Mid-Week Menu: China Village Almost Ready to Reopen, Caffe Venezia to Be Replaced by Pizza-and-Beer Spot, and Alameda Gets Another Food Truck Event



Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our weekly roundup of East Bay food news.

1) Inside Scoop reports that the damage caused by the fire that broke out at Chez Panisse on March 8 is more severe than originally thought. According to a note on the restaurant's website, builders have determined that the top and bottom porches in front of the building will need to be removed and rebuilt: "This means there will be a more significant demolition project ahead of us than we had originally anticipated, as well as many structural repairs that affect both upstairs and down." As a result, the reopening of both the upstairs cafe and the formal downstairs dining room have been postponed indefinitely — initially, there had been speculation that the restaurant would begin accepting reservations as early as this week.

2) In other fire-related news, an update on Albany’s much-beloved Sichuan eatery, China Village (1335 Solano Avenue), which has been closed since a severe kitchen fire took the restaurant out of commission almost exactly one year ago. Chef-owner John Yao told me that all repairs have been completed and he’s now just waiting for a final inspection from the city — if all goes well, he expects he’ll be able to reopen sometime in the first or second week of April. Fellow ma-po tofu lovers, let's keep our collective fingers crossed.

3) According to Berkeleyside Nosh, Berkeley’s soon-to-close Caffe Venezia (1799 University Ave.) will be replaced by something called Monarch Trading Co., from Berkeley native Joel DiGiorgio. Digiorgio describes the concept as “California Crafthouse” — serving pizza, salads, and Californian beers and wines — and he expects to be open sometime this summer.

4) Downtown Oakland is about to get a taste of Filipino comfort food, East Bay Dish reports, noting that chef-owner Charleen Caabay has signed a lease on a space at 2101 14th Ave. Caabay is doing an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to equip her new restaurant, which she’s dubbed Kainbigan. Check out the menu.

Easy Creoles spinach and mushroom etouffee.
  • Easy Creole's spinach and mushroom etouffee.
5) Tablehopper has the scoop on Easy Creole, which will be bringing New Orleans classics like jambalaya and shrimp Creole to South Berkeley, at the former Ming’s Chinese Kitchen location (1761 Alcatraz Ave.). The restaurant should open in about a month and will feature a number of vegetarian options.

6) Also in South Berkeley, the folks behind Alameda’s Hobnob will be opening a burger restaurant and beer garden at the former Casa Vino location, Berkeleyside Nosh reports. Moxy Beer Garden (3136 Sacramento St.) will start renovation on the space next month.

7) Berkeleyside Nosh also notes that the food trucks formerly located in front of Sproul Plaza — which in December were given only two days’ notice to vacate the premises due to the start of a major construction project — have found a new home. The three trucks — Dojo Dog, Healthy Heavenly Foods, and Kettle Corn Star will hawk their wares at the intersection of Bancroft and College avenues.

8) Get Stuffed, a new food truck event in Alameda, will have its grand opening at the College of Alameda (555 Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway) this Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Each Get Stuffed event will feature six to ten vendors — you can view the current list here. Entry is free.

Passover Seder at Sauls Deli (via Facebook).
  • Passover Seder at Saul's Deli (via Facebook).
9) For Passover this year, Saul’s Restaurant & Delicatessen (1475 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) will accept a la carte takeout orders with 36 hours advance notice — so, order by 10 a.m. on Saturday to pick up on Sunday, March 24, or by 10 a.m. on Sunday to pick up on the 25th. Featured items include housemade gefilte fish and wood-fired matzo from Beauty’s Bagel Shop (which has its own Passover catering menu). Saul’s will also have a $50 prix-fixe menu ($17 for children under 12) for Seder dinners that will run from March 25 to April 2. Check out the menu here. Meanwhile, The Chronicle has a rundown of other Bay Area restaurants with special Passover menus.

10) Congratulations to two young Oakland chefs who were recently honored: Jonah Rhodehamel of Oliveto (5655 College Ave.) was named one of the five top young chefs in the country by the dining and travel site Gayot.com. And Kyle Itani, of Uptown Oakland’s Hopscotch (1915 San Pablo Ave.), was one of five chefs, and the only East Bay representative, honored in The Chronicle’s 2013 list of “Rising Stars.”

11) Finally, in case you were wondering, the results from last week's poll on the best food neighborhood in Oakland are in: With all the usual caveats about small sample sizes, the winner was Temescal in a landslide, taking nearly 50 percent of the total votes cast. But seriously, people: No love for Chinatown?

Got tips or suggestions? Email me at Luke (dot) Tsai (at) EastBayExpress (dot) com. Otherwise, keep in touch by following me on Twitter @theluketsai, or simply by posting a comment. I'll read ‘em all.

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