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October 22, 2014

Berkeley: Great China; restaurant review

80 North

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
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
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.

2020 pandemic update:  I just ordered take-out here for the first time ever.  I ordered two lunch specials, which are available Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for $10.95 to $12.95.  The restaurant is closed on Tuesday.  The lunch includes an appetizer spring roll, salad, choice of rice, and a couple orange wedges.  We ordered kung pao shrimp and meat-heavy Mongolian beef and shared one for lunch and one for dinner.  It was just enough food for the two of us.  The procedure is to pay at the door and wait outside for your name to be called.  Masks are worn but not gloves.  They do not offer curbside pickup.

Great China Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

take-out kung pao shrimp at Great China restaurant in Berkeley, California
take-out kung pao shrimp at Great China restaurant in Berkeley, California

More pandemic updates.

More things to do in Berkeley.

Way more things to do in Berkeley. 

More ideas for exploring Northern California.

images ©2014 Carole Terwilliger Meyers
updated 8-2-17; 8-17-18; 7-16-20 

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