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Restaurant Guide

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Kirin 1767 Solano Ave., Berkeley, 510-524-1677. One of the most elegantly appointed Chinese restaurants in the East Bay, copper-colored Kirin has earthenware tiles, stratospheric ceilings, and a glass-walled open kitchen. It focuses on Northern Chinese and Sichuan cuisine, so diners should too; dumplings and buns, house-made noodles, and rich, spicy stir-fried entrées. $$

Long Life Vegi House 1725 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-845-6072. This no-frills Chinese restaurant is not strictly vegetarian — the menu includes seafood dishes like steamed whole fish and crispy scallops in a chile-garlic sauce — but you'll find plenty of veggies in the house, and the plates are big and cheap. Vegetarian dishes like the house-special green-bean-ball soup and faux meats keep 'em coming. $

Peony Seafood Restaurant 388 9th St., Ste. 288, Oakland, 510-286-8866. The flavors of Hong Kong are served with panache at this Oakland Chinatown purveyor of abalone soup, Muslim lamb with scallions and cardamom, chicken with double-fried vermicelli, tableside-skinned duck, steamed seafood fresh from the fish tank, and other delicacies. Lunchtime dim sum is on the perfunctory side, but it's very popular. Large, elegant setting; service ranges from overbearing to nonexistent. $$

Renee's Place 1477 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-525-2330. Renee's Place is as Westerner-friendly as Chinese restaurants get. The room, chic and romantically lit with silk lanterns, deserves a Prada-clad clientele (you'll feel comfortable in there, too). The service couldn't be friendlier. Meats and veggies come from eco-friendly sources. Renee's serves Chinese-American cuisine (think sweeter, glossier, familiar dishes), but it's fresh and flavorful. $$

Shanghai Restaurant 930 Webster St., Oakland, 510-465-6878. There's no mystery to the name: This hole-in-the-wall specializes in the cosmopolitan cuisine of this coastal Chinese city. Look over the case in back for a few cold plates to start your meal with, and then try such favorites as xiao long bao (Shanghai-style soup dumplings, which shoot out a burst of broth when you bite into them), unfishy shredded eel, red-cooked meats, and Shanghai-style noodles. $-$$

Yung Kee Restaurant 888 Webster St., Oakland, 510-839-2010. Two-story restaurant with a butcher in front selling roast pork, duck, and top-notch roast chicken. You can buy meat to go or, if you're not bothered by the low-rent decor, sit down and order simple but tasty Cantonese fare: roast meats, congee, stir-fried noodles, noodle soups, or rice plates. $

Deli

The Junket 235 El Cerrito Plaza, El Cerrito, 510-524-4622. An expat magnet for 27 years, this expansive deli and grocery specializes in hearty sandwiches, mainly meats, especially German favorites such as ham and blood sausage. But various cheeses and three vegetarian options are available. German beer is on tap, and gleaming on the neat grocery shelves are hard-to-find packaged candies, condiments, and other imports from Germany and Britain, the owners' home countries. $

Sandwich Board 2412 Webb Ave., Alameda, 510-521-3366. For more than thirty years, this tiny, homespun sandwich shop has been popular with lunching locals. You can get corned beef, liverwurst, or smoked ham on your choice of breads, but the sandwiches with fresh turkey, roasted on the premises daily, prove the biggest draw. $

Sea Breeze Market and Deli 598 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-486-8119. For more than twenty years, this market and deli, patched together out of trailers and shipping crates, has been offering sandwiches, seafood, and produce that far surpasses the promise of its exterior. Get a smoothie from the espresso-blender bar or a fish sandwich from the deli and sit out on the patio watching the cars speed by. The salads in the deli case are also worth a try. $

Diner

Pretty Lady 1733 Peralta St., Oakland, 510-832-1213. At Pretty Lady, every customer receives a fist bump, and anyone who's in the mood can request a complimentary plate of homemade kimchi — even though the place is mainly an old-fashioned greasy spoon, not a Korean restaurant. But part of this West Oakland diner's charm is the fact that teriyaki rice plates seem perfectly comfortable sharing menu space with cheesesteaks and Denver omelets. The cheesesteak is quite good, the omelets are hearty and workmanlike, and the breakfast burrito (available with kimchi inside, if you request it) is one of the better versions in town. $-$$

Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe 4081 Hollis St., Emeryville, 510-594-1221. Like the mod LA coffee shop Swingers, Rudy's dishes up style, snarl, and hangover-stanching diner fare. The name is an homage to the Clash, but the decor mines post-punk kitsch: a glowing blue display case of big-hair Barbies and tabletops whose resin-packed depths reveal plastic tchotchkes like Pez dispensers. It's the perfect vibe for the geeky Pixar workers and tattooed kids with pendulous earlobe plugs digging into burgers or daily specials like meatloaf. Breakfast is served all day, including the mega-toothsome Your Own Private Eyedaho, a plate-spanning chunk of hash browns gilded with Cheddar and fried egg. $-$$

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