I've been hanging onto a scrap of paper with "Ark in Alameda - ge da soup" scribbled on it for months, and it was with some disappointment that I read about the departure of their famed chef, before I ever even got to try it out.
However, the idea of a spicy seafood soup with hand-made noodly dumplings was too tempting, so I hauled a bunch of friends out to Alameda, with the caveat that "their chef left".
I shouldn't have worried - while I never got to try the food with Jimmy Zheng there, I have to say that it's pretty good now.
Ge da soup - a Korean-influenced seafood soup filled with handmade, cat-ear pasta. The pasta's dense and tends to sink to the bottom of the bowl, so you have to work a bit to get yourself a good soup to noodle ratio, but it's worth it.
Potato salad - shreds of crunchy, nearly raw potato the diameter of angel hair pasta, dressed in a pungent garlic sauce.
Fish in chili sauce - a Dongbei special that night - not sure what kind of fish it was. The sauce was dominated by shaoxing wine, and garlic, along with the chilis. The sauce, which was intimidatingly red on presentation, was mellower than expected.
Cumin lamb - seared to the point of caramelization, these morsels were almost crispy, but still tender. I'll admit there may have been too much cumin for me - I think I prefer green onion with lamb.
La pi (mung bean sheets with cucumber and pork) - I loved this dish. It's dressed with a mild, vinegary soy based sauce, and the gentle acidity of the sauce, along with the slippery coolness of the bean sheets, were a great foil for the spicier, more assertively flavored dishes.
Ganpeng (fried chicken wings) - as good as everyone says. Sweet, slightly spicy, crisp-skinned, and satisfyingly meaty, these were great wings.
Some of the more hoary Chinese-restaurant standards were good too - the green beans with pork were tender and deeply flavored without being shriveled from a preliminary deep-fry, and the garlic eggplant was remarkably dense, flavorful, and greaseless. The only two dishes that were merely okay were the salt and pepper squid, and the clams in black bean sauce (not bad, but not great).
Oh, and dinner for 10 came out to $103, after tax.