When I eat Chinese food, a lot of the flavors just sort of blend together. Many of the Chinese dishes I'm used to are simplified by repurposing the sauces to other dishes. This allows many Chinese restaurants the ability to support and cater to their massive menu offerings. I recently attended a wonderful and ridiculously large food feast with a few food blogger friends at Great China and we agreed that it is unlike most Chinese restaurants we have been to.
Great China is a Northern Chinese restaurant that focuses on Shan Dong cuisine located in downtown Berkeley. I've heard nothing but great things about this place, so I was super excited (as always) to finally try this place out. The dinner turned out to be an evening of good conversation, food snapshots, and a whole lotta awesome food with Ben of Focus:Snap:Eat, Sandy of Foodhoe (+ her husband), and Christina of East Bay Dish.
The Food Feast
Ben spearheaded this dinner (thank goodness) and knew exactly what dishes to recommend based on research and his last experience dining at Great China. We ordered a lot of food and dishes were arriving so quickly that we ran out of room on our table. There wasn't a thing we disliked. Here's a recap of the items we ordered:
Sizzling Rice Soup consisted of chicken, prawns, vegetables, and puffed rice. The soup is very light but flavorful. Overall, it was very mellow.
Double Skin was the most interesting dish and the overall crowd favorite because it was delicious and unlike anything we've ever had. It was an appetizer dish mixed with mung bean noodles, carrots, cucumber, egg crepe, calamari, shrimp, sea cucumber, onions, mushroom, and pork. The mung bean noodles (also known as cellophane noodles) are translucent and have no real noticeable taste by itself. It's served cold to room temp. In this dish, it's seasoned with a soy base sauce and mixed with a variety of veggies. This is pretty much a Northern China version of a mixed salad. I would recommend this.
The Walnut Prawns were excellent. The prawns were nicely sized, juicy and tender, crispy on the outside and had a light citrusy mayo sauce, unlike the thick mayo sauce that most are used to. It has a nice amount of sweetness to it.
The Twice-Cooked Pork was rich and full of porky goodness. The dish consisted of pork belly, pork shoulder, cabbage, and mushrooms. I loved this and would recommend ordering with a side of vegetables if you're getting this as a main dish.
The Peking Roast Duck is delicious. The skin was thin, nice and crispy as it should be. The meat was tender with subtle tastes of the rendered fat from the skin. The duck comes with 24 pancakes, plum sauce, and scallions. The pancakes resembled eggroll wrapper dough, which wasn't great and their pancake wrapper was difficult to take a part just like an eggroll wrapper is. The majority agreed that we would've liked it better served with bao buns.
Sautéed Snow Pea Leaves with Century Eggs wasn't unusual as I thought it would be. I liked the century eggs mixed with the snow pea leaves. I never thought of mixing the two together before. This is something I am definitely going to replicate at home.
Guo Ta Tofu is a simple dish of fried tofu, cilantro, scallions, and garlic. I liked it but with everything else on the table, it wasn't a favorite dish of mine.
Overall, I look forward to dining here again in the future! The prices are reasonable and comparable to Chinese restaurants in the area, the ambiance is nice, and the restaurant is spacious. Great China is a must-visit - I would highly recommend dining here.
TIP: It can get pretty crowded, so I'd suggest gathering 6 or more friends and making a reservation.
Visiting Great China
It's conveniently located near the Downtown Berkeley BART and there are several parking lots in the area. They also validate.
Lunch: Mon – Sun 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Mon – Sun 5 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.