China Bar, 257-259 Swanston Street, Melbourne. Phone: 9639 6988
Because of a pre-fatherhood, pre-western sojourn spent living in the CBD, the Russell Street China Bar became a much-loved and endlessly reliable and enjoyable eating place.
So it’s a little difficult for me to think of China Bar as a franchise chain.
But there it is, right on the group’s website.
And – this I did not know – the group also encompasses Claypot King and Dessert Story.
Not that that should come as any surprise – there is a marked similarity in branding.
And another surprise – according to Urbanspoon, the Russell Street branch (the original?) is “closed temporarily”.
We’re back from our Friday CBD adventure, so have no way of knowing what this means.
Maybe a short-lived closure to enable a no-doubt badly needed tart-up?
No matter … after witnessing the Melbourne Storm down the Brisbane Broncos in an exciting, tough game at AAMI Park, Bennie likes the idea of trying out the newish “24-hour” China Bar.
As we amble up Swanston Street, we seem to be amidst the wind-down of the end-of-working-week crowd, with the night-owl activity soon to be ramping up.
Inside China Bar, all is China Bar – even if the physical surroundings themselves are different.
Many people are eating, staff members – some of them with familiar faces – are bustling about.
That bustle and buzz is a big part of the attraction, as it is just about anywhere in Chinatown.
There seems to be more customers than I would normally expect chowing down on dumplings and smaller dishes.
But we go with the familiar.
My Hainanese crispy chicken rice costs $12.90 and stacks up thusly …
Rice – good chicken flavour but it’s packed so tightly into the bowl that it has become almost a like a pudding that needs carving.
Soup – warm only but good
Chilli, ginger/garlic/oil and cucumber accessories – oh dear, simply not enough zing.
Chicken – very crispy, very good, with a serving size that (as is so often the case) eats bigger than it appears. I could live without the gooey sauce underneath.
So … a little underwhelming considering the high esteem in which I hold the Russell Street branch, which I last visited late at night just a few months’ back.
Does this meal diminish my warm feelings for China Bar?
Just a little …
Bennie is quite smug in his certainty that his “seasoning salt spare ribs with rice” ($12.90) is the superior choice of our two meals.
He may be right.
I don’t try the chicken but the accompanying jumble of onion, capsicum and spices tastes OK.
But when asked if what he’s eating is as good as the same dish at a certain Chinese joint in Sunshine, his answer is: “No!”