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Jul 2, 2013 02:38 PM

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.

                  17 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: susancinsf

                                    The cafe side of Grocery Cafe in Oakland has started. Don't know what the timing is for the produce hub and grocery end.

                                  2. 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.