Chowdown at King Tsin, Berkeley CA

About fifteen of us met up at King Tsin in Berkeley. The restaurant was recently acquired by some China Village staff, including one of the old chefs, and while they’ve kept some of the old Cantonese dishes, they’re focusing on Szechuan and Hunan now.

We took up two tables. Table one had

Sesame puff bread
Cucumber with spicy garlic sauce
Thinly-sliced five spicy pig ear
Thinly sliced five spice beef tendon
Double-skin, which is called Rainbow Salad here
Thousand-chili fish filet
Wok-charred cabbage
Cumin Lamb
Braised pork shoulder
Spicy whole sea bass
Sliced rib eye with golden broth
Ong choy (a sauteed green)

Table two had

Sesame bread
Cucumber with spicy garlic sauce
Mouth-watering chicken
Wok-charred cabbage
Szechuan fish with lamb
a different sauteed green
Umami frog

Several of the dishes that one table ordered were shared with the other table, so everyone pretty much got a taste of everything. People will probably be along to post photos (I didn’t take any).

Everything was excellent and right up there with China Village. Some dishes that we knew from CV were even better, in my opinion the thousand-chili fish filet and the braised pork shoulder. There was a hearty depth in most of the sauces, especially the mouth-watering chicken which tasted like they used a wine reduction in the sauce.

Melanie Wong brought a nice 2002 Riesling, semi sweet and citrusy.

The bill per person at table one was $32 including tip. I didn’t record the table two charges.

In all, this is a great new addition to the East Bay Chinese scene. We had a great time seeing each other (again), and left hoping the energy is still here in the future for these get-togethers.

The hit of the meal at Table One was the Rainbow Salad (Double skin), a mix of warm and cold goodies in a mustardy dressing. Warm and cold pork, wide translucent mung beans, carrots, cucumbers, tofu strips, shrimp and fungus provided a delightful crunchy mix of flavors and textures.

Five out of eight of us at Table One bought extra double skin to take home. Unfortunately it doesn’t travel that well. After a few hours in my fridge the mung beans hardened and stuck together in a mass. Tossing it as soon as I got it would have helped keep the noodles separate.

The Thousand-chili fish filet was also a big hit, with a wonderfully flavorful chicken broth.

One of the dishes from Table Two (I think it was the Mouth-watering chicken) had a really nice red oily sauce and lots of Szechuan peppercorn tingle.

All of the above were truly excellent. I also liked the above-average cumin lamb. I’m not a big fan of the crispy lamb skewers that often just seem dried out to me, but this dish with tender thin slices of lamb was very satisfying.

Most of the rest of the dishes were pretty good but nothing special.

I thought the Sea Bass was muddy, though nicely cooked with a decent sauce.

The cucumber in the appetizers were sliced in thick pieces which prevented the sauce from mixing with the mass of plain cucumber. I prefer cucumber smashed or thinly sliced to allow flavors to penetrate.

The pigs’ ears and beef tendon weren’t bad, but not as good as most I have had. I prefer the versions at Town of Dumpling in San Carlos or I-Dumpling in RWC. Terra Cotta Warrior in SF has great pig’s ears.

Melanie’s Riesling was a great choice for the cuisine, able to stand up to the bold flavors.

All in all it was a very satisfying meal with some real standout dishes. Thanks to Ernie for organizing and to everyone for the enjoyable company.

Oh major bummer Charliemyboy… You just learned a lesson that I learned many years ago: you can’t refrigerate a dish like that or, as you experienced, the noodles harden into an inedible substance :frowning: Same thing happens with mochi…

It was great to meet so many people who had just been screen names for me before. Thanks Ernie for organizing this.

All the food was very good but 3 dishes made be stop and go WOW. The spicy charred cabbage - sweet and smoky, spicy chili pepper (1000 chilies) fish fillet soup - the broth was outstanding, and the rainbow salad - the dressing sang of hot mustard.

I’d love to go back to try more of the menu, the UMAMI frog is calling me.

The mung beans were fine in my Rainbow Salad take-home. I suspect that it’s because rwcfoodie and I split one order - the noodles were tossed with the other ingredients before dividing into two boxes. No clumps.