Nosh on the Town: Great China in Berkeley

"Double skin," with mung bean noodles, carrots, cucumber, egg crepe, calamari, shrimp, sea cucumber, onions, mushroom and pork ($14.95, $19.95, $24.95), is a popular offering at Great China in Berkeley, California. Photo: Emilie Raguso
“Double skin,” with mung bean noodles, carrots, cucumber, egg crepe, calamari, shrimp, sea cucumber, onions, mushrooms and pork ($14.95, $19.95, $24.95), is a popular offering at Great China in Berkeley, California. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Come along with Nosh as we explore the East Bay food scene in photographs. This week we focus on Great China in downtown Berkeley.

Long considered among the best Chinese restaurants in the area, Great China opened in its current location in December after a fire closed its doors at its prior downtown Berkeley home. It took nearly two years to plan and complete the new space on Bancroft Way, which is large and modern, and has roughly 50% more space than before. Even with the increased space, lines are a common sight.

The menu, which centers on Northern Chinese cuisine with the occasional Cantonese dish thrown in, did not change much as a result of the physical overhaul, according to James Yu who oversees the cooking. But there are some new additions, including a tofu dish with shrimp and mushroom sauce, and some new braised dishes, including beef shank cooked for four hours and served with star anise, soy sauce and ginger. Reservations (for parties of six or more) can be made online.

The restaurant is also known for its great wine list, curated by Yu who trained as a sommelier and will suggest pairings for particular dishes. 


Great China is located at 2190 Bancroft Way in Berkeley. See the menu here.  If you’ve sampled the spots we feature, please let us know about your experience in the comments below. (Photographs by Emilie Raguso.)

Even early in the evening, the tables at Great China fill up.
Even early in the evening, the tables at Great China fill up.
"Double skin," all mixed up.
The ingredients for the “double skin” dish arrive separated on a platter; a server pours on sauce and mixes them at the table.
Hot-and-sour soup ($6.95, $9.95, $13.95) bursts with flavor.
Hot-and-sour soup ($6.95, $9.95, $13.95) bursts with flavor.
Minced chicken with lettuce is a great way to start the meal ($10.95).
Minced chicken with lettuce is a great way to start the meal ($10.95).
Great China took over the spot previously occupied by Looney’s SmokeHouse BBQ after a fire destroyed its prior location on Kittredge Street.
Great China took over the spot previously occupied by Looney’s after a fire destroyed its prior location on Kittredge Street.
 Seafood and pork dumplings are a popular choice; an order of 15 costs $8.95.
Seafood and pork dumplings are a crowd-pleaser; an order of 15 costs $8.95.
Steamed whole black bass with ginger and scallions; the price depends on the market rate.
Steamed whole black bass with ginger and scallions; the price depends on the market rate.
Asparagus beef ($11.95).
Asparagus beef offers a perfect combination of tender meat and crisp vegetables ($11.95).
You may be able to grab a seat at the bar if the restaurant's tables are full.
You may be able to grab a seat at the bar if the restaurant’s tables are full.
Twice-cooked pork: pork belly, pork shoulder, cabbage and mushroom ($9.95).
Twice-cooked pork: pork belly, pork shoulder, cabbage and mushroom ($9.95).
Sautéed snow pea leaves with garlic ($12.95).
Sautéed snow pea leaves with garlic ($12.95).
Don't miss the Peking roast duck, which comes with 24 pancakes, plum sauce and scallions for $34.95.
Do not miss the Peking roast duck, which comes with 24 pancakes, plum sauce and scallions for $34.95.
Owner Tai Yu designed the new 150-table space working with Walnut Creek-based Harriman Kinyon Architects.
Owner Tai Yu designed the new 150-table space working with Walnut Creek-based Harriman Kinyon Architects.

Enjoy more highlights from Nosh on the Town. See more Berkeley dining features.

Related:
Nosh on the town: Duende in Uptown Oakland (04.01.14)
Nosh on the town: Centouno in Jack London Square (03.12.14)
Nosh on the town: Vientian in Oakland (02.20.14)
Nosh on the town: Bourbon & Beef on College Ave. (01.09.14)

Hail all foodies! Nosh will soon launch Nosh Weekly, a free weekly email that will keep you bang up-to-date on all the delicious food, drink and restaurant news in the East Bay. Want to be one of the first to receive it? Simply sign up here.