Great China 2190 Bancroft Way/Oxford St., downtown, (510) 843-7996. No reservations. L-D W-M; $$.
|dining room at Great China restaurant in Berkeley, California|
This restaurant has moved a block from its former small space that burned to the ground in 2012 and has morphed into a large, sleek open room with industrial-style decor featuring concrete and reclaimed wood. Specializing in authentic Chinese cooking with an emphasis on Shandong cuisine, it remains as popular as ever. To avoid a long wait, we sat at the counter/bar. In conversation, two Chinese ladies sitting next to us revealed to us that in their plastic bag were the bones from their Peking duck order, which they were going to take home and make into soup. They shared an order (a full duck) of what they declared to be the world’s best Peking duck—and they should know, being from Beijing (formerly known as Peking). We know what we’ll order next time! But apparently, many people like the tea-smoked duck even better. It is a half-duck portion served on-bone and featuring crispy skin. Ginger-scallion Dungeness crab is also popular in season. Another popular choice is fish dumplings filled with hand-cut fish as opposed to the machine-processed mousse that is usually encountered. But our order was already placed for two lunch specials, both of which are house specialties. Mine was a tasty, tangy shredded pork with garlic sauce. The portion was large enough for me to take home leftovers for my next day’s lunch.
|shredded pork with garlic sauce at Great China restaurant in Berkeley, California|
My dining partner had the walnut shrimp, which were large and tender and perfectly fried. The spicy eggplant chicken isn’t spicy but is filled with colorful veggies (including zucchini and assorted bell peppers), and the tasty kung pao prawns with zucchini cubes is a must-order. Each lunch special comes with delicious hot-and-sour soup, a crunchy small salad, a large fried spring roll, two orange slices, and rice (white, brown, or fried)—plus a fortune cookie for dessert. Note that complimentary home-style kimchi is available upon request, and MSG is used lightly in mostly the blander dishes but you can request that it be omitted from your order. And wine lovers will appreciate the selection here and will want to know that wine-pairing dinners can be arranged for a group of eight or more. The wine program has been deemed "outstanding" and has won a James Beard award.
|take-out kung pao shrimp at Great China restaurant in Berkeley, California|
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images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
updated 8-2-17; 8-17-18; 7-16-20