China Village rises gloriously from the ashes

China Village

I hadn’t been to China Village since they’d remodeled after the big fire, which put them out of commission for over a year. hey definitely took the opportunity to snazz up the dining room as well as replace the kitchen. And it’s the same chef and owner since it opened over 15 years ago, so the food is just as good. The menus were updated, though, to reflect what was always available but not necessarily advertised. It used to be one of those places where regulars knew what to order off the menu, but if you weren’t privy to the secret dishes, you wondered why the next table was eating something that you don’t remember seeing as an option. And the menu must have a hundred dishes on it! It’s truly the James Michener–epic version of menus. Factor in a little extra time for reading…

Everyone gets a complimentary bowl of hot and sour soup to start, which was very good. And hot tea is free, which is becoming less common these days. (You have to pay for it at another upscale Chinese place on the upper end of Solano that will here remain nameless.) We ordered two appetizers that came after the spicy chicken noodle salad that I’d ordered, but I didn’t care—it was all good, and the three of us were eating family style anyway. Don’t be fooled by the name—the “salad” had little in the way of veggies, but it was delish. And since it was essentially peanut noodles with some matchstick bites of sesame chicken and a few cucumber bits thrown in, I was happy, and George loved it.

Our onion cakes weren’t all that special, but they came in handy for reasons soon to be disclosed. The veggie potstickers were hot, fresh, and tasty, though, and the dipping sauce that accompanied them was perfect. I ran out of water and was already working on Dave’s glass when I got the waiter’s attention to bring more. I was happily surprised when he arrived with not just the communal pitcher but a carafe for the table, which totally made up for the fact that I had to ask for water.

And it’s a good thing that we had plenty of water because Dave’s spicy short ribs were indeed spicy. I like spicy food, and it tasted good, but I couldn’t handle that much heat. This is when I returned to the fried onion cakes because they counteracted the spice factor in a sort of alimentary balance act. George’s choice, the cumin lamb, was just the right amount of spicy. And it was presented with a lovely bright red radish rose. (See photo.)

It was quite a lot of food. (There was just so much that we wanted to try…) So we ended up with a full bag of takeout containers—enough for two to have another meal! But even so, it turned out to be only $17 per person (before tip). So if we’d ordered more appropriately for three people eating just one lunch, I think it would have been pretty reasonable. We’re going back soon for dinner so we can try more of the many dishes that looked tempting.

China Village (1335 Solano Ave., btwn Ramona & Pomona in Albany, CA) chinavillagealbany.com

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