Bites: Yin Ji Chang Fen heads to Berkeley, Super Bowl specials, Shawarmaji at Forage Kitchen

BBQ pork rice noodle roll from Yin Ji Chang Fen.
BBQ pork rice noodle roll from Yin Ji Chang Fen in Pleasanton. Photo: Yin Ji Chang Fen

YIN JI CHANG FEN BERKELEY Nosh reader Sean Rouse sent us a tip over the weekend that downtown Berkeley Italian restaurant Flavia Osteria is moving. Just five months after it opened last summer, the affordable pizza and pasta joint closed its Center Street location to reopen Feb. 1 at 2130 Oxford St. (formerly Suya African Caribbean), just around the corner. Rouse noted that a sign at the former Flavia space announces the next tenant: Yin Ji Chang Fen.

Yin Ji Chang Fen is a Chinese chain that specializes in cheungfan, or rice noodle rolls. If you’re familiar with dim sum, you likely already know the Cantonese dish. Cheungfan is made with thin, sheet-like rice noodles wrapping fillings, such as char siu pork, dried shrimp or marinated beef; the roll is then steamed and topped with a light soy sauce. Along with the rice noodle rolls, Yin Ji offers various congee (rice porridge), several sweet and savory snacks, and beverages like Hong Kong-style milk tea. The original Yin Ji opened in Guangzhou in the 1950s, but the restaurant has since become a popular international chain.


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Yin Ji’s first U.S. restaurant opened last May in Pleasanton; and since then, outposts have opened in Los Angeles and New York. Berkeley Yin Ji owner Zhong Zeng told Nosh to expect the menu on Center Street to be similar to the offerings at the Pleasanton restaurant, which he also operates, but that some new items may be added “to meet the needs of locals and students of the university.” He aims for an opening in March or April. Yin Ji Chang Fen will be at 2132 Center St. (between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street), Berkeley; Flavia Osteria will be at 2130 Oxford St. (at Center Street), Berkeley


Ocean View Brew Works in Albany. Photo: Scott Hoshida

AHOY, OCEAN VIEW! In just two years, Ocean View Brew Works — the small-but-mighty brewery and taproom in Albany run by Scott and Veronica (Vonnie) Davidson — has become a favorite neighborhood spot. It’s not only a place to knock back great beers, but it’s a family-friendly community hub where local foodmakers, artists and others can share their wares and find support for their causes. To celebrate year two, Ocean View is hosting a free party from 1-5 p.m., Feb. 9, featuring live music by the Seadogs, nautical entertainment (macrame knot tying, a plank walk, shanty sing-alongs) and gelato from Oakland Gelato Company. Ocean View will also be releasing the Enterhaken German Pilsner at the party. “Over the past two years we have brewed many styles of beer, and always come back to a Pilsner as our favorite,” Vonnie Davidson tells Nosh. Ocean View Brew Works, 627 San Pablo Ave. (at Castro Street), Albany

HAPPY 110th BIRTHDAY Hotel Shattuck Plaza is coming upon an anniversary itself — its 110th year. To celebrate, the hotel’s on-site Cal-Mediterranean restaurant Zino is serving up two menu specials, available all February. To drink, Zino will serve up the Old Fashion Reimagined, a cocktail made with 1910 Old Forester bourbon, bitters, demerara simple syrup and an orange twist. And to eat, Zino offers an old-school favorite bite: Oysters Rockefeller, topped with garlic, panko bread crumbs, shallots, spinach, Pernod, Parmesan, parsley and hot sauce. Zino, 2086 Allston Way (at Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley 

Shawarmaji's shawarma sandwich with a side of fries and toum (garlic sauce).
Shawarmaji’s shawarma sandwich with a side of fries and toum (garlic sauce). Photo: Shawarmaji

WRAPPED UP In December, Mohammad Abutaha, a former sous chef at San Francisco’s Noosh, started a pop-up called Shawarmaji. His first appearances were at Reem’s in Fruitvale, where he hawked shawarma wraps, shawarma-loaded fries, falafel khobez hamam, and other traditional street foods from his hometown, Amman, Jordan. Abutaha had his last pop-up at Reem’s on Sunday, but the chef is about to start something new elsewhere in Oakland. As first reported by The East Bay Times, Shawarmaji will be taking over the Forage Kitchen café space starting Feb. 8. and will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Wednesday; 11 a.m. to midnight, Thurday-Saturday. Shawarmaji, at Forage Kitchen, 478 25th St. (between Telegraph and Broadway), Oakland

CUESA LEAVES JLS This week, Jack London Square announced that it’s looking for a new operator of its Sunday farmers market, once nonprofit Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) steps down from the role this spring. CUESA has run the Jack London Square Farmers Market for almost four years; it also runs the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and Mission Community Market in San Francisco, which it will continue to operate. A press release shared with Nosh states that Jack London Square will begin its search for a new operator in April and that many of the vendors will stay at the weekly market under the new operator “or at other Jack London Square markets and events.”

When asked why CUESA decided to leave Jack London Square, communications director Brie Mazurek explained to Nosh, “As a mission-driven nonprofit, CUESA’s approach to operating farmers market is through education, which can be staff and labor intensive.” Mazurek added that the nonprofit will continue working with Jack London Square to help transition in the new operator.

LATEST ON BERKELEY NATURAL GAS BAN Last week, the Sierra Club and several other environmental and green building organizations asked the California Restaurant Association (CRA), a major lobbying group for the state’s restaurants, to drop their lawsuit against the City of Berkeley for its ban on natural gas in new buildings. In a letter to the CRA, the 12 organizations state their concerns with what they see as “aggressive litigation seeking to stall climate action.” In a response emailed to KQED, CRA president and CEO Jot Condie said that not pursuing the lawsuit would amount to “malpractice” because the ordinance would negatively affect restaurants who cook on open flames.

A slice of pepperoni pizza from Artichoke Basille's.
During the first half of the Super Bowl, Artichoke Basille’s in Temescal is offering diners a free slice of pizza with the purchase of any draft beer. Photo: Artichoke Basille

TACKLE THESE EATS The big game is Sunday, and several local restaurants and food businesses are rolling out Super Bowl specials in celebration of the match-up between San Francisco and Kansas City:

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza in Oakland is offering a free slice of any of its pizzas with the purchase of any draft beer. NB: The special is only available at the Temescal location, and only during the first half of the game. Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, 4799 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

CREAM‘s party packs feature 20 mini ice cream sandwiches that you can customize with any assortment of cookies, ice cream flavors and toppings. The price is $49.99, which gives a big hint about which team CREAM will be supporting. CREAM, 2399 Telegraph Ave. (at Channing Way), Berkeley; 6300 College Ave. (near Claremont Avenue), Oakland; 2630 Fifth St. (at Singleton Avenue), Alameda

Eureka will offer a $10 deal, featuring chicken wings (with choice of firecracker aioli or orange chile glaze) and choice of one local craft beer on its permanent tap list. The special will be available from 1 p.m. until closing on game day. Eureka, 2068 Center St. (near Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley

Hopscotch has dreamt up a whole Super Bowl Menu, featuring all kinds of meaty, snacky goodness, like a bucket of its famous fried chicken for $30, a dozen miso chile wings for $15, and a family meal that will feed five to six for $65. Specials are only available for pre-order now, or to-go on Sunday. Hopscotch, 1915 San Pablo Ave. (near 19th Street), Oakland

The Kebabery won’t be airing the game, but it’ll be open for a rare daytime service, grilling up kebabs and serving salads and fries from noon to 4 p.m., Sunday. Dine-in for lunch before the game, or take-out your grub to enjoy at home in front of the TV. If you’re feeding a big party, the Kebabery offers catering for large orders. The Kebabery, 4201 Market St. (at 42nd Street), Oakland

Public Market Emeryville will be playing the game on two mega screens at the food court, and three of its food vendors will be offering specials: Nachorizos and three flavors of margaritas, aka Casa-ritas, at C Casa; free fries with purchase of an alcoholic beverage during the game at Super Duper Burgers; and happy hour specials at Public Bar. For those who like to plan their Super Bowl snacks in advance, Pig in a Pickle is taking pre-orders for catering of its BBQ and sides through Jan. 30 (Pick-up is on game day, between 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.). Public Market Emeryville, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville

SOBO Ramen is offering party trays of its fried pork gyoza (20 pieces for $25) or karaage (fried chicken) with yuzu dipping sauce (40 pieces for $25). Orders come with a free four-pack of Sobo’s We Are Oakland IPA beer. This deal is for pick-up only. Pre-orders will be taken until 1:30 p.m., Sunday. SOBO Ramen, 988 Franklin St. (between Ninth and 11th streets), Oakland

Wyclef Jean at IB's Hoagies in Berkeley.
Wyclef Jean at IB’s Hoagies in Berkeley. Photo: IB’s Hoagies

PERFECT GENTLEMAN When he’s not raising millions for musicians and songwriters in developing countries, Grammy winning hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean enjoys chowing down on some comforting eats. At least that’s what we assume from this photo of Wyclef at IB’s Hoagies in Berkeley. According to the restaurant, the musician stopped in for a cheesesteak. Celebrities — they’re just like us.

RAISING THE BAR Emeryville-based Clif Bar and the UC system have joined forces to found the California Organic Institute, which will be dedicated to organic research and education under the direction of the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR). According to the Daily Cal, both Clif Bar and UC President Janet Napolitano have donated $500,000 to create the research institute, with the goal of promoting organic farming practices and food security in California.

Restaurateur Michael LeBlanc and executive chef Jerome “Spike” Williams.
Restaurateur Michael LeBlanc and executive chef Jerome “Spike” Williams. Photo: PLāYT

BLACK HISTORY MONTH MENU In honor of Black History Month, restaurateur Michael LeBlanc’s Southern comfort food spot, PLāYT in Hayward, will pay homage to the restaurant’s African-American culinary lineage. Under executive chef Jerome “Spike” Williams (formerly of LeBlanc’s now-closed Oakland restaurant, Pican), PLāYT will serve up a series of dishes all through February that will change weekly. From Feb. 3-8: curried jerked chicken with roasted peanuts, coconut and Cajun spices over rice with smoked collard greens; from Feb. 10-15: braised oxtails over crispy fried red rice and tomato okra butterbean succotash; Feb. 17-22: smoked ham hocks with kidney beans and cast iron cornbread; from Feb. 24-29: pork belly and Niman Ranch beef meatloaf with garlic mashed potatoes, smoked collard greens and homemade molasses barbecue sauce. PLāYT, 1036 B St. (near Main Street), Hayward

Sarah Han is Nosh editor at Berkeleyside. Email: sarah@berkeleyside.com.