.

                                At least around here, conventional products from small farms and ranches are generally superior to their certified-organic corporate counterparts.

                                Speaking of organic Asian produce, Phan Farm is no longer CCOF-certified.


                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I would agree that to me, "local, sustainable" is more important than "certified organic"; but from a marketing point of view, saying your ingredients are organic is simpler and more widely accepted.

                                2. re: Melanie Wong

                                  "I learned about an initiative to work with Hmong farmers in the Central Valley (Fresno, Merced, Sanger) who grow Asian vegetables to become certified organic producers and develop a retail/wholesale distribution hub for them in the East Bay. You can bet that I'll be monitoring this project and put them in touch with China Village when the time comes."

                                  And you can bet that I look for an update as you learn more about this project! (though I certainly hope they distribute some of the produce right here at home!)

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    We will want to hear about the developing organic vegetable farming as it develops. Maybe someone will set up a big aquaponics farm for fish too.

                            2. re: gordon wing

                              I haven't been in yet. My brother had dinner there on Friday and said that several dishes were sold out. He recommends the dong po duck, one of my favorites. And he took a photo of the chef's specials page of the menu.

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Thanks for posting the specials. Are there any dishes you know of either from the previous or current menus that require advanced ordering?

                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                  Looking at that page with that in mind, nothing there jumps out at me as requiring advance order. When Chef Liu was there, I tried many dishes that needed advance order. But I doubt those are part of the current team's repetoire.

                                  Your question just reminded me about the time that vliang and I showed up and asked Chef Yao to make Korean fried chicken for us. This isn't on the menu, but I was sure that it would be something he knew how to make since he's from Korea. And he did, but advised that next time we should call ahead to allow more time for marination. I've not pre-ordered the kam pong gi yet. . . and I'll give him a few months to get his Sichuan operation going smoothly before asking him to cook Korean-Chinese food. :)

                                2. re: Melanie Wong

                                  A friend and I went on the spur of the moment Saturday. I asked the hostess/owner? Knowing that there was a chowdown there, I asked if you were there and she told me that she had called you and asked you to wait until the kitchen settled in!

                                  We had a light dinner of pork in garlic sauce, black bean sauce fish fillets (my favorite lunch item there) and green beans. The fish was as good as ever. I especially liked the mild pork dish. It had a pleasant sweet flavor when eaten with rice. The green beans were so so.

                                  Monday night went back after attending a book signing up the street. I got bacon cut pork with preserved mustard green hearts to go. The pork was luscious. I can't believe I ate the whole thing. I'll be combining the plentiful leftover pickled mustard with the remains of my Gum Wah roast pork at the end of the week.

                                  Frankly, I think I preferred the openness of the previous layout, but I am there for the food, not the decor.

                              2. OK - WOW! It is back and better than ever. I had never tried the pork shoulder and it was amazing. Apparently cooked for 6-8 hours and made with a special 8-spice mix. Was super tender and flavorful, and an excellent counterpoint to the spicy dishes. Also tried the szechuan cold noodles, which I had found in my exile from China village (at Gu's in Atlanta) since the fire, and their version was supreme. Ma po tofu was as good as ever. Boiled fish was a slightly new version--less szechuan peppers and less napa cabbage and a shallower bowl. More refined for sure, still a great taste. I could do with a bit more szechuan peppers and cabbage but this was clearly a well thought out modification. The eggplant dish was great. Classic and not szechuan, the eggplant held up despite being smothered in garlicy hoisin goodness. Sesame bread! Still amazing. The intro kimchi is EXACTLY like I remember it. Really fresh tasting and the perfect prelude to what was a fantastic meal. Been waiting for a long time to post this review.

                                They said that once things settle down from the opening (it was a packed madhouse of people), they have some new small plates in the quiver and plan on hosting some bar-tasting events. Looking forward to it. Also the back room/private room is really nice. New go-to for birthday parties. We made it guys. China Village. It's back.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: hungree

                                  You clearly got there before us--by the time we ordered last night, they were out of the pork shoulder--I almost wept. A madhouse, indeed! The kitchen and service was slow--servers running around like crazy--they must not have anticipated the mob. Because we had kids w/ us who don't do spicy, we didn't get to order all our favorites this visit (a gummy, supposed-to-be-bland vegetable chow fun doesn't play to the strengths of that kitchen). But we were a bit disappointed in one of our favorites, the Village Special Lamb--muted spices, greasy--again, a sense of a kitchen that may have been a bit overwhelmed. The new decor is terrific! And it was so good to be back, even if it wasn't the best meal we've had there.

                                  1. re: sundeck sue

                                    Just got back from dinner. Yummy! Cumin lamb, Scallops in Spicy garlic sauce, Chicken with green beans (surprisingly delicious) pork fried rice and deep fried prawns. Had the kid with us, so no super spicy stiff this time. BTW, corkage is still only $8, so I'm bringing my bottle next time. Awesome !!!

                                    1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                      Just got back as well. When we got there at about 5:30 it was already about 1/4 full with some tables obviously having been there a bit already. When we left around 6:30 it was about half full and getting pretty busy.

                                      They were out of my usual spicy pig ears, so we got spicy tendon instead. It was sliced as thinly as the pig ear so a fine substitute. A-choy was done as well as always. (Is this what's on the menu as charred cabbage?)

                                      As Ernie reported, the water boiled fish dish has less liquid and Napa cabbage. It also lacked the celery stalks of yore and was less spicy. I also found the flavor less full-bodied but it was still tasty.

                                      And yes, the new decor is lovely.

                                      1. re: PegS

                                        No charred Cabbage is a different dish made with Green Cabbage.

                                2. Are they open for lunch yet? I went by on Wednesday around 11 and there were two guys vacuuming, the tables were set, but the door was locked. I went next door to see my tax guy and they were still not open when I left 20 minutes later.

                                  1. Six of us had an early Chowdown here tonight. We had (someone please correct me if i got something wrong):

                                    1. spicy beef tendon, paper thin
                                    2. five spice beef, thin sliced
                                    3. bacon cut pork in spicy garlic sauce
                                    4. Sesame flat bread with scallions (not sure if that's the right name)
                                    5. mapo tofu with shrimp
                                    6. cumin lamb
                                    7. crab (not sure of the exact prep, but lots of chilis!)
                                    8. szechuan spicy fish filet boiled fish filet
                                    9. tea smoked duck
                                    10. spicy charred stir-fried cabbage (not pictured)

                                    one of our group was thoughtful and generous enough to provide us with two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc - a 2011 Clos Pegase Musqué and a 2012 Ned from Marlborough, NZ, which went great with the spicy food.

                                    for me, everything was great. we started off with the addictive kimchi, and asked for a second bowl of it. i've been a big fan of the bacon cut cold pork dish and tonight's was one of the better versions i've had - even better than the one we had here just the other night. it was not so much cold as room temperature, which gave the pork more flavor and a voluptuous texture. i loved the thin-sliced beef tendon, with its sweet and spiciness tempering the numbing of the szechuan peppercorns. the tea smoked duck was smokey and tender, tho i did find a piece or two that was a bit dry. the cumin lamb was probably my least favorite, and it was still stellar. the cumin was assertive but not overwhelming, the lamb itself had a good texture. the málà (i know i've learned this term here on CH before, but we went over it tonight, with Ridge explaining the concept to me) was quite evident in a few of the dishes, though i didn't find any of them over-the-top spicy/hot/numbing (others may disagree!) the mapo tofu with shrimp was another favorite - the shrimp were cooked just right and never got rubbery even sitting in the sauce. I only ate half a piece of the sesame bread as i didn't want to fill up, but it was great for sopping up the wonderful juices. The fish was also excellent, tender and silky, and true to its menu description of "wild taste with a generous helping of spicy and savory sauces". the cabbage - char-y, tangy and tart - was perfect, a good ending to our meal as it cut through all the spice.

                                    service was warm and friendly, and mostly very attentive, though they got super busy at one point, with a line-up at the door.

                                    there are so many things on this menu to explore, and i have so much to learn about this cuisine. i'm so glad i went tonight - the company was great fun, too! i'm open to future chowdowns here. Thanks so much to Ridge for organizing!

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                      The chowdown at China Village last night was really delightful. Great company and tasty Sichuan food.

                                      I really liked the way they remodeled the place. It used to look very non-descript. The new décor was modern yet very warm feeling.

                                      My comments on the food:

                                      1.spicy beef tendon, paper thin: One of my favorite dishes of the evening. A really good example of Sichuan ma la flavor (numbing hot from the combination of Sichuan pepper and chili)

                                      2. five spice beef, thin sliced: never had this one before and liked it. Beef was very tender

                                      3. bacon cut pork in spicy garlic sauce: Never had this before and thought it was great. It had thin slices of cucumber as well as tender pork belly. For me the combination of the pork and cucumber and spicy sauce was winning.

                                      4. Sesame flat bread with scallions (not sure if that's the right name) No one makes this as good as China Village. The aroma was almost intoxicating.

                                      5. mapo tofu with shrimp. Excellent version. One of the Lisas at the table mentioned that she thought that while the food was delicious it was a notch less spicy than she remembered. I tend to agree with that assessment especially with the mapo tofu with shrimp. It was delicious but not as spicy as I remembered.

                                      6. cumin lamb. Excellent.

                                      7. crab (not sure of the exact prep, but lots of chilis!). Excellent

                                      8. szechuan spicy fish filet boiled fish filet. Along with the tendon this was one of the more spicy dishes. The fish was excellent, silky and tender as Maria said.

                                      9. tea smoked duck. The duck was not fatty, was very moist and had a wonderful smokiness.

                                      10. spicy charred stir-fried cabbage (not pictured). The cabbage was succulent and sweet with a good tang. Perhaps a bit less wok char flavor than in the past but this may be because they just reopened and are using new woks.

                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                        I was there last night as well. I'm SO GLAD they are back!

                                        My photos are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/irontong...

                                        The beef tendon was revelatory; I think I've never had it before. The thin slices give it a great texture. It is not really crisp, but it has some bite while still seeming a little glutinous. Wish I could describe the texture better - delicious seasoning, really a perfect balance.

                                        My favorite dish among the many we ordered was the fish (Szechuan spicy boiled fish filet), which seems to have been boiled in oil and had a silky texture and sweet flavor that worked well with the heat. Second favorite would have been the bacon-cut pork, which I've also never had before. Smokey flavor, meaty enough and not too fatty.

                                        I agree with Ridge about the heat; the food was hot but my head did not explode. They could dial it back up. The kimchee was not only less hot than in the past, but sweeter.

                                        The spicy-charred cabbage was the last dish to arrive and was a great closer because it was delicious but had less complex flavors than the hot/spicy/intense food that had come before. Wonderful flavor and perfectly (lightly) cooked.

                                        1. re: Lisa Hirsch

                                          Oh good, you got a pic of at least the remains of the cabbage!

                                      2. Eight of us got together for dinner tonight. On a Wednesday night the place was packed and at times there was a wait for tables. So much for the Yaos' hoped-for "soft opening."

                                        16 Replies
                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          Thanks for posting pix, Ruth. Here's the list of corresponding names for the dishes going left to right and top to bottom.

                                          Cold Appetizers:
                                          Spicy sesame paste organic chicken (“mouth watering” from Chef John’s Specials), served on the bone
                                          Pao cai (housemade Sichuan pickles aka kimchi)
                                          Cucumber with spicy garlic sauce
                                          Beef tripe, beef flake combination (fu qi fei pian)
                                          Spicy beef tendon
                                          Classic pork water dumplings (shui jiao)
                                          Bacon cut pork with spicy garlic sauce (suan ni bai rou)

                                          Hot Dishes:
                                          Hot and spicy pork shoulder with Shanghai cabbages
                                          Spicy charred stir-fried cabbage
                                          General Zhang’s spicy beef (from Chef John’s Specials menu)
                                          Bitter melon with egg
                                          Spicy shoestring potatoes sautéed country style
                                          Tsing Tao beer sauce duck with homemade noodles (from lunch menu)
                                          Sesame flatbread (da bing)
                                          Home style spicy fish fillet with tofu (from Chef John’s Specials menu)

                                          Our total per person including tax and generous tip (and excluding corkage) was $26.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            are the spicy shoestring potatoes the ones that are "undercooked"? love those...

                                            on 2nd look at the pic, they appear to be. so glad to know!

                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                              Actually, this version was pretty well cooked -- almost (but not quite) too soft. Perfect for my taste, but not for people who like the crunchier, starchier version of this dish.

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                from Melanie's pic ..... it looks like the Tsing Tao Beer sauce duck with homemade noodles was not as popular as most other dishes ?

                                                1. re: gordon wing

                                                  There was a lot of it, and it came towards the end. But I've come to the realization that I don't really like braised duck dishes, since the whole point of duck (for me) is that fat.

                                                  I was also thinking that braised dishes are better the next day. Since I was left holding the bag (literally!) of leftovers, I'll test that theory on the duck and the pork shoulder.

                                                  1. re: gordon wing

                                                    No, no, the photo was taken mid-meal, not at the end.

                                                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    the version we had at that restaurant way out in the boonies.... i'm sorry the name is totally escaping me - about 3 years ago - was wonderful, and my first experience of that dish. i am not normally an uncooked potato lover! i'm going to have to try this one either way. thanks for the info Ruth.

                                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                                      Hey, mc, just seeing this now. I think you are talking about the spuds at Old Mandarin Islamic.

                                                      1. re: grayelf

                                                        yep, thanks! realized that right below!

                                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      i had those potatoes, Ruth, recently for take-out, with a couple other things. you're right, they're more cooked than the ones we got at Old Mandarin Islamic. they were a tad oily, but still, we wolfed them down. lovely smokiness to them.

                                                  3. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    Cold Appetizers:
                                                    Spicy sesame paste organic chicken (“mouth watering” from Chef John’s Specials), served on the bone
                                                    Pao cai (housemade Sichuan pickles aka kimchi)
                                                    Cucumber with spicy garlic sauce
                                                    Beef tripe, beef flake combination (fu qi fei pian)
                                                    Spicy beef tendon
                                                    Classic pork water dumplings (shui jiao)
                                                    Bacon cut pork with spicy garlic sauce (suan ni bai rou)
                                                    These ranged from "okay" (the cucumber) to outstanding (the tendon, the bacon-cut pork). The last time I had it at CV the sauce on the cucumber was the same as the sauce on the bacon-cut pork, and it was more "mud-like" with actual small chunks of garlic. The sauce and the preparation of the bacon-cut pork dish is now more refined and is absolutely delicious; if it's still the same sauce on the cucumber, it's no longer an equally good pairing.

                                                    If you're not sure what Sichuan peppercorn tastes like, then order the tendon dish which showcases the ma-la and citrusy characteristics of the Sichuan peppercorn perfectly.

                                                    Hot Dishes:
                                                    Hot and spicy pork shoulder with Shanghai cabbages
                                                    Spicy charred stir-fried cabbage
                                                    General Zhang’s spicy beef (from Chef John’s Specials menu)
                                                    Bitter melon with egg
                                                    Spicy shoestring potatoes sautéed country style
                                                    Tsing Tao beer sauce duck with homemade noodles (from lunch menu)
                                                    Sesame flatbread (da bing)
                                                    Home style spicy fish fillet with tofu (from Chef John’s Specials menu)
                                                    The home-style spicy fish fillet was new-to-me and delicious, although not very spicy, IMHO. This was my first time trying the famous charred cabbage, and it lived up to its reputation. The potato shreds were exactly the way I like them, although some people might prefer them spicier and/or more al dente. I personally liked the degree of doneness and the contrast of the mildness with the spicier dishes. Despite the lack of visible browning, there was a distinct "wok hei" that really made this dish for me. I'm looking forward (almost lunch time!) to leftovers of the duck and the pork shoulder, since I think braises are better the second day.

                                                    Our total per person including tax and generous tip (and excluding corkage) was $26.
                                                    This was an insane deal, especially considering we easily could have fed another person. They waived the $8.50/bottle corkage for us (Melanie brought three bottles, Fairviewgal brought a very nice Navarro Rose).

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      Thanks Melanie for putting together the dinner and it was fun to meet old and new hounds. My favorite from the evening was the spicy fish filet mainly because it was new to me. The flavors were very mellow and the fish (flounder I believe?) was absolutely tender with a light browned (eggwash?) exterior. Delicious! The spicy beef was great too and sated my ma-la cravings very well.
                                                      Old favorites like the pork shoulder and the charred cabbage did not disappoint. It was great seeing the effect that the first bite of the charred cabbage had on people at the table who had not tried it before.
                                                      The sesame paste chicken was tasty but I remember a version in CV itself a couple years ago, that had less oil and more sesame paste and parts of the poached chicken had no sauce on it that I absolutely loved (I confess that I have no idea whether either version is the more authentic or true version). I wish we had had the sesame bread early enough to go along with the sauce left on the plate from the chicken!
                                                      Overall a great dinner and the warmth from Mrs Yao and the servers in spite of how busy the restaurant was only added to the pleasant evening. So glad to have CV back... Now if only Great Wall would reopen :) --Urmi (jhinky)

                                                      1. re: jhinky

                                                        The chicken dish you're remembering is banban ji aka bon bon chicken. It's listed on the menu as 14. 棒棒鸡 Szechuan Boneless Chicken with Julienned Onion. However, it's not served with onion, rather slivers of cucumber.

                                                  4. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    Better late than never, some comments on July's dinner.

                                                    Cold Appetizers:
                                                    Spicy sesame paste organic chicken (“mouth watering” from Chef John’s Specials), served on the bone – One of my favorites of the meal, highly seasoned yet the flavor of the chicken is still front and center.
                                                    Cucumber with spicy garlic sauce – I asked for this non-spicy, but I guess that’s not an option any more. I much prefer the garlic-oil seasoning without chile peppers to have a break from heat.
                                                    Beef tripe, beef flake combination (fu qi fei pian) – Most complex spicing of the red oil cold dishes.
                                                    Spicy beef tendon – As others have said, fantastic. Cooked just right to render a crisp, non-gummy texture. Very fragrant and flavorful with the citrus-side of Sichuan peppercorn’s personality.
                                                    Classic pork water dumplings (shui jiao) – I asked for these with “spicy home made sauce”, but we got the plain ones with a vinegar dipping sauce. And that turned out to be the better choice any way to provide a non-chile dish.
                                                    Bacon cut pork with spicy garlic sauce (suan ni bai rou) – As Ruth said, more refined prep now but I find myself wishing for the old-fashioned garlic mud that’s basically a paste of caramelized sweet garlic mashed with spicy red oil. Tender slices of pork, a shade too lean for me.

                                                    Hot Dishes:
                                                    Hot and spicy pork shoulder with Shanghai cabbages – While I’m not as in love with this style of dish as others have been, I still appreciate how well it’s done here. This is CV’s signature for good reason, and it’s even better now. Mr. Yao said he makes and sells out 40 orders on average every day. He can make up to 58 orders (divided between two cauldrons) if he can find enough fresh pork shoulder of the right size when he shops in Oakland Chinatown every day. He credits his Mexican kitchen assistant for consistent execution.
                                                    Spicy charred stir-fried cabbage – Have really missed this dish, not quite enough charring but so nice to revisit an old friend.
                                                    General Zhang’s spicy beef (from Chef John’s Specials menu) – Not nearly as complex as I remember, and it seems to have disappeared from the online menu.
                                                    Bitter melon with egg – This was a substitute for our first choice, another dish with bitter melon. My first time trying it, and enjoyed the soft curds of scrambled egg against the barely cooked strips of bitter melon mightily. When I remarked that bitter melon is used in the Chinese traditional pharmacopeia to treat diabetes, the physician in our midst said that it does show efficacy in that area and Western researchers are doing clinical studies for type 2 diabetes.
                                                    Spicy shoestring potatoes sautéed country style – Fragrant from the hot wok, perfect texture, not that spicy to offer contrast with more highly seasoned dishes.
                                                    Tsing Tao beer sauce duck with homemade noodles (from lunch menu) – Fresh baby bamboo was a surprise addition, mildly flavored braise, loved the chewy noodles.
                                                    Sesame flatbread (da bing) – Note to self, remember to order this before everything else as it takes time. I forgot to order it at all until Ruth asked about it and we missed the opportunity to mop up the rivers of seasoned red oil from our early dishes. When I explained the Silk Road origins of this flatbread to my friend Michael, the former Sovietologist, he remarked, “Yes, it almost looks like the bread from Samarkand.”
                                                    Home style spicy fish fillet with tofu (from Chef John’s Specials menu) – Recommended by Mrs. Yao who says this is her favorite seafood dish. Mildly spicy in a comforting way. This is a different dish from mapo doufu fish that also appears on the menu.

                                                  5. 7 of us had a great dinner last night ...... The West Style Spicy Fish Soup (#126) was presented with closer to the 1000 Chili Peppers - as described on the menu. Earlier pictures looked more like 100 peppers : ~ ) Diners who haven't had this dish before were suitably impressed when the lid came off the soup tureen. The flavors were as good as I remembered. Very flavorfull and the fish is perfectly cooked. The Hot & Spicy Pork Shoulder( #57) was very good - glazed and very savory. A bit of a sweet finish - the bok choy was a nice counter point. Our waiter did a very good job of deboning it for us and then lightly tossing the dish a bit to coat all the meat and veg with some of the sauce. Our next favorite of the night was the Home Style Spicy Fish Fillet with Tofu ? It's number 6 on Chef John's Specials Page. The fish is moist and almost velvety, the tofu has been fried and has soaked up the flavorful sauce .... it's a rich dish ( oily ) served up in a large portion. There are several dishes with tofu and fish ..... could someone confirm my naming of the picture of this dish? We had the Spicy Charred Cabbage ( #152) - love this dish! and the dry cooked bitter melon(#145) - nice as a palate cleanser. General Zhang's spicy beef ( #22 Chef John's Specials) had a nice sichuan peppercorn and chili notes. And we also ordered the Sizzling Seafood Clay Pot ( #104 ) or was it the Szechwan Clay Pot with Bean Curd and Seafood ( #102 ) ? Once again ..... if anyone recognizes the photo could they name it ? I'd like to keep track of what I've tried. The seafood clay pot was OK but I think we were beginning to experience palate fatigue. In retrospect, I think maybe a steamed item would have been nice .... maybe some dumplings? What dumplings do folks recommend? We did also order some of the Sesame Flat Bread .... good for soaking up some of the sauces. Finished with the complimentary red bean/tapioca soup. All this came to less than $20 per person ( before a 20% tip ) - what a deal !

                                                    17 Replies
                                                    1. re: gordon wing

                                                      Nice report. We went last weekend with neighbors and also had the pork shoulder. I thought it was sublime and even better than I remember it being. The meat was extremely moist and perfectly braised. The skin was soft and loaded with flavor. We also had the general Zhangs beef and i thought it was good but not as moist and flavorful as in the past. Flatbread was overcooked on one side. Hand cut noodles were excellent. We are having a chow down there Friday at 6:30. I am anxious to try the Sischuan dry fried fish wish used to be my favorite dish there. Has anyone tried it since the reopening?

                                                      1. re: gordon wing

                                                        Yes, that fourth picture of yours looks like what we had, which Melanie listed as: Home style spicy fish fillet with tofu (from Chef John’s Specials menu)

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          So I convinced my family that CV was the place to be to celebrate my brother's and my birthday. Gonna bring a few bottles of Navarro's Edelswicker which I found to be the perfect foil our last time there. Probably bring a Gewürztraminer as well to appease my brother who doesn't like Riesling.
                                                          I've read the threads for menu ideas and this is what I came up with:
                                                          Hot & Spicy Pork Shoulder
                                                          General Zhang's Spicy Beef
                                                          Bacon cut pork with spicy garlic sauce
                                                          Cumin Lamb (our favorite)
                                                          Chicken with green beans (the 10 yr old's gotta eat something)
                                                          Anything else I shouldn't miss?
                                                          Recommendations for flavorful and not crazy spicy prawn-based dishes? We're going on 8/11, so I have a few weeks of y'all's reporting before mealtime. Thanks!

                                                          1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                                            General Zhang's Beef was tasty but I wasn't wild about the texture ..... on the dry side ...... I think the beef was twice cooked ? And for my next meal I think I'd add some steamed items ....... maybe one of the dumplings? Some of the dishes can be quite rich/filling - need vegetables and something calming for some balance.

                                                            1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                                              Szechwan home style chicken
                                                              cold conch appetizer
                                                              West Style Spicy Fish
                                                              dry-cooked bamboo shoots

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  My hubby doesn't eat fish and I think the conch would be a little too out of the box for this crowd. I'll add the chicken to the list though. Thanks!

                                                                2. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                                                  11. 麻辣牛筋 Spicy Szechuan Beef Tendon

                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                      Hi Ruth,
                                                                      So can you explain what this dish looks and tastes like? The name might throw off the less daring in my crew.

                                                                      1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                                                        Tendon itself doesn't have much flavor -- it has a slightly chewy (unfamiliar to Westerners but not unpleasant) texture. Mostly, in this dish it provides a great canvas that lets the more complex flavors of the Sichuan peppers shine. There's a picture in my post above: http://www.chow.com/photos/968376

                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                          this was one of my favorite dishes the last time we went. Ruth's description of the complex flavors shining through is perfect.

                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                            It is a wonderful desciption of the flavors. i had some this morning for breakfast. YMMV There was something in it, possibly the sichuan peppercorns that caused a negative reaction for my associate, but I found it tasty.

                                                                            1. re: wally

                                                                              Did he just not like the ma-la (numbing sensation) or was it something else?

                                                                              1. re: wally

                                                                                The tendon is one of my favorite dishes and the version at CV is especially good. As was mentioned by Ruth it's a perfect vehicle for the Ma La flavors. The numbing of the Sichuan peppercorns alters the way you perceive different flavors. The perception of the heat from chilies get transformed into something completely new. And addicting. Off topic but I wanted to recommend these Chinese peanuts for people who like the MaLa flavor. Guangzhou Fei Hong Hot Chilli pepper snack peanuts. They sell them at 99 ranch market. Has anyone tried them? We are addicted. According to my Chinese friend the nuts are from a part of China renowned as growing the best peanuts. 99 ranch market is occasionally sold out and has similarly labeled nuts but they are not as good.

                                                                                1. re: Ridge

                                                                                  thanks for that recommendation Ridge - i will probably hit 99 Ranch this Saturday!

                                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                        Thanks for the confirmation Ruth ...... had some leftovers for dinner tonight ..... still great !

                                                                    2. 6 of us had another great chowmeet at CV last night. So much fun to enjoy good food in the company of adventurous chowhounders. Here is what we ate:

                                                                      5. 五香腐竹 Five Spice Rolled Bean Curd Sheets 5.95

                                                                      Excellent appetizer. We have had a similar dish at Asia Pearl for Dim sum but I think the CV version is much better.

                                                                      10. 蒜泥白肉 Sliced Bacon-Cut Pork with Spicy Garlic Sauce 5.95

                                                                      Excellent. I liked this version a little better than the last time we had it. The pork was less fatty than last time. The sauce was spicy, rich and savory.

                                                                      11. 麻辣牛筋 Spicy Szechuan Beef Tendon or Paper-Thin Sliced* 6.95

                                                                      Excellent. Perfect texture and good ma la flavor. Significant other thought it was the best Ma la dish of the evening

                                                                      52. 葱 油 饼 Green Onion Pancake 3.95

                                                                      I liked it more than my significant other. I thought it was less greasy than other versions we have tried. We had a version of this in Hong Kong that spoiled us for this dish.

                                                                      From the specials menu;

                                                                      Spicy dry wok Sichuan fish.

                                                                      This used to be my favorite dish here. They changed it a bit and it is now served in a metal bowl with a hot plate underneath. We both thought it was excellent but perhaps not as good as before. Used to have more ginger and MaLa flavor. Still excellent though.

                                                                      Pork shoulder

                                                                      Excellent. Lots of umami flavors and succulent pork and skin.

                                                                      Tea smoked duck.

                                                                      I thought it was excellent. Tom thought it was a bit salty and my significant other agreed. I am a salt fiend so for me it was perfect. The duck meat was extremely tender.

                                                                      Beef with pickled vegetables

                                                                      It was tasty, perhaps not our favorite of the evening but good.

                                                                      Wok charred cabbage

                                                                      Good mix of wok char flavors and vinegar that complemented the sweet crunchy cabbage

                                                                      "A" vegetable

                                                                      This used to be my favorite vegetable dish here. The first time the waiter told us about it it was a bit like an Abbot and Costello routine. This is a kind of green similar to bok choy. It was spectacular. The A vegetable has this wonderful smokiness and the sautéing gives it wonderful wok char notes. If you have not tried this dish you should. It is not on the menu and they don't always have it.

                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Ridge

                                                                        sounds great - sorry i had to miss this one.

                                                                        so when you order the "A" vegetable - is that how you ask for it? We'd like the "A" vegetable?

                                                                        1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                          Also called Taiwanese Lettuce, I have found that including the word Taiwan, or Taiwanese Vegetable if the "A-Chai" term is not understood usually gets the point across

                                                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                            It's called Arden lettuce. Or 窩仔菜 in Taiwan (pronounced wei-ah tsai so people started simplifying it to A Tsai to the point many in the younger generation only know it as A Tsai). or 萵苣菜 in China.

                                                                          2. re: Ridge

                                                                            Ridge, are you referring to a leafy green called 'ah-choy'?

                                                                            1. re: Ridge

                                                                              "A" cai (pronounced "chai") is seasonal, so now's the time to ask for it. It's actually closer to lettuce than a brassica like bok choy. I first had it in Taiwan years ago, and on menus there it's denoted as "A" as well and pronounced just like the letter of the alphabet.

                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                Took a photo of A-choy in SF Chinatown yesterday so you could see what it looks like before it's cooked. In case you want to cook it at home, here's a treatise.

                                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                  One thing I don't like about A-choy is that because it's kinda like lettuce, when cooked in the Chinese way, it soaks up all the oil, just like eggplant. :-(

                                                                              2. re: Ridge

                                                                                Thanks to Ridge for organizing the dinner. For me the surprise was the tendon dish. When I see "tendon" I think of the big gelatinous bits in beef stew. This was paper-thin strips - sort of what you would get if you peeled back single layers of scallion, probably 1cm x 6cm and translucent. It was something new for me at least.

                                                                                1. re: Ridge


                                                                                  Thanks to R&R for organizing/wine contribution.

                                                                                  Among the apps, of course the BACON-CUT PORK ruled the roost. Although it was a different prep from what I remember. But possibly I am thinking of someone else's version of this dish. Second, somewhat surprisingly, was the BEAN CURT SHEET ... as that had to earn its place rather than the "cynical" "throw fat at the problem" strategy.

                                                                                  I often am the one lobbying for the SPICY BEEF TENDON, but the past few time I've had that, I didnt find it that exciting and a bit one note. I think it's a good option when say dividing an order by >4people, but would argue against it in the future for a small party. BTW, is this a different dish from "Husband/Wife" dish ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuqi_fei... ?

                                                                                  The cold beef ... which I requested ... was ok, but the version at INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF CHINESE PANCAKE was waaay better. I also had this at YAO MING BEIJING and I believe their version was also a bit better than CV's. Although my memory there is a big fuzzy. But get it at CHINESE PANCAKE for sure.

                                                                                  I normally quite like the GREEN ONION PANCAKE, but found this one disappointing (bland). I suppose it was an ok vessel for some of the spicy oils from one of the other dishes but on it's own I thought it brought relatively little to the table. I believe I like this item at RED JADE, which doesnt seem very popular on CH. I also believe this is better at YAO MING BEIJING. I dont think I had this exact item at CHINESE PANCAKE but their meat stuff ones are also superior ... although again those are carbs + fat.

                                                                                  SPICY DRY WOK SICHUAN FISH -> I'm not sure why it was called "dry wok" but it's was pretty good. I though this dish and indeed all of them had nicely cooked vegetables ... good taste and crunchy texture.

                                                                                  BEEF WITH PICKLED VEGETABLES -> I tend to like dishes like this, so it was to my taste but I do agree it was a little less "special"/complex. I thought the vegetables would be more exotic but they were just well cooked/nice texture veg, as above.

                                                                                  TEA DUCK -> I was not such a fan of gnawing on the boney duck with little meat reward. It was handsome looking tho. Indeed a woman from across the aisle visited and with big eyes asked what it was. The vegetables in the dish were good. Maybe I should have rooted around for a nicer piece of meat.

                                                                                  PORK SHOULDER -> I have historically liked this famous dish less than my associate, such as FARRIS. However this instances was better than the historical average. In particular I made a little bun from a super fatty piece and the sesame bread and that was likely the SINGLE BEST BITES of the evening (with the first bite of garlic pork a second).

                                                                                  WOK CHARRED CABBAGE/A-vegetable: worked well with the spicy/fatty/oily items.

                                                                                  BTW, I liked both wines ... really liked the NZ SAUVIGNON BLANC in particular. Thanks again for sharing your wine.

                                                                                  I am generally not a big fan of BEAN-BASED DESSERTS.

                                                                                2. Went a couple weeks ago on a Saturday. Place looks great and it was full at 7 pm. Overall, I was satisfied, but there were some execution/consistency issues that I hope get worked out.

                                                                                  The good:
                                                                                  1. West Style Fish Filet: Good as ever, excluding the beginning when they still used firmer ocean fish as opposed to Basa. Great broth, smoky flavor from the chilis, and as much as I complain about the loss of the rock cod or whatever it was, the Basa is still good.
                                                                                  2. Mouth-watering chicken (Homestyle chicken?). Sauce is amazing and the organic chicken very flavorful. They asked "small or large?" Get the large.
                                                                                  3. Pork belly (bacon) with spicy garlic sauce.
                                                                                  4. Pao cai ("kimchi") amuse bouche.
                                                                                  5. Spicy pork shoulder. Amazingly I never had this version before the fire. Wonderful, complex sauce. Loved it.
                                                                                  6. Spicy Combination beef and trips (Fu Qi Fei Pian or Husband and wife combination). V. good, though the version at Happy Golden Bowl is better. Here it could use a little more of the fresh herb (cilantro/celery) and five spicy broth. A little too reliant on the red oil.

                                                                                  Execution issues:
                                                                                  1. Charred cabbage: I love this dish in general, but that night it was kind of a mess. Poor execution on the sauce, sloppy and unevenly cooked. The only thing that went right was the wok char.
                                                                                  2. Another vegetable had a good seasoning/stir fry but the vegetable selection/QC was a little off. The pieces seemed dry and some stringy. I ate it all anyway.
                                                                                  3. A third main meat, one of my favorite dishes when done well, came out slightly burnt. We picked at it a little, and at the wrap up I mentioned it. Waiter agreed, but headwaiter came by and kind of resisted on it before asking if we wanted it replaced. I declined and it was taken off the bill.

                                                                                  9 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: twocents

                                                                                    So I took my whole family(7 adults, 1 kid, 1 baby) last night for a 6 pm reservation expecting an amazing experience and frankly the service came up really short. We were seated in the very back at a large table as per my request and although it took a while for someone to take our order, things seemed to be flowing well. We got our appetizers in a reasonable amount of time and it didn't take long for the entrees to appear. However, we didn't get our Cumin Lamb and after about 25 minutes of nobody checking on us (the place was packed) I went out and talked a nicely dressed lady about how we were missing two dishes. (My brother had wanted some vegetables as well) She didn't apologize or ask what she could do, she just stood there and acknowledged my comment. Finally our waitress came running by and before she could escape into the kitchen I flagged her down. Once we pointed out what was missing and my younger brother said how rude it was to be ignored for so long, we got our last dish quickly with some rice on the side. While this was going on, different people from the kitchen were bringing dishes to our table that weren't ours. It was a mess!
                                                                                    Everyone loved the food (the pork shoulder and bacon cut pork were big hits) but I'm not sure I'll be able to convince my family to come back unless we are assured that we'd be getting one of the senior servers. Having 100 people in your restaurant on a busy Sunday night without adequate staffing is unacceptable. I hope they can find a few more experienced servers and make the larger groups more of a priority so I can once again have a fabulous birthday party there.

                                                                                    1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                                                                      poor service was also our experience in a party of nine. there seemed to be sufficient staff, but poorly trained. our waiter spoke English well and acted very confident, but never reviewed a fairly lengthy order with me after we gave it, and sure enough he made a couple of omissions. an item he did place correctly, the special seafood noodle soup with hand cut noodles, came without a serving ladle. three requests and fifteen to twenty minutes later, we still couldn't serve ourselves the soup. in nearly any Chinese restaurant you could name, the server doles out soups that come in any multiple portion bowl or tureen, but we didn't see a ladle until the floor manager was alerted. the food overall wasn't as consistent as we've experienced there, either.

                                                                                      can only hope that the owner and management understand that we've found other places to eat while they were shut. their goal should be to surpass the level they reached previously, to re-secure their regular customers and even increase their trade and help erase the lost revenue. except for the organic chicken appetizer, they failed to meet what they provided before the fire.

                                                                                      1. re: moto

                                                                                        I'd email the owner about bad service incidents. He's been responding to similar complaints on Yelp and seems to be trying to work things out.

                                                                                      2. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                                                                        We went on Sunday too, at a big table in the back room. Service was fine for us (we were four adults and two little kids), but they did seem a bit overwhelmed that night. Overall, it was great having China Village back. A few thoughts on the dishes:

                                                                                        - #14: Cold spicy chicken with onions. Sauce was as good as always. Chicken was julienned instead of larger pieces. Looked prettier, but I might have liked the sauce/chicken ratio better before. No matter, one of the best dishes of the night.

                                                                                        - #62: Water dumplings with spicy sauce: These little dumplings weren't as good as I remembered, but still a favorite. Love the sauce, butt the dumplings seemed bland. Might have built it up too much in my mind from going without for a year.

                                                                                        - #56: Sesame bread. Perfect, as always.

                                                                                        - #88: West-style 1000 chili soup with fish: This was better than ever. Tons of chilis on top. Rich broth. Perfect. A huge hit with the kiddos.

                                                                                        - #135: Village Cumin Lamb. This dish seemed a little wan tonight. Still loved it, but the flavors seemed muted.

                                                                                        - General Zhang’s beef: this was not on my menu, but I always order it. It is my favorite dish at China Village. But the night's version had very few pieces of tendon and no tofu like the old version. Instead, it had extremely chewy sheets of meat. Not sure what it was. Thoughts? The peppercorns and peanuts were spot-on as always.

                                                                                        - #179: Bamboo shoots. Still one of the best vegetable dishes around.

                                                                                        - #191: Spicy Charred Cabbage. Ditto. Love that dish.

                                                                                        - #197: Classic Homemade Noodles Chow Mein. New dish for us (ordered for the kids), but impressive chewy noodles. Nice addition.

                                                                                        Also got salt and pepper chicken wings and walnut prawns for the kids and less adventurous eaters. Nice preparation for what they were.

                                                                                        Overall, I am thrilled to have it back and will be returning soon to have more on my list of favorites (we didn't even have any pork -- that's just nuts).

                                                                                        1. re: The Dive

                                                                                          thanks for the note on the Zhang beef dish -- for my tastes, the dou fu is an essential, balancing ingredient. another of our favorite dishes was also modified from before but not improved. preparations with both high heat and concentrated seasonings require close attention and precision, and those essentials weren't consistent in the dishes we had. if they continue to attract a high volume, can't really be assured that the glitches will be corrected -- we won't be in a hurry to return, and hope they'll have worked things out by the time we do.

                                                                                          1. re: The Dive

                                                                                            Oh how funny! I think we were brought some of your dishes first before they made it to you. The Zhang beef was flavorful, but unfortunately there wasn't a lot of beef to be had. The Cumin Lamb was alright, but not how I remember it from the last time we came a few weeks ago. I will email the chef tomorrow and let him know about our experience. Hopefully the staff will be open to improvement and the more experienced people will be assigned the larger tables on the busy nights. They said they wanted to continue to be a neighborhood spot, so they'll need to work on their consistency to make that a reality. If only The Ark here in Alameda had the Spicy Pork Shoulder and Bacon cut pork with spicy garlic sauce, then I might not need to make the trek.

                                                                                            1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

                                                                                              I think the point of them being a "neighborhood spot" is that people are approaching it like a "destination" or "special occasion" restaurant and have unrealistically high expectations of things like service.

                                                                                              I think they were hoping for some time to settle in to the new space and work out the kinks, and instead they got slammed with crowds the minute they opened their doors, which has just compounded the kinks.

                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                >I think they were hoping for some time to settle in to the new space

                                                                                                That's exactly what Mr. Yao told me the week after they opened. He intentionally didn't put up any "grand re-opening" signs in the hope that people would just start drifting in. But once the word got out (and this topic might share some of the blame) they were surprised by the crowds.

                                                                                                1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                                                                  Yeah, I put a lot of thought and information into the email I sent the chef today to which he immediately responded with a "Happy Birthday" and an apology. He admitted he is understaffed and that finding experienced servers that know the cuisine, are bilingual and have good customer service skills has been a challenge. He assured me he is working on it daily, thanked me for my input and hopes I'll give them another chance. BTW, I learned the name of the excellent senior server from before that always wears black: Chi.
                                                                                                  The pork dishes will make it too hard to stay away forever, but I think our family will take a break for a while to give them time to get the new folks up to speed.

                                                                                      3. Report, my first visit since re-open:

                                                                                        1) NO service problems. Everything on-time and lots of check-ins. For a friday, we arrived 6:15 departed 7:15 (had a show to catch) and there were a few tables open the entire time.

                                                                                        2) Nice that they have speakeasy and trumer pils.

                                                                                        3) Dishes:
                                                                                        West style Fish - I was surprised how this wasn't spicy. Had a nice smokey/woody taste, but I thought it would be the dish I recently had in China (looked similar) where the dish is searingly spicy. The one I had in china, they used a small mountain of peppercorns on top instead of floating peppers, which I think impart less heat?

                                                                                        Tried to get Boiling Beef, but that got translated somehow into West Lake Beef, I believe this was my dining partner's fault and I don't fault the staff. West Lake Beef was a fine example of that dish. I was under the gun because I had arrived slightly late and we were going to Shotgun Theater afterward and I had also forgotten that we were meeting people so should have brought the four-seater car. Staff tried to get us to change the order from the two soups but I don't really consider boiling beef a soup, so was confused ---- ah well. No boiling beef for me.

                                                                                        Five spice bean curd sheet - saw this on another writeup, enjoyed it. Was vaguely reminded of a mille feuille cake. The 5 spice was not heavy handed. Gone in an instant, and a good light smaller appetizer.

                                                                                        Wok Sear Cabbage - agree with others that it's not quite its former self, still a grand dish. A little too much sauce to cover for the lack of wok hey.

                                                                                        Water dumplings spicy sauce - we ended up ordering two because I ate them before my GF. Trick is to be really, really diligent about mixing the dumplings and the sauce, if you do that it's all of its former self. Not enough mixing - bland. Yay for water dumplings.

                                                                                        Cake with sesame - I like this as a starch so much better than rice. Just the same as always. Couldn't find it on the menu so just ordered it (now I see it's under Dim Sum). Not sure if I got the "puff bread" or the "flat bread", what we got was a little over an inch thick. Yay.

                                                                                        That's it. Given all the sichuan I've been eating recently, this ranked as pretty good not great, and I do wonder if my memory is clouded by nostalgia. It will take a while to get to some of my other favorite dishes, like the fish fillet one. I would also prefer not to be so rushed by that was my problem not the restaurants, and they picked up our vibe and got us through the meal on time --- good service!

                                                                                        Saw a lot of that pork shoulder out on tables. It seemed most tables had it --- maybe not QUITE like that but seemed that way.

                                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                          " I do wonder if my memory is clouded by nostalgia"

                                                                                          I would say our overall opinion after several visits is that it is very good but falls short of being as good as it once was. Last time we went we had what used to be called the house special shrimp. Basically shrimp fried with chilies, green onions ginger and other good stuff. It used to be consistently a stellar dish. When we had it the last time we went it was good but definitely not as good as it used to be. Shrimp were not as crunchy, not spicy enough, not enough of the bits of ginger onion and other stuff they fried with it. Hopefully they are still working out the kinks.

                                                                                          1. re: Ridge

                                                                                            We went back last night and it was better than previous visits. I noticed many new dishes on the menu. Has anyone tried many of the new things?

                                                                                            The dishes we ordered were all outstanding and spicy. Don't know if it helped but I asked one of the very good natured servers who has been there from before if he could help us pick things for dinner (we were not seated in his section). And i told him to make sure to tell the kitchen that we like spicy. Here is what we ate:

                                                                                            Spicy beef tendon: excellent as has been the case on previous visits.

                                                                                            Spicy conch: this was excellent also. The conch was tender and was in a spicy ma-la sauce. It is however very similar in flavor and slightly similar in texture to the tendon so I would order one or the other.

                                                                                            Dry wok spicy fish. This dish used to be a favorite. They have changed it slightly and it comes served in a small wok with a flame underneath. Last time we ordered it, it was not as good as it used to be. This time I am happy to report it was pretty much as good as it used to be. This is basically basa (catfish) fillets dry fried in a pan with chilies, sischuan peppercorns, garlic, onions, bell pepper, spicy (jalapeño or similar) peppers and ginger. It was extremely delicious.

                                                                                            We asked the server if he had some recommendations. He suggested spicy ribs. They were small, extremely tender pork riblets sautéed with chilies, onions and pepper. The dish was excellent.

                                                                                            We also had the "A" vegetable which was good as allways.

                                                                                            When CV is really good you have the feeling you would rather be eating there than anywhere else in the world. We had that feeling last night.

                                                                                          2. re: bbulkow

                                                                                            "Saw a lot of that pork shoulder out on tables"

                                                                                            The pork shoulder is the one dish that tasted better than it used to.

                                                                                            1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                              three of the dishes we had fell short of their previous versions, including the seared cabbage, which would have benefited from more intense charring, and the braised pork shoulder in spicy sauce. the shoulder was still the best dish of the night, but the spicing was more subdued, less aromatic than it used to be. other places make very good versions of the non-spicy long-braised shoulder, so we'd prefer that CV separate itself more with their seasonings.

                                                                                              where did you have better Sichuan food in the bay area recently ?

                                                                                              1. re: moto

                                                                                                It's not fair to say just about anything based on a single visit, especially while I was distracted while ordering, and not making a point of asking for spicy.

                                                                                                I'm liking Chef Zhao in MV quite a bit right now. I'm not sure he has quite the menu that CV does, so not clearly better.

                                                                                            2. #13 spicy conch, #88 west-style catfish in chicken broth, and #179 bamboo shoot were all as great as ever.

                                                                                              #14 Szechuan Boneless Chicken with Julienned Onion was not the old hot oil and ma la dish, it was Chinese chicken salad. Nice version but not what I was expecting

                                                                                              Pork shoulder was good but sure looked more like shank to me. Reminded me of the "honey ham hog" that Claypot Seafood House used to make.

                                                                                              Soft tofu with spicy pork chitlins was fun.

                                                                                              I don't see it online but they have "double skin" on the menu. Lots of wok hay, tasty though quite a different version from Great China's. The mung bean skins were in big chunks and hard to eat. Are there other Shandong / Korean-Chinese dishes on the menu besides the complimentary kimchi?

                                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                #14 is bon bon ji, aka bonbon chicken. You need to order the organic chicken dish for what you're remembering.
                                                                                                9. 四川口水鸡 Mouth-Watering Spicy Organic Chicken (Bone-In) *

                                                                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                  The dish I've had before was boneless and thinly sliced, pretty similar to the spicy conch, actually so similar that it's just as well we didn't get both. The old menu called it "spicy home-style chicken." So #9 is the same preparation only bone-in and organic?

                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                    Yes, the Chinese characters 口水鸡 are the same. When CV reopened it had both versions, but the online menu now only has the organic version.

                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                      Wasn't there a dish called "Sliced Chicken in Hot Oil Sauce" at either China Village or Spices?
                                                                                                      It was boneless breast Sliced in a slightly viscous sauce that seemed to be mostly Chili Oil it came in a very shallow round Bowl.

                                                                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                    I was curious about the soft tofu dishes. What exactly are they like?

                                                                                                    1. re: Ridge

                                                                                                      Very soft tofu like what's used in soondobu mixed with whatever and served in a Pyrex pie pan.

                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                        I think that soymilk is poured into the Pyrex dish, coagulated with something (nigari?) and then allowed to solidify -- takes several minutes.
                                                                                                        Then it is steamed and topped with spicy items. So it is in a solid state, not chunks. Of course as soon as you dig into it, it falls apart.

                                                                                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                      "Double Skin" is on the menu, #7 under the appetizers section.
                                                                                                      7. 肉丝两张皮 Hot and Cold Salad

                                                                                                      Shredded pork, egg, fresh vegetables and seafood
                                                                                                      in a housemade mustard sauce

                                                                                                      1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                                                                        Was just about to paste in the same link.

                                                                                                        There are plenty of folks on this Board who critique Michael Bauer; and I've questioned the personal heat of some of those slams in past posts.

                                                                                                        So I'm going to try to calm down here.

                                                                                                        It's not that I think China Village is a fine-dining establishment or is even perfect for what it is (in contrast to the experience of other 'hounds, our first visit back after the fire/remodel was decidedly mixed).

                                                                                                        But this review by Nicholas Boer is one of the lamest I've read in a good long time. To say he misses much of what makes China Village "sing" is to speak in understatement.

                                                                                                        1. re: sundeck sue

                                                                                                          It seemed pretty positive to me. It might bring in some new customers.

                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                            Interesting, your more positive take. I'll go back and re-read.

                                                                                                            My beef(s): he focused on so few dishes, jumped up and down about the chiles, raved about it as a good-value lunch spot. He just didn't seem to have done his homework (no appearance of having been there before or having read this thread--he was asking people there what was good). And he gave the food two stars.

                                                                                                            1. re: sundeck sue

                                                                                                              The Chronicle's second-string critics don't have Bauer's budget.

                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                It's not an issue of budget. It's just a fairly ignorant review.

                                                                                                                One thinks one is numb to the embarrassment of living in a town which such a poor newspaper, then they top themselves.

                                                                                                                1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                                  Bauer's reviews from 10+ years ago set the lameness bar so high that it'll never be topped.

                                                                                                                  "Unfortunately, some restaurant patrons look as if they came from a $50-a-night hotel. While some look as elegant as the surroundings, others seem content to wear wrinkled Dockers."


                                                                                                              2. re: sundeck sue

                                                                                                                And one of those few dishes was sweet and sour pork, for goshsakes.

                                                                                                                1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                                                                                  I may not care for sweet & sour pork myself, but my Chinese-Portuguese MIL who was born and raised in Hong Kong, happens to love the stuff.

                                                                                                                  1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                                                                                    When a restaurant has a bunch of Chinese-American standards on the menu, some critics would think it was their responsibility to try one or two. He said it was the best sweet and sour pork he knows, so what the heck.

                                                                                                                    Now I'm craving sweet and sour pork. It can be good if it's not too sweet and the sugar is balanced with acid.

                                                                                                                  2. re: sundeck sue

                                                                                                                    I agree it was positive, but in an "I know nothing about Chinese food but this was pretty tasty" kind of way. Either he's an idiot or he's been told to dumb it down for the Chron's readership (much as John Birdsall did when he was at the Contra Costa Times).

                                                                                                            2. Mostly great carry-out tonight.

                                                                                                              Fabulous: pork shoulder--just a genius prep

                                                                                                              Very good: wok charred cabbage, eggplant w/ garlic sauce, pea shoots, bacon cut pork

                                                                                                              OK: spicy conch (tasted heat more than conch)

                                                                                                              Terrible: sesame flatbread (dry, dough-y--maybe it doesn't travel, but it was still a little warm when we got it home, so should have tasted better than it did).

                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                              1. re: sundeck sue

                                                                                                                have to agree with you about the conch ....... we ordered it just the other night : got a lot of heat and sichuan peppercorn but very little conch flavor. wouldn't order this again. the pork shoulder is an amazing dish and a great value.

                                                                                                                1. A delicious dinner last night w/ a friend @ CV. The food very good to great.

                                                                                                                  But the service was a very mixed bag.

                                                                                                                  We were there early, the place not full, quick to be waited on; and the food came at a good clip.

                                                                                                                  But the server who brought the Spicy Village Special Seafood Noodle Soup did a messy job of serving it--told us we should back up, so we wouldn't get splashed, proceeded to splash all over the table, left to go get two forks to manage the noodle transfer. I get that it's tricky getting long noodles into small soup bowls. But he had about as much technique as me. Which is to say, after we made more of a mess, serving ourselves; and they took away the bowls/plates, no one swabbed the table. The check was dropped practically in a puddle. Empty water glasses never noticed/refilled.

                                                                                                                  I understand you're not buying fine dining here. But with such delicious food on offer and now a way more attractive/upscale-looking space, seems silly not to complement it with more professional service.

                                                                                                                  1. China Village has expanded their lunch menu by quite a bit. They've added more dishes from the main menu, in smaller portions--Mr. Yao is hoping people will sample from them, instead of the usual broccoli beef or kung-pao chicken. I don't remember whether the spicy-boiled fish fillet was on the previous menu, but today it was just amazingly good, and the portion was still big enough to bring home leftovers for lunch (and enough sauce to simmer a few more fillets later on). Prices are up by about a dollar across the board, though.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                                                                                      We went last Friday for dinner. Continues to be a bit uneven but overall it was very good. Service is still spotty and they seemed overwhelmed and understaffed. It did't help that it was the first day of Chinese New Year. For apps we got the numbing beef and bacon cut pork with garlic sauce. The numbing beef was absolutely spot on and much better than in previous visits and also much better than the last one we had recently at Z&Y. Bacon cut pork was not as good as previous visits. The braised pork shank was good but not as great as previous visits. Cumin lamb, flatbread and charred cabbage all were spot on and better than previous visits. Cumin lamb in particular was just delicious and up to the level it used to be. Green beans were good but lacking in wok char and slightly undercooked.

                                                                                                                    2. We have gone back a few times and it continues to improve. We went with friends a little over a month ago and it was excellent. The numbing tendon was spot on as were most things. Our friends went back a couple of weeks later and said it wasn't as good. We went back Friday and had a good experience. Service is getting better though some of the new waitstaff still come across as uncomfortable to be there. We ate 3 dishes: numbing tendon, dry wok Sischuan fish, pea shoots. All were excellent and up to the level of pre-fire days.

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: Ridge

                                                                                                                        I've been a few times lately, too, Ridge, and I agree. Have you tried the ginormous Famous Five Spice Hot and Spicy Pork Shoulder? it's wonderful - the most tender thing ever. The Spicy Charred Stir-Fried Cabbage was wonderful last time, about 3 weeks ago.

                                                                                                                        we had a strange incident, re service, though it was really no one's fault. my father (who has since passed) had a choking incident there on a very busy Sat. night. I kind of panicked and called out for help. everyone was a little stunned, and he recovered very quickly, before anyone had a chance to do anything or react. the servers weren't anywhere near us. we left shortly thereafter, pretty freaked out (my sister and I, anyway), and on signing the bill, I overtipped by something like $30.00. I only noticed my error the next day, and I called them. there was really nothing they could do, they said, very politely, other than to ask the server to give back the money. he said apparently the server(s) did notice the large tip, but thought I had overtipped in thanks to them helping us with my father - which did not happen, and did not need to happen - as I said, he recovered pretty quickly. I felt really stupid, and would have felt more stupid to go back to the server and ask him for money back. I've been to the restaurant a couple of times since, and was waited on by someone different each time, so I never made an issue of it. my fault. I just didn't know that the restaurant could not reimburse me for a tip. but it makes sense.

                                                                                                                        1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                          Yeah, they're required to give the waiter the full amount of the tip, so essentially it's not theirs to give back.


                                                                                                                      2. Unfortunately I had what can only be described as a shockingly disappointing meal at China Village when I stopped by for a quick early dinner at the weekend. I write from the POV of someone who frequents (and I mean frequents) the likes of Z&Y, Hot Pot Lounge, Chili House and Dongbei Mama (which has unfortunately lost it's Sichuan chef). And I'd been to CV before the fire, and had great Sichuan food there.

                                                                                                                        Had I been looking for an upscale East Bay generic Chinese restaurant, the food would have been reasonably good, although a little pricey. Judging by the other patrons there at the time, that may be what most of the restaurant's customers are looking for (sorry to stereotype). The space is nice, the scruffy former decor is all gone, along with the trademark smells coming from the kitchen (which I guess could be down to a good kitchen vent system, but didn't feel like a good sign).

                                                                                                                        However, that's not what I was looking for. And I was chatting with the owner and said that I'm a fan of Sichuan food, that it's something I like and eat all the time. He asked if like it spicy. I said yes, of course.

                                                                                                                        I was eating vegetarian, as the fish fillet they use is basa, which I don't eat, and he recommended the Szechuan Clay Pot, which he offered to do as a vegetarian version. Sounded great. What came out had not even the slightest Sichuan flavor, and was nothing more than tofu and vegetables in a sweet-ish bean sauce. There were a few very mild chiles, not a Sichuan pepper or pickled pepper or broad bean paste in sight (except the paste in the condiment pot on the table).

                                                                                                                        I also ordered the dry-cooked green beans. It was done correctly, although the beans were a little overcooked and too salty.

                                                                                                                        I mentioned to the owner that the food wasn't at all spicy, and he seemed surprised. He told me that's not what others say, and that I'm part of the 1% for whom this wasn't spicy enough.

                                                                                                                        Well, I'm sorry. I love Sichuan food, and I like it fairly spicy. And I'm not one of those people who are crazy to have the heat cranked up.

                                                                                                                        I don't know what happened, because my experience was so completely different from what others, some of whom I believe know their Sichuan food, have written here. But this was a disaster and a HUGE disappointment.

                                                                                                                        36 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                          Neither nor #103 Szechuan Clay Pot nor #177 Classic Dry-Cooked Green Beans is marked as hot and spicy on the menu, so it's not surprising what you got was not spicy. Seems like some sort of communication problem if you asked for spicy dishes and the owner recommended those.


                                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                            I didn't complain that the beans weren't spicy. They just weren't very well executed (overcooked, too salty). This is one of my go-to dishes in any Chinese restaurant, and their version was a 4/10.

                                                                                                                            As for the clay pot, there wasn't a trace of any Sichuan element in this whatsoever, spicy or not. It's certainly marked as a Szechuan dish.

                                                                                                                            If there was a communication problem, it was between Mr Yao and the kitchen. We had a very clear and friendly conversation in which I expressed my desire for Sichuan food, he suggested a dish, took the order and then confirmed that I would like it spicy.

                                                                                                                            1. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                              "there wasn't a trace of any Sichuan element"

                                                                                                                              Not all dishes from that region contain hot pepper or Sichuan peppercorns.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                I'm well aware of that. I've been eating Sichuan and other regional Chinese food for years, all over the US and on multiple trips to Mainland China. What I was served was not Sichuan food in any respect whatsoever.

                                                                                                                                In any case, the dish I was served was supposed to be spicy and Mr.Yao also apparently believed it to be so. Thus the conversation reported above, and below in my reply to Melanie.

                                                                                                                                The only explanation I can come up with is that the kitchen messed up.

                                                                                                                              2. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                                When the green beans are good they are a good expression of wok char seasoning. I am surprised they weren't good. While I have also found CV somewhat hit or miss that dish is usually a hit.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Ridge

                                                                                                                                  I like them with some char and a little wrinkle, plus lots of caramelized garlic.

                                                                                                                                  Nice-to-haves can be caramelized finely chopped shallots, green onion and charred chiles.

                                                                                                                                  The garlic wasn't caramelized and the beans weren't charred, but had also lost their crunchiness and were very salty.

                                                                                                                            2. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                              Did you place the order directly with the owner or later with a server? It seems odd to me that clay pot with the bean sauce would be recommended, as Mr Yao tends to recommend hot pot to first time customers. I wonder if you were supposed to get 92. 素砂锅豆腐 Vegetarian Szechuan Clay Hot Pot *

                                                                                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                                                                Directly with Mr. Yao. Actually the exact opposite of what you describe is what happened.

                                                                                                                                I was going to order the Vegetarian Szechuan Clay Hot Pot #92. He said it's got a lot of soup in it, and that I'd do better ordering #101 (the sizzling clay pot), which he would do in a vegetarian version. So that's what I got. And that's what was written on the receipt.

                                                                                                                                What I got was not Szechuan, in any way whatsoever.

                                                                                                                                1. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                                  Perhaps you should have offered a taste to mr Yao- so he could see if it was Kitchen error or "the 1%"

                                                                                                                              2. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                                I have to say that my one visit back after the re-opening was also a disappointment. I prefer to let people who live closer and can visit more to give more detailed reviews (I ate there regularly when I lived about 2 miles away), but my experience was relatively bland as well - compared to other bay area szechuan places as well as chinese places in china.

                                                                                                                                1. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                                                  Your detailed report is above. You didn't seem that disappointed at the time.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                    He seemed a bit disappointed. Does he have to be "that" disappointed?

                                                                                                                                    I think we should avoid trying to undermine people's opinions, especially when they come from an educated perspective.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                                      The report's above, people can read it and decide for themselves.

                                                                                                                                      I've eaten there three times since it reopened and it seems solid to me, still one of the handful of places you can get really good Chinese food in the Albany-Berkeley-Oakland area, provided you order the right dishes.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                        This sentence removed any doubt:

                                                                                                                                        "Given all the sichuan I've been eating recently, this ranked as pretty good not great, and I do wonder if my memory is clouded by nostalgia."

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                          You are entitled to your opinion, without having someone digging for perceived inconsistencies in order to undermine it.

                                                                                                                                          I will try CV again sometime, and avoid telling Mr. Yao that I'm looking for spicy or Szechuan dishes or following his advice. I'll also avoid ordering menu items described as Szechuan or spicy. Maybe then I'll get the right dishes LOL.

                                                                                                                                          But seriously, I do find it hard to believe that CV has turned into another East Bay upscale "Mandarin" restaurant. Perhaps the Szechuan cook was off duty when i was there and my food was prepared by someone who didn't know what they were doing. So when I'm in the area I'll give it another shot and try to figure out how to get Szechuan food served to my table.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                                            I wonder if ordering a vegetarian version of a non-vegetarian dish might not make the cook figure that he'd better dial back the seasonings as well.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                              Could be. My first instinct is generally not to order vegetarian versions of non-vegetarian dishes, because if an inexperienced or untrained chef is preparing it the chances for a bad outcoome are very high. But I figured Mr. Yao would steer me in the right direction.

                                                                                                                                              All this talk of szechuan martinis etc isn't really encouraging me to want to return. It's kind of confirming for me the impression I got of the priorities of the post-fire CV. Maybe I'll check out Ancient Sichuan instead when I'm in that neck of the woods.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                                                one dish we enjoy at Ancient Sichuan is " Spicy [fish fillet/beef/lamb] with On Spot Made Soft Tofu ". have only tried the fish. we've tried China Village twice since the re-open and there was a little too much variability in the cooking and service to motivate us for a third attempt. we find the overall experience more relaxing at Ancient Sichuan, and at my age that increases as a priority. the top notch headwaiter who used to work at China Village before the closing is their floor manager, and he makes a difference.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: bbulkow

                                                                                                                                      I have been back many times, usually for lunch when I am off from work. My favorite special is the black bean sauce fish (which I heavily doctor with the hot sauce on the table) and it has been consistently good, most recently 2 Mondays ago. I've also had two of the lunch-time only specials: the handpulled noodles with duck and with pork spareribs. Both were quite good (especially the duck) and quite hot.

                                                                                                                                      I've only done dinner a couple of times shortly after they reopened and I was disappointed by the charred cabbage and the soup with a million red chilis floating on top, neither which I had had pre-fire Other dishes I liked fine including a pork belly dish and a ground pork dish which was a very pleasant surprise.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                                                                        The fish in black bean sauce is one of my favorites as well. But I'm curious: if you like it spicy, there's a spicy version a few lines away on the menu. Why not order that?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                                                                                                          I didn't know that the spicy version existed. I love that hot sauce on the tables. Although I make liberal use of it, I prefer to self-regulate the heat. I once had the spicy beef soup and the broth was just too hot to drink and I would count myself with the some like it hot crowd.

                                                                                                                                          Lunchtime is not crowded and very relaxing on a day off.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                                                                          The "West-Style 1000 Chili Pepper Fish Fillet in Chicken Broth" was one of my pre-fire favorites and I thought it was as good as ever. Despite the name and impressive layer of chiles it's only slightly spicy.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                            If you take it home and leave the chilis in you get a nice spicy broth.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: wally

                                                                                                                                              To my taste leaving the chiles in makes the broth too bitter. I'll add other chiles myself if I want whatever I make with the leftovers spicier.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                you can have have them pack the chilis separate and then put them in when you want to heat it up. doesn't make them bitter that way.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                    this is not really in answer to this, but once I saw them drying their chilis out on the sidewalk on the side of the building on a big tarp on a sunny day....

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                      The ones in the "1000 Chili Pepper" soup come dried from China.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                        interesting to know! they must have been doing them for some other prep.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                                                                                            whaaaaaa? are you joking? if you are, it's cruel.

                                                                                                                                                            i think you're kidding. but i'm holding out hope.
                                                                                                                                                            ma la manhattan, here i come.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                              Would I be out of line to hope for a Hot & Sour Mah-tini?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                Not at all. They steep red chiles in what I assume is gin and make drinks with it. They comped me a shot once and it was very spicy. I didn't care for it, but I'm a scotch or rum man.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                                                                                                  I will definitely be trying this next week. thanks.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                      I have them leave a few of the chiles in the bowl. Then I crumble one into the soup. Adds a little extra heat.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                                            So I've been about three times since it reopened. Each time I would say that I've had a good Sichuan meal though few of the dishes were outstanding. I still think back to the golden days of 2002-2003 with some fondness.

                                                                                                                                            I almost always order:
                                                                                                                                            1) fu qi fei pian aka husband and wife combination aka beef flake and tripe
                                                                                                                                            Sauce is one of the better versions around; Ancient Sichuan (Golden Bowl) is comparable.
                                                                                                                                            2) If not that dish I get numbing spicy tendon; last time was pretty good. The current version seems to be less spicy hot and more numbing which is an acceptable variation.
                                                                                                                                            3) Dry fried green beans have always been good whenever I order
                                                                                                                                            4) Wok charred cabbage. I frequently order this and although usually good it's never been as good as it has been up to the late 2000's.
                                                                                                                                            5) West style spicy fish soup. This is consistent, but I'll complain again about use of basa vs. firm white ocean fish.
                                                                                                                                            6) pork shoulder, either mild or spicy version, is consistently excellent.

                                                                                                                                            So overall, your description sounds like pretty much of a disaster, and I find it hard to understand why, though I don't really doubt that that's what you got.

                                                                                                                                            To provide some general color, I've found the service overall to be consistently off-putting in that there's always at least one note or interaction that is borderline rude from the waitstaff, often from one of the otherwise friendlier servers. I find the runners and bus staff consistently fine. Also, I've always found Mr Yao kind of curt, so I don't really interact with him much. I've never had the kind of involved discussion that others have described.

                                                                                                                                            Nowadays I slightly prefer Ancient Sichuan though that place definitely has its own problems.

                                                                                                                                          3. My first time back. From the specials board, the asparagus and prawns with pickled chiles is very good. The prawns and asparagus were high quality and perfectly cooked. Makes a huge difference. The pickled jalapenos varied in heat. Only one was really, really hot. I tasted ginger, too. Get it while asparagus is in season.

                                                                                                                                            1. Ordered a dish from the specials menu described as "spicy pickled chile fish filet in hot wok," which turned out to be the same basa from the 1000 peppers soup in a hot pot with tofu, bean sprouts, and a completely unfamiliar mix of spices including bay leaf. Very good and probably the spiciest dish I've had there. Can anyone give me any information about it? I've attached a photo of the Chinese characters.

                                                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                Not sure if this is helpful, but the characters are:

                                                                                                                                                Shuāng jiāo Guō Zǐyú
                                                                                                                                                Double pepper pan fish

                                                                                                                                                What do you think the two types of peppers were?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                                                                                                  I only noticed little pickled peppers, could have been green Thai bird chiles. I think there was red dried pepper in there, too.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                    Interesting. Grand Hot Pot Lounge does a pickled pepper fish dish which is served in a dish with 2 sides, one side in a green chili sauce and the other side red.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: davidg1

                                                                                                                                                      vulber reports on "fish head with chiles" at Made In China ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9666... ). That dish is listed on their menu as "stunning double-pepper fish head" ( shuang jiao yu tou 雙椒魚頭 ) :

                                                                                                                                                      Ah... I knew these posts rang a bell---we tried to order "stunning double-pepper fish head" at a Made in China Chowdown but they were out of it. it sounds like what's at Grand Hot Pot Lounge. Could this be the origin of China Village's dish?

                                                                                                                                                      Here's a recipe

                                                                                                                                                      That recipe lists the pickled peppers as "duo jiao:"

                                                                                                                                                      From Wikipedia:
                                                                                                                                                      "Duo jiao sauce (duo jiao 剁椒) originates from Hunan cuisine, which is reputed to be even spicier than Sichuan cuisine. Duo means chopped, and jiao means chili. Duo jiao is made of chopped red chilis pickled in a brine solution, and has a salty and sour pickled taste; it is the key flavoring in the signature Hunan dish duo jiao yu tou (剁椒鱼头), fish head steamed with chopped chili."

                                                                                                                                              2. They raised the prices on the lunch specials by a dollar for most items, and taken a few favorites off the menu. This cracks the $10 limit I like to keep for lunch.

                                                                                                                                                Prices seem to be going up everywhere recently.

                                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                                                                                                                                  Must have happened very recently. I lunched there Monday last week and got out the door for $12 (lunch, tax and tip).

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                                                                                                                                    I think it started this week. The lunch specials menu was reprinted and consolidated from the separate pages last week.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                                                                        I don't know, since that's the Great China lunch menu. I don't see the China Village lunch menu online.