A group of us tried the Clay Pot on San Pablo in Albany last night, on the general recommendation of a foodie friend. The people who run the place are lovely, welcoming and attentive. So, we were sad to find the food a disappointment (I liked the staff so well, I almost didn't post our less-than-great experience). I thought the space was pleasant (despite the TV). A great fish tank w/ beautiful orange fish swimming about. Appetizers: smoked fish looked more meat than fish, was kind of bland w/ a slightly too sweet sauce. Steamed crab dumplings arrived after some of our main courses (when they brought the first main dish, and we hadn't had the dumplings, we inquired, and they explained it took them 12 minutes to steam). The wrapping was a bit tough, the filling a bit salty. Main courses: Shanghai shrimp was OK, nothing to write home about, but maybe the best of the lot, w/ bay shrimp and onions in a servicable, slightly sweet sauce. Fish in spicy tomato sauce--the sauce tasted like sweet ketchup. Sauted spinach leaves were good, the stems a bit chewy, but the garlic sauce nicely seasoned, and the leaves fine. We had one noodle dish--can't recall the name and not memorable. The biggest disappointment was the duck clay pot, a signature dish that was dull, literally and figuratively (re taste) colorless. We were speechless at the pervasive gray of the salty broth and boiled duck, still on the bone, when the server ceremoniously removed the lid of the clay pot. It was all a puzzle, given that this is one of our friend's favorite Chinese restaurants in the East Bay. Maybe it's a case of different tastes. Maybe it was an off night (when we arrived at 7, there were no other diners). Perhaps we just ordered badly, and the lesson here is: don't just get a restaurant recommendation, find out what to order.