Very rarely, if ever, do I go to a Chinese restaurant and discover a new yet equally delicious dish. What is even more surprising is when the restaurant turns out to be one that you’ve frequented before… which is what happened when JC and CW (aka Casper) invited a bunch of us for dinner at Great China. I used to go eat here back in college at Cal, but I don’t ever remember eating anything that was especially memorable.
JC said the main thing that supposedly draws people from across the Bay to eat at Great China is the Peking Duck, so that’s what we had…. 2 orders of it between the 7 of us. The duck was definitely tasty. The skin had the right amount of crispiness without too much fat which can be hard to do. It’s just enough where it is more of a hassle to try and remove it entirely, but not too much where you wouldn’t feel like your arteries were clogging completely. The duck meat was tender and juicy. I liked how they gave us mushu-like wrappers in which to roll the duck meat and green onions with hoisin sauce. I prefer these, because it’s not as carb heavy, so I didn’t get full as fast as I probably would have with the white buns that they typically serve with Peking Duck.
The next dish we ordered was something called Second Skin and it truly was the most unique thing I’ve ever tasted at a Chinese restaurant. It’s a plate of fresh made mung bean flat noodles served with julienned carrots, cucumbers, egg crepe, calamari, shrimp, sea cucumber, mushrooms, onions, and pork. It comes with each ingredient individually presented on the plate and tossed upon serving with a soy sauce and and Chinese mustard vinaigrette. It was in essence one of the most interesting yet delicious tasting cold noodle salads I have ever had. The mung bean noodles were thick and flat and kind of had a texture that reminded me of some type of skin, which probably had something to do with the name, Double Skin. It was a little bit chewy which was good. However, it was the mix of all the ingredients that really made the dish so unique tasting. The vinaigrette definitely gave it a salad-dressing-like taste.
Another dish that I’ve never had before was a stir-fried mix of scrambled egg and seafood. I’m not exactly sure what it was called though. I supposed that is what happens when you let the native speakers order for you…. which I don’t mind, but then I’m left not knowing what I’m eating. Hehe! It was also very good. I like the scrambled egg consistency of the sauce. It reminded me a little bit of Shrimp in Lobster Sauce.
The last two dishes were strictly vegetables which was very good to balance out the rest of the meal. I’ve had the Stir-Fried
Mung Beans and the Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce at other restaurants, so compared to the previous two dishes, both of these were pretty mundane. That isn’t to suggest that they weren’t good. Both were very well-made and strong finishes to the end of a great meal.
Overall, Great China turned out to be one of the nicest surprises I’ve had in a long time, food-wise. It is rare to find something new and different after eating Chinese food almost my entire life. I may not be an expert, but I have definitely eaten a lot of Chinese food. Moreover, it was a truly pleasant surprise considering I remember this place as a “hole in the wall”. It isn’t really that ghetto or anything, but it’s just a simple mom and pop type Chinese restaurant in a college town littered with a whole bunch of other non-memorable mom and pop Chinese places. The ambiance is simple but the prices are very reasonable, all that you would expect from a Berkeley restaurant. Most importantly, the food, at least those couple of dishes I had tried for the first time were definitely memorable.
2115 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
PAFO Ratings for Great China:
Price 2 ½ stars
Ambiance 2 ½ stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 3 ½ stars