Cina, which I think is pronounced 'Cheena', serves Malaysian and Northern Chinese Cuisine to the burghers of Armadale. Or at least that is how it describes itself. While our experience was limited by small numbers and a single visit, to me anyway it seemed to have a few fusion elements in there as well, a three way mix of Chinese, Malaysian (not Chinese-Malaysian) and Western elements.
Given its location on High Street in Armadale Cina's upmarket décor isn't a surprise. In the back room where we sat the decoration is restrained but tasteful and the tables well separated resulting in a very pleasant eating environment. In particular I liked the wall paintings, another example of Asian themes but painted in a more Western style.
The food itself is very good. Our entrees of the barbeque pork and the steamed laksa juicy pork dumplings (a bit of a mouthful to both say and eat) were both delicious. I often find that Chinese barbeque pork (char sui) can be a bit dry but this was moist and meaty, served with a sweet plum sauce.
I was very curious about the laksa pork dumplings. The laksa element came more from the sauce served with the dumplings than the soup being in the dumpling itself. However the juicy description was certainly accurate and the sauce was a different and interesting variation on the common set of dumplings available in most Chinese restaurants.
The mains were at least as interesting as the entrees and possibly better. One which has left me slightly curious is the 'Nyonya' style crispy chicken. This was served with a moderately thick sauce including lemon grass, ginger and orange peel, giving it a strong citrus flavour. I hadn't run across the use of orange peel in Malaysian cooking before but a Chinese Malaysian friend indicated that this was unusual, but not unheard of. The end result was a mildly sweet interestingly flavoured dish.
The Singaporean style mild chilli king prawns were large but sweet in what was a very mild chilli sauce. While good, this was probably my least favourite dish, mainly because I found that the sauce tended to overwhelm the delicate flavour of the prawns.
My favourite dish was the Szechuan string beans with minced pork and dry shrimp. Comparatively strongly flavoured but without the mouth burning fires of Szechuan peppers or chilli, it made a good contrast to the sweetness of the other dishes.
With good and interesting food and service significantly better than your average suburban Chinese restaurant, my only real issue is that Cina isn't the cheapest of places to eat. Even with the Entertainment Book discount prices still came to around $30 per head. Not unreasonable given the quality of the meal but a bit much for a weekly favourite or a quick stop when you don't feel like cooking.
Food - 8.5
Service - 8
Ambience - 8
Price - 6.5
1183 High Street
Armadale Vic 3143
Tel: (03) 9824 4102