Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ristoranti Asiatici in Berkeley

I've been collecting pictures of food I ordered in good restaurants here in Berkeley and closeby, and now I think it's a good moment to post a little summary of a few of them. The theme of this post is going to be 'Asian Restaurants in (or very close to) Berkeley'. I'll describe a Szechuan Chinese, a Nepalese and a Modern Vietnamese restaurant that I went to in the past few months.

China Village
This is a Chinese restaurant serving very traditional Szechuan cuisine, located on 1335 Solano Ave (Albany). From the outside, it doesn't look very pretty (or at least, not as pretty as all the other restaurants on Solano). Still, I went here because one of my Chinese groupmates told me that it was the BEST chinese restaurant in the whole Bay Area, the most authentic one. I've been there twice, and I must say, it hasn't disappointed my expectations of authenticity. It's completely different from any other Chinese restaurant I've been to. The food is quite spicy and oily. This is the characteristic of Szechuan cuisine, and you have to keep it in mind. You can find some non spicy food, but you have to look for it.
One of the best things we had were this wonderful bread:
In my ignorance, I didn't know that Chinese had also such good bread. All the restaurants I've been to always served rice. This bread is quite soft, and stuffed with vegetables. A must-try if you go to this place.
The best dish we had was a wonderful pork roast, which unfortunately I didn't take a picture of and I don't remember the exact name. The description said that it was cooked for hours in a special mixture of spices. It's spicy and sweet and cinnamony and soft - even for someone who's not that big on meat like I am, it was delicious.
I must tell you, though, to follow the suggestions of the waiters. The will tell you what is really very chinese and they don't think that Westerners will like. We tried some stew which was really chewy for us.. and I really wanted to try 'bitter melon', so I ordered 'bitter melon with eggs'. The plate looked great:
So colorful. But the bitter melon is really bitter! It was like eating a medicine, in the first bites. I tried to finish it (at home), and I finally ate it, mixed up with other vegetables and sauces, but it took me a while to get used to it. So, if you're vegetarian and you don't want to try this .. interesting experience..., I'd recommend getting the eggplant with soy bean paste - they were really good.
So, pay attention to what you order.. everything will be an experience - in the end, it's nice to have something that's really authentic, to understand what people eat far away in the world.
Prices: low - also because I'd recommend sharing your dishes (one is usually more than enough for two people or more..)
Service: variable - depends on how many people there are, but in general, ok. There is a guy who seems to be more like the owner, who was suggesting to us what to have and what not to have, at some point.

Yak and Yeti
This is a recently opened Nepalese restaurant located on 2985 College Avenue, Berkeley. It's owned by the same people who own the small shop 'Derby' that's a few blocks from our place - we like them, and they really insisted on us trying their restaurant. Of course, I was curious, and we went. It was a delicious experience. They serve only organic food. He recommended to us 'Chicken Momo', these great dumplings, as appetizers:
They were very good. Then, he suggested to have the specials - I had a vegeterian one and Lucas the lamb version. Unfortunately I don't remember the names, but they have only four specials in their menu - and I promise I'll update this post as soon as I go back to the restaurant. They came with rice, and some greens and various sauces. It was really good, especially Lucas's (mine was a bit less intriguing). The taste was slightly similar to an Indian dish, if you want to have a comparison, but the spices were somewhat different, and it was less greasy than most Indian restaurants around.
So.. we'll definitely go back! Ah, and one more thing: if you go to the upstairs floor, the ambiance is very particular: the tables are very low, and you eat seated on cushions! My friend told me it's the usual way they have their meals.. so, one more plus for the authentic experience!
Prices: moderate (~$20-25 a meal, depending on what you get)
Service: good (a little slow, but it was good to feel relaxed - sometimes they didn't seem to understand 100% what we were saying though)

This is another restaurant on Solano Avenue (1647 Solano Ave, Berkeley). It's defined 'Modern Vietnamese cuisine' - we went there last week, after our trip to Sonoma.
The atmosphere is very elegant, and the food is presented very nicely. It's definitely the most 'upscale' in this small collection. We went there with Sonya, whose mom had explained to her some tricks of Vietnamese cuisine. So we had some fried rolls with meat and vegetables, as appetizers, which we were explained by Sonya how to eat: take a piece of a leaf of the lettuce that comes with the dish, put a piece of roll and a leaflet of mint inside, and wrap the lettuce around. Dip in the sauce and eat! It was very good.
All the entrees we had were also delicious, although I think mine was the best:
It was 'basa' (a fish, similar to bass but not bass), broiled with some delicious spices around, served with mango salad. I really liked it. Sonya had some filet, and Lucas a curried duck. Also their dishes were very good. We also shared a Creme Brulee with lime as dessert - this was wonderful, served with a leaf of basil! So, I'd recommend this place especially if you're in the mood of something a bit 'special', or for a date.
Prices: moderate/high (~30 dollar a meal tip included, no wine)
Service: perfect - the waitress was super attentive and not overwhelming


Amit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amit said...

For some reason, the [href] tag shows up fine in preview, but not when it publishes the comment. Trying one last time:
If you are looking for some delicious and authentic Indian food, do check out Deedee's ( in Mountain View. I ate there when I was in CA few years ago but still remember the yummy food. :)

chemcookit said...

thank you so much for the suggestion! I'll definitely go there - one of my friends will move to Mountain View soon, so that's a good reason to go and try out the restaurant!