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Side Dish: Chicken Tofu Soup at China Lounge

A Magical Dish at a Dazzling New Sichuan Restaurant


Nicholas Boer

When is tofu not tofu? When it’s prepared by Jian Li, the chef at Pleasanton’s China Lounge.

Opened earlier this month at a cost of $1.2 million, China Lounge is destined to become one of the most talked about Sichuan restaurants in the Bay Area, if not California and beyond. 

I’ve never gone in for those fibrous meat substitutes such as seitan, but a tofu replacement? Now we’re talking.

Li’s Chicken Tofu soup does not contain tofu—the chicken is transformed by a special in-house process to look like tofu—as light and white as panna cotta. The dish’s flavor comes from the brilliant stock in which the chicken rests and swells.

But (and this is a BIG but), by adding bits of Li’s powerful sichuan chile sauce, you can turn this innocuous looking soup into one of the most vibrant and complex dishes anywhere. It’s also healthful and artful, garnished with a trio of orange-red goji berries.

The sichuan chile sauce is just one of the fiery weapons in Li’s arsenal. Dried peppers and a myriad of chile oils spark most of his 40 sophisticated dishes, a short menu compared to those at most Chinese restaurants.

China Lounge is co-owned by Allen Shi, whose restaurants Yiping in San Ramon, and Sichuan Fortune House (which is now also called China Lounge), may already be familiar to Diablo readers. But you will be amazed, not only by the new Lounge’s food, but by its contemporary design.

You can sit at the theatrical open kitchen or at the pulsing bar, defined by a color-shifting art installment: one part Chinese landscape, one part kaleidoscope. Americans may find some of the dishes too hot and unfamiliar, but Shi and his staff will kindly direct you to the less lethal options. China Lounge. 4220 Rosewood Dr., Pleasanton, (925) 227-1312.

Happy Hour Bar & Bites at
The Cooperage

Monday through Friday
3pm – 5:30pm


This isn’t your typical happy hour. This quintessential neighborhood spot offers high-quality craft cocktails on tap and tasty bites. Menu features: $10 cocktails on tap, $5 select beer & wine, $1 oysters, $7 bacon cheeseburger sliders, $7 crispy beer battered shrimp sliders, $9 sashimi-grade ahi tuna tartare. 

32 Lafayette Circle, Lafayette
​Reservations: www.thecooperagelafayette.com or 925.298.5915

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