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Name: DJS
Location: Albany, California, United States

Once a full-time musician/engineer/producer, now a 3d-year law student and proud papa.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Da Lian

I spent years searching for a good Chinese restaurant in the East Bay. There are a few on Piedmont that aren't bad. There are a few in Oakland's Chinatown that are worth stopping in if you're in the area. But none that I would define as "good." Daimo is interesting, but not worth going out of your way for. Fortunately, blind luck led me to my first favorite Chinese place in the East Bay.

"It's on Shattuck and has two words in its name," was how my friend Wenhua described his favorite Chinese place. Being from China, I gave his opinion some weight and headed south down Shattuck from Cedar. There on the right-hand side was a restaurant with two words in its title - Da Lian. I was cautiously optimistic.

What makes Da Lian great are the fresh and tasty vegetables. The Moo Shu vegetable is the best Moo Shu I've ever had. The Green Beans & Tofu (always get it with the tofu - so good!) are heavenly. The veggie pot stickers are scrumptious - also the best. The noodles in the vegetable Chow Fun are well-cooked and can stand on their own (metaphorically) and are a great contrast to the crisp green veggies - broccoli, asparagus, snow peas - in the dish. Another dish we adore is the Mandarin Tofu. The Spicy Eggplant is also delicious.

On the down side, a lot of dishes could be spicier for my taste. This is especially true when I've ventured into the meat areas of the menu. More sauce! More spice! Next time I'll try requesting the dishes hotter.

Another reason we go once or twice a week is how friendly the waitstaff and owners are. Palomi has become a real regular, with people greeting her as she comes in. She, in turn, always asks if Fanny, her favorite server, will be there. The place is also very family friendly, with plenty of kids enjoying the food there. It was featured on Check Please, Bay Area a few months back. We saw a definite spike in customers, but it's settled back into a nice equilibrium - enough people that I don't worry too much that it won't be around soon; not so many people that we can't just show up and get a table.

I found out later that Wenhua had never been to Da Lian and was referring to some other place. Serendipity!

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