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China Village in Albany -- still good!

Joel Teller | Aug 2, 200501:01 AM

Eight of us had a nice dinner at China Village in Albany, Sunday night.

We hadn't been here in a while. The famous chef who operated here for some time has apparently left, but the menu remains more or less the same. Actually one must write "menus" since there are several versions of menus.

The previous chef may have excelled in the unusual banquet-type dishes, but we'd never ordered those. This time we had some old favorites, some new ones based on other ChowHound recommendations, and some surprises.

For starters we had the "home-style chicken" (with sesame sauce -- very spicy), spicy cucumber, dumplings with spicy sauce, and sesame bread. All were excellent, perhaps better than I remember. Then for the first time we tried the spicy fish soup -- the one with the "10,000 chili peppers" floating on top. Not so spicy, once the waiter has carefully scooped off the floating peppers! The fish was superb -- big chunks of firm-fleshed, sweet filet. The broth was very rich and tasty.

For vegetables, we had "watercress" (what the Cantonese call "ong Choy"), not a particularly good rendition. They did not have the "fire-bursted mustard greens" and when I asked for a green veg recommendation, the genial host (the large gentleman who's been there for a few years) suggested cabbage! This turned out to be an excellent dish, stir-fried, with a somewhat sweet sauce.

We ordered cumin lamb, an old standby for us, and it was better than I remembered -- tender and juicy, not dry as I recall it.

We tried to order tea-smoked duck, but the host recommended a braised duck instead -- it was superb, rather similar to the braised pork joint -- the duck was fork-tender, greaseless, in a dark sweet/salty sauce, on a bed of bok choy. We ordered another sesame bread to go with these dishes. The host was rather disappointed that we had only ordered five "main dishes" (by his count) but we were stuffed, with only one wedge of sesame bread as a left-over. I think that was everything we ordered.
We got a quarter-watermelon, sliced up, for a dessert (gratis).

Service was excellent -- there were many bus-persons and waiters running around. They were doing a good business, with all sorts of groups of Chinese and non-Chinese of all ages in various permutations.
The bill, before tip, was about $100 (for eight) but then they added $22.50 for corkage (we had three bottles of wine, the youngest of which was a 1986).

China Village
1335 Solano Ave
Albany, CA 94706


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