Last night I joined friends and family for dinner at China Village in Albany. This was about my 10th visit this year, and we have some new things to recommend that were suggested by the owner, Mr. Yao.
From the laminated seasonal menu page with color pictures presented with the regular Chinese menu, we ordered the hot sauce braised fish with pasta. This used the live Mandarin fish imported from China. Flash-fried whole and then simmered with a complex chili-spiked brown sauce with sandy-textured ground pork and melted vegetables, the skin had a firm texture yielding to sweet barely done flesh. A skein of fine egg noodles on the side of the platter helped soak up the wonderful sauce.
With Dungeness season open again, we asked for suggestions for fresh crab. Mr. Yao suggested braised with spicy chili sauce, but when we decided to order the fish, we went with Salt and pepper crab with fresh chilis. The crab was well cracked underneath the batter and of good size. The batter was a bit oily, but very light and tasty sauteed with small bits of green onion, red peppers, jalapenos, and sweet caramelized onions. I enjoyed the tasty and crunchy confetti-like debris on the bottom of the platter, scooping it up and eating it from a spoon, as much as the crab itself.
I had planned to order fire-bursted Chinese mustard greens, now that its cool and rainy again, but Mr. Yao said the Chinese water spinach was very good today. We tried it fire-bursted with fermented bean curd and smoky dried chiles. The water spinach was paler green, younger and more tender than Ive ever had. With the well-balanced pungent seasonings, it was fantastic.
We also ordered some of our regulars:
Spicy combination in sesame bread (husband and wife served as a sandwich, not on the menu) this is my favorite starter
Cucumber with garlic sauce with the red chili oil this time, instead of my usual not-spiced
Special lamb this cumin-scented dish is my brother-in-laws favorite here
Spicy diced rabbit the spicing on this dish seemed less hot than in the past. It was served icy cold which might have dampened the flavor.
Spicy sauce potato strips - I ordered these non-spicy (without jalapeno strips) as a foil for our hot dishes. Massimo was really impressed by the texture and subtle flavor.
Village special seafood noodle soup made with hand-shaved noodles, this is my sisters favorite dish
For dessert, Eight treasures rice, was provided on the house. It was as good as the one for my birthday dinner here. Mrs. Yao stopped by our table at the end of the evening to visit and to tell us that she had been working on perfecting a special version of crackle-glazed bananas. She adds a filling of sweet red bean paste. She said we should order this next time.