Tuesday, December 10, 2013

China Bar, Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

Every now and then I crave Hainanese chicken.  That silky, flavoursome and ghostly white chicken served de-boned and with fragrant rice, a bowl of chicken broth and condiments.  

Conceptually, while it’s a relatively simple recipe – whole chicken slowly poached (and not steamed as some places try to get away with!) at a sub-boiling temperature in a big pot of water, seasoned with ginger, garlic, spring onions – I find that it’s the simple recipes that are the hardest to perfect.  Not convinced?  Think bruschetta (it’s just bread, tomatoes and basil), tortilla de patatas (potatoes, eggs and onion), congee (rice) or even a great steak.... so many places do them but not many make me do a happy dance in excitement over the quality of the produce and the expertise of the cook/chef who prepared them.

As it had been a while since my last craving, I asked the self-proclaimed Hainanese connoisseur at work as to where I should go.  Mr A suggested China Bar on Russell Street as his go-to place for Hainanese chicken – according to him, it’s cheap and tasty.  I was sceptical because, well, China Bar is a chain restaurant and I wasn’t expecting to find great Hainanese chicken from such places.  

But in the interest of research, I wandered into China Bar for lunch one day.  This particular CB has seen better days – a little squishy inside and it has a slightly worn/aged look to the place.  Without needing to look at the menu, I placed my order for Hainanese chicken rice.

Soon after, said dish appeared ($10.80).  First impression was that this was promising.  A nice plate with a reasonable amount of chicken, sitting in a pool of golden-brown soy sauce with freshly made ginger/spring onion condiment (I’m not a chilli fan, so I can’t provide a view on that)....

...and a big mound of rice with a bowl of chicken broth.

Judgement time!  First taste of the chicken....it pasts muster!  Silky, tender and oh-so-yummy.  The soy sauce is subtle and not in-your-face (as some lesser quality soy sauces can be).  Nice depth of flavour and no MSG (big tick!).  The skin is also slippery and silky and not rubbery.  I like to eat my rice with the broth spooned over it.  The broth was aromatic from the chicken and marinade.  Propz for it not being oily (as some can be) and the crisp cucumber slices.  I was so pleased with the dish that I've come back a few times just to eat it again.

Verdict
Food – 8
Ambience – 6.5
Service – 7
Price – 7.5

Overall
Okay, so I'm basing my review on just one dish.  In the subsequent times that I've had it, each time it's been consistently good - the reliability of the quality is a big plus for me.  I don't think I'll ever order anything else from here because I like the chicken so much.  

However, as much as I like it, I am interested to hear your thoughts on the best Hainanese chicken around town.  Big Fil has suggested EC Pot in QV.  Share your suggestions in the comments below :)

Address
China Bar
235 Russell St
Melbourne 3000
Telephone: 9639 1633

China Bar on Urbanspoon

9 comments:

obelix glutt said...

I wonder whether the quality is consistent across different china bar outlets. Maybe you should do a comparison. My mum likes the hainese chicken in china bar chadstone.

Sally Li said...

no msg? mine had lots of msg in there

Bureaucrat said...

Thanks, Glutt. I'll check out the Chadstone CB next time I'm there.

Bureaucrat said...

Hi Sally, no msg in any of the times I've ordered the chicken.

Honoré Bazin said...

It looks like Thalli.. Thalli is a north Indian dish. I like this food guide.

Aviendha said...

MMM I LOVE the Chicken Rice there, that is usually what I order. I remember staying at the Mantra across the road for 4 nights earlier this year and I had this about 3 times lol.

As for china bars, there is one in Moonee Ponds which is terrible. Saturday night - place was empty and they did not even have Chicken Rice on the menu... so I think they can be hit & miss...

Bureaucrat said...

Hi Honore - thanks for your feedback :)

Hi Aviendha - yep, chain restaurants can be tricky when you're looking for consistency.

Anonymous said...


Chicken rice in PaPa Rich at Chadstone is the best!

Bureaucrat said...

Hi Anonymous, is there anything else you'd recommend from the Chadstone Papa RIch?

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