Great China - Berkeley

The other night I had the cumin braised lamb for the first time at the new location. It was very good, closer to a dry stir-fry than the soupy dish I remember from the old place. Decent hit of cumin.

What makes Ant Climbed the Tree so good? I can’t pick apart the flavors of that dish. Seems like there’s more than the ingredients listed on the menu.

Some previous reports:

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I was running errands nearby so I went in for the lunch special.

Hot and sour soup was very nice, complex flavors, really good version of that dish.

I got the shredded pork in spicy garlic sauce, which seemed a bit like a subset of the double skin. Good but I like the ma po tofu I almost ordered better. I thought I hadn’t had the lunch special before but I recognized the eggroll, which was OK. Salad was not bad. No extra charge for brown rice.

Overall a great deal for $8.95.

I had the ma po tofu lunch special Monday, as I often do. I don’t detect Szechuan peppercorns, but it is quite spicy and there is a lot of black fungus mixed in with the tofu. I like the eggroll dipped in the dumpling sauce, which you can request.

Is this the best Peking Duck in the area?

It’s very good, I’ve heard people say it’s the best, though I’ve always preferred the tea-smoked duck. I don’t order either very often as I prefer the seafood and some other things. I believe you can get two- or three-way though it’s not on the menu.

I used to like the Peking Duck at Daimo, but I haven’t ordered it in years.

Dishes I order regularly:

"double skin"
king trumpet mushrooms with cabbage
sautéed crab meat
fried oysters
steamed surf clams
fish & vegetable dumplings
Chung King crispy chicken
wok-braised lamb
Mandarin lamb
tea-smoked duck
pork belly with preserved vegetable (mei cai kou rou)
duck bone soup

See updated list below.

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They do their mapo tofu Korean-Chinese style, so there aren’t any peppercorns. But I agree, their version is top notch!

Went to a banquet at Great China over the holiday. This was my first visit to the new space, which is just lovely. Food was every bit as good as I remember it. In particular, their Double Skin (aka yang jiang pi) may be the best version of this dish I’ve ever had.

Had the cumin lamb again last night. Either they’ve improved it or they’re executing it better, that goes on my favorites list.

Also tried the ginger scallion fish filet, very nice dish. Might be good with the noodles option they offer for the ginger scallion crab and lobster dishes.

At the owner’s suggestion I got the noodles ($5 surcharge). Thick, chewy, rustic wheat noodles, reminded me of strozzapreti or pici. Really good with the gingery sauce and the old Burgundy (from their cellar, still no bottle list). They use these noodles in the zazang as well.

Tried the chao ma mian (usually spelled mien) for the first time last night. Rich and complex soup with shrimp, mussels, calamari, sea cucumber, pork, and vegetables, slightly spicy, great cold-weather dish. Next time I’ll ask if I can pay extra for handmade noodles.

Reportedly that’s another name for jjamppong, the spicy seafood soup that’s standard at jajangmyeon places. I can see a family resemblance, but the other versions I’ve had were a lot spicier (few if any dishes at Great China are much spicier than you’d get at a Hong Kong-style place) and the seafood was always overcooked.

chao ma mien with special noodles

Updated list of the dishes I order regularly:

fish & vegetable dumplings
"double skin"
fried oysters
kimchee
Chung King chicken
tea-smoked duck
beef with golden chives
cumin braised lamb
mei cai kou rou (thrice cooked pork belly and pickled mustard greens)
ginger scallion fish filet or calamari
Ant Climbed the Tree
steamed surf clams
sautéed crab meat
ginger scallion crab or lobster with noodles
sautéed snow pea leaves
king oyster mushrooms with golden chives and cabbage
nappa cabbage with dried shrimp
eggplant with hot garlic sauce
ma po tofu with pork
seafood fried rice
chao ma mien

Best selection of Burgundies in the East Bay, no longer an open secret.

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https://restaurants.winespectator.com/restaurant/3780/great-china

https://restaurants.winespectator.com/article/55455/restaurant-talk-rewriting-the-rules-for-pairing-with-chinese

New dish, Mandarin chicken wings. Nice crunch. Sauce was slightly sweet.

I think Great China’s in better shape than most places to weather the Covid-19 recession as they own the property.