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Published November 21st 2012
Don't let a great wall come between you and a clay pot meal
The bold red lettering in Arial font on a black background is a familiar sight in and around Melbourne. I frequent the China Bar restaurants at Melbourne Central and the Northland Food Court. The food is good in both these places but, oddly enough, another striking similarity is the sullen service.
I don't know if it's a barrier in communication or just an effort to convey a business-like demeanour. In any case, it'd help considerably if they loosened up a bit. Now that I've got that out of the way, let's move on to the happier aspects of China Bar. This review and the pictures are about China Bar, Northland.
The menu is extensive. You get to choose from a variety of rice, noodles, clay pot items, hot pot, soups, curry laksa, seafood, beef, chicken, fish, and a whole lot of vegetables all done in a variety of sauces. As far as drinks go, you get a range of popular soft drinks, but sadly, no coffee or tea. A cup of hot green tea would've gone well with most of their dishes, but they appear adamant on not serving beverages.
My personal favourites are the won ton noodle soup, tom yum soup, the curry chicken with rice, the special fried rice, the curry laksa, the clay pot salmon, the beef in teriyaki sauce, and some others besides. Of course this list has been in the making for quite some time now. But these are the dishes I've had and can recommend. They also have chilli oil which you can serve for yourself from the counter. A dollop of this cheeky substance peps up bland soups considerably.
The platters that the food is served in are quite appealing. There are the long rectangular ones, the square ones, the clay pots, along with the usual soup bowls and plates. It does add that bit of interest to what could otherwise appear to be just another Asian meal.
At the Northland food court, you place your order at the counter, pay for it, and are then handed over a buzzer that rings to let you know when it's ready to be picked up. As such, discussing service may be irrelevant. However, like I said before, the quality of this minimal contact with customers could be raised a bit for an overall enhancement of the dining experience. In other words, lighten up people.
Over all, China Bar does have a variety of great tasting food encompassing the best of Asian cuisine. If you're in a hurry but would still prefer to sit down to a hearty meal rather than grab a burger, this is your ideal bet. The prices are not out there either and are nicely compensated for by the taste and generous size of serving. If you don't care that the face behind the counter is unsmiling, or eerily unaware of your presence, or appears a bit annoyed with your choice of order, I can't think of one other thing to stop you.
I quite like China Bar my favourite is number 49, Crispy Chicken.
There is also a China Bar at Chadstone, A small restaurant in Glen Waverley which is rather nice and very popular (And can order a whole roast duck)
and an all you can eat China Bar Restaurant on the Burwood highway although prices for dinner there will send you back about 50 per head.