Restaurant Review: Berkeley, California

Great China


For 30 years, Great China has been the Berkeley destination for Peking duck and top-notch northern Chinese cuisine. The secret was always that the cramped restaurant had a solid wine list if you knew whom to ask. After a fire gutted the restaurant in 2012, the family moved to a nearby corner where they built out an airy space brimming with large round tables full of families or Chinese students from the nearby Cal campus sharing platters of crab and steamed buns, duck-bone soup and Chinese greens. The food has continued to evolve, too, with new dishes and more refined Shandong flavors. And the secret list is no longer a secret. James Yu, the second-generation owner, along with Mark Yatabe, rebuilt the now 700-bottle list. In addition to rieslings and California pinot selections, the core of the list is Burgundy, from Mâconnais to Côte d’Or grand cru, often at prices barely above retail. This is the place to bring a group, order a bottle from Coche-Dury, Ramonet or Anne Gros, and ask Yu to create a menu for the wine: It might be the duck, thrice-cooked pork belly, and crab on a bed of noodles, or the restaurant’s signature “double skin” appetizer.