When our out-of-town sister showed up this weekend, my off-Solano Ave sister and I turned to you all for a Solano Avenue suggestion after Rivoli once again declined our request for reservations. We weren't disappointed.
Pam had been to China Village when they first opened and wasn't thrilled enough to go back. Now she will. The five of us had
Deep fried unagi (eel) with Chinese celery
Watercress with preserved bean curd
Sesame seed pancake
Smoked pork shoulder
The unagi was fresh and eating it with little scallion-like celery shoots cut the oily taste. The owner raved about it.
As folks have mentioned, the vegetables are undistinguished. Our 20 year old prefers much more garlic to offset the saltiness of the preserved bean curd and the steely tang of the watercress. I agree with him here.
The sesame seed pancake came freshly made and was lept upon.
The cumin lamb's roasted chili peppers brought out the cumin (but not so you'd think you'd had a mouthful of the spice with every bite).
We ordered the garlic beef because one of us doesn't favor hot foods. The kitchen treated this like the American Chinese dish that it is, by plating it on a bed of American broccoli and garnishing it with fried garlic chips.
The "I wanna go back" star was the pork shoulder, simmered for 8 hours, with just enough star anise to set off the pork fat, a brown gravy to die for, and a bed of baby gai lan and Chinese mushrooms that got everyone's attention (including the couple who made a circuit around the restaurant looking at what everyone else was having before they sat down).
The bill came to $100 with drinks and tip and boxes of leftovers.
Our Lynchburg, VA sister allowed that the pork shoulder beat the pants off the pork dishes she's been getting at home. We also remembered that our late father (a Shansi native) swore that he'd never found a decent pork shoulder dish in the US. I hope he's listening.