We had a very nice dinner at China Village the other night.
The place was almost full on Saturday night, but it's large enough so we had a nice table without a reservation.
Service was a bit hectic because they were understaffed, but everyone was friendly, efficient, and competent. They recognized us, though we haven't been there for a few months.
They have revamped their menu. All the good dishes are still there, intermingled with standard dishes. The word "Classic" in italics precedes such dishes as Sweet and Sour Pork, Beef with Broccoli, Won Ton Soup -- so no one is scared away. On the same menu is #68, Leaf Tripe with Blood Pudding and #95, Pork Chitlins Boiled in Clay Pot. Quite fun to read through the menu and see the contrasts.
Six of us, all good eaters, had these dishes:
#214: Steamed Lamb dumpling ($4.95 for six). Juicy and fragrant. I could have eaten several orders of this on my own.
#216: Sesame Flat Bread ("Big, Yeast-raised Gorgeous Replacement for Rice") This was big hit. We ordered one, then had to order another later on. Both were perfectly cooked. Crust was evenly crispy, cooked all the way through, with bits of green onion in the middle. Better than rice, because it was delicious on its own.
#124: West style spicy fish fillet ($16.95). This is the famous soup with "1000 chiles" on top. It was superb. The creamy, perfectly cooked fish filets were a contrast to the exceptionally rich, spicy broth and bean thread noodles. This was enough soup for most of us to have seconds. Outstanding.
#64. Fire Charred Pork Kidney and Tripe. This was soft, rich, not at all spicy. OK, not great.
Pea Leaves with Garlic (not on the menu, we just asked what veg was good). Excellent.
Beyond the 218 dishes on the regular menu, they have a "Chef's Special" menu with additional dishes (some are overlaps). From this we ordered "Organic Chicken in Clay Pot". This was about half a chicken, chopped in pieces, and I suspect it is the same as the "free-range" chicken one comes across in Chinese places. It was bony, stringy, but quite tasty. The dish came to the table on a gas burner, and cooked for a while in front of us. The broth was a deep rich red, numbingly spicy (from the Szechwan peppercorns), with a lot of sesame paste. Exceptionally tasty, very strong flavor (needed lots of rice, or in my case sesame bread, to sop it up).
They provided a dessert, free of charge: "Eight-Treasure" steamed sticky rice cake.
We talked with the owner briefly about the change in chefs. As I understood it, the famous chef who went back to China has returned. The owner indicated that the chefs rotate back to China to keep up with the latest trends. I've never experienced the very expensive banquet dishes that have been mentioned at China Village in past years, just the regular menu. However, all of us thought that the dishes were better than ever.
Total food cost for six of us (no leftovers) was $75. Add one $5 corkage (though we brought three bottles of wine), tax, and tip. I challenge anyone to come up with a comparable food experience for the price.
1335 Solano Ave
Albany, CA 94706