Great China (Berkeley) still great
Late lunch today, just a couple of hours after its 11:55am opening. Could not order some favorites (like Double Skin) due to non meat eating dining companion, but everything we had was as good or better than the pre fire renditions. Walnut Prawns were great, as were the Oyster Mushrooms with Golden Chives and the Guo Ta Tofu. Best development was, however, the Fish and Vegetable Dumplings, which were much improved. Noodle wrappers were more tender, lacking the gumminess that could be an issue at times in the past. Welcome back to an old friend!
The Peking Duck is good, but it's not my favorite thing at Great China. Other standouts include the Double Skin (amazing combination of hot and cold, crunchy, chewy, and slippery ingredients topped with a spicy mustard sauce), the Crab Buns, the Tan Soo Yook (Korean Chinese sweet & sour beef), the embarrassingly tasty Walnut Prawns, and the Shredded Pork w/ Dried Tofu. Of course I was limited to veg and seafood for this outing, but I plan to do a better job next time.
There are several new additions to the menu that I am excited to try as well. I don't remember seeing Cumin Lamb or Cumin Beef in the past. Same goes for Wok Braised Beef Shank, Five Spice Braised Lamb Shank, Shredded Pork & Lions Head, and one of my all time faves, Mei Cai Ko Ro (braised pork belly with fermented greens). There are also a few attractive new desserts, but they are a low priority for me.
I went as part of a party of 10 last night. We asked for a wine pairing with some of our courses and had some of the best pairings I have ever had for any Asian food.
I really enjoyed the Tang Soo Yook, the crab buns, and the surf clams. We debated our duck preferences while eating the tea smoked duck. Their version was the moistest I have tried, but is still a bit too dry for my taste. Others at the table felt that standard Cantonese roast duck is too fatty and prefer the drier tea smoked version where much of that is rendered out. I did appreciate the delicious skin and the penetration of smokey flavor throughout the duck.
The one dish I would not order again there is the mei cai ko ro. The non-fatty parts were dry and the dominant flavor was soy sauce. Shanghai restaurant has a much better version, which I am eating tonight.
For dessert we tried the tofu flower, which is a gelatin-based tofu dessert. Because of the gelatin, the texture is more like almond jello than soft tofu. I really liked the palm sugar syrup. Many Chinese desserts are an acquired taste, and I don't think my dining companions enjoyed this dessert as much as I did.
stir-fried mushrooms with cabbage
sautéed crab meat
steamed surf clams
fish & vegetable dumplings (never had gummy ones)
Chung King crispy chicken
pork belly with preserved vegetable (mei cai kou rou)
duck bone soup
I've had the chicken curry (more spicy) and the ma po tofu for lunch the last 2 days and both were as I remember and excellent.
Price for lunch has gone up a dollar and they have been very busy until 2 or so.
I went there last night, and everything ran out even for takeout. No liquor license yet so we couldn't even hang out at the bar. The son of the owner(?) was very polite and apologetic to us. The decor is so drastically more modern and western than the old place. My suggestion is to wait a bit before visiting them for dinner.
I took out lunch again today. I had never had their eggplant chicken and it was very good.
It does seem that the demand at lunch is taxing the kitchen. At 2, they were suspending takeout and quoting a 20 minute wait. Too much of a good thing? This is, after all, a soft opening. They are entitled to take some time to iron out the wrinkles before the students come back.
I'll be working next week and living over there at lunchtime! So glad they are back!
I went with a party of 6 last night and we had 7pm reservations. I had never been to the restaurant pre-fire, but it was my husband's favorite Chinese place. We were able to order everything we wanted, except for alcohol. It was too bad we didn't know this ahead of time, as our group could have easily brought several bottles of good wine for the dinner.
Overall I thought the food ranged from good to great. The dishes that I would order again are the walnut shrimp, the shredded pork with golden chives, the loofah squash, and perhaps the double skin. The Peking duck, fried oysters, and ginger scallion crab were good but did not stand out from other renditions, whereas the other dishes did.
I was told that the Peking duck pre-fire was served with buns, and they are now served with pancakes. While the skin was crispy and well separated from the meaty parts of the duck, the dish overall lacked duck flavor, the deboned meat underneath was not juicy and instead slightly dried out. It could've been mistaken for chicken thigh.
The loofah squash, on the other hand, was a humble dish that impressed me. The pieces were juicy, silky, and flavored with high quality dried shrimp and golden chives.
The service was excellent - everyone was very attentive and they did a great job of transferring our partially eaten dishes to smaller plates to make room for new dishes coming out.
I can't wait to return to try more dishes on the menu.