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Best Chinese Restaurant: Don't call the fire squad; just eat some rice 

China Village

In the Bay Area we consider ourselves worldly diners -- and there's a huge variety of restaurants here to back up our claim -- but somehow most of us are still figuring out that not everybody in China cooks sesame beef and chicken chow mein. Luckily, the third or fourth generation of Chinese-American restaurateurs is ushering in a golden dawn of regional Chinese cuisine: Muslim, Shanghainese, Sichuan. Take John Yao, for example, who has revamped his Solano Avenue restaurant, a General Cho's chicken kind of place, by partnering with Siu Jongyi Liu, a master chef from the Beijing Grand Hotel, to give us dishes like gelatinous beef tendon swathed in vermilion chile oil, cold noodles with chicken in a tingly sesame-paste sauce, and the incineratingly spicy water-boiled beef. The real Sichuan food is far gutsier and more aromatic than anything you've ever tasted before, and Yao is devoted to educating non-Chinese about the glories of this hot, hot, hot cuisine.

Readers' Pick:
Shen Hua
2914 College Ave., Berkeley, 510-883-1777

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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