China Bar Signature (Melb Chinatown)

222 Exhibition St, Melbourne 3000
Date visited: 2th July 2012

We've been to the China Bar Signature in Burwood, and today, AS wanted to bring Mum to try the newly opened branch in the CBD.  We came early, just after opening time at 11.30am on a Monday.  We were greeted at the door by a smiling waitress who made sure we were aware that this was a buffet for $29.  This is handy for first timers :)  

The interior is beautiful, with wooden panelling, interesting artwork and dangling overhead lamps.

I loved the black and red colour scheme and the patterned glasses with the black napkins.
And off we were to check out the displays.  They had a huge enough selection to please the gluttons in all of us.
Salad Bar
We were early, so they had plenty of roast duck, roast pork and soy chicken.
Roast duck, pork and chicken
They had the cook to order section and congee.
Cook to order section and congee
Today, they had three different soups - herbal soup, chicken and green bean and watercress.  <Sob>  I was sooo disappointed they didn't have the winter melon soup they had at Burwood that was totally to die for.
And ah, there was the lovely dimsim selection.  The variety was a little different from the one at Burwood.  
More dimsim
And the sushi bar.  There was mainly avocado, tuna, and either California roll or prawn (didn't take a close look).
Sushi Bar
The sign tells you that the sashimi is only available for dinner.
They have a large selection of hot food including meats, curries and rice.
Hot food

They have a section for crackers, nuts and three different cheeses - cheddar, blue and brie to make your very own mini cheese platter :)
Cheese & crackers
And on to dessert!

Ice cream
The only difference here is that they have a chocolate fountain.  It is surrounded by lollies, mini marshmallows, strawberries and nuts - perfect for the kiddies.
Chocolate fountain
On to what we had.  I started off with the roast meats, since I didn't try many at Burwood - it was all cleared out by the early comers.  The roast pork was delicious with really crispy crackling.  The duck and the soy chicken were really tender and juicy.  This was the best part of the buffet for me.
I tried the char siew bao - although I thought the skin of the ones at Burwood was a bit hard, AS kept raving about how good hers was, so I decided to give it a second chance.  This one at Chinatown was much better - soft skin and sweet pork filling.
Glutinous rice dumplings, char siew bao
The other thing I saw was the glutinous rice dumplings - had no idea what they were but they sure looked cute.  I was surprised when I tried them that they were just like Malaysia ondeh-ondeh with palm sugar coconut filling, just minus the pandan skin.  Yuuuuuumm.
There were various other dimsim goodies that we also tried at Burwood before, including siew mai, lotus seed bun and har gow.  

Clockwise from top left: Moneybag with prawn, black pepper beef, braised pork belly, drunken chicken roll
There was a huge selection of food that you can find at Asian restaurants but I didn't want to fill myself up so I just sampled a few things from the hot buffet.  The moneybag was okay.  The drunken chicken roll could have been more drunken, the black pepper beef was tender and flavoursome, the pork belly melt in your mouth tender.

The sushi I felt was fresher here.  I had the avocado and the tuna.
The herbal soup was a ginseng-loaded concoction - the smell invaded my nostrils as soon as I lifted that lid.  I loathe ginseng and it was bitter as well, so AS ended up having hers as well as mine, since she liked the soup XP
Herbal soup
Of course we couldn't go without the Cook to Order.  The char kueh tiaw was as good as it was at Burwood.  
Char kueh tiaw
MerlinFan tried the curry laksa.  The soup was nice, but she said it could have used some chicken and eggplant to add extra flavour to the broth.  Even in appearance, it looked a bit monotonous and boring without extra splashes of colour.
Curry laksa
Before dessert, I wanted to have my cheese and crackers with preserved fruit.  I had their brie with a saccharinely sweet lemon tart.
Brie, crackers, lemon tart
As I've said before, China Bar has the most gorgeous looking mini desserts, however, sadly it does not taste as good as it looks.  There is too much sugar and cream, which tends to overwhelm the flavour of whatever each dessert is supposed to have, if that makes any sense at all.

Still, we can never resist trying and tasting the cute cakes and mousses.  MerlinFan and my strategy was to pick out a few and share them between us so that we could try more.  All the desserts are labelled clockwise from the left top (if you bother to know).
Honeydew sago pudding, cherry trifle, longan cheese bavarian
Rockmelon cake, green tea mousse, honeydew cake, green tea opera
Cherry pancake, pavlova, strawberry romanoff, wild berry panna cotta, green tea opera, creme caramel 
I liked the green tea opera.  AS recommended to me and I tried it and liked.
Banana cupcake, longan cheese bavarian, Japanese cheesecake
In case you're wondering what that wrinkled brown thing on the right hand bottom corner is, I picked it up from the chocolate fountain section.  I thought it was a somboi (aka sour plum) which was a bizarre thing to find in the midst of lollies, but I assumed maybe it was for a change of palette?  Anyway I bit gingerly at the corner waiting to be hit by a sour punch, but hmm... nothing.  Frowning, I took a bigger bite.  The supposed "seed" part cracked open to reveal... a nut!  It was a wrinkled walnut of some sort covered in dark chocolate!  LOL.

MerlinFan had to try the chocolate fountain fondue.  The chocolate tasted like Asian chocolate - if you've tried chocolates (say like a KitKat or something) in Asian countries you will taste the difference, like a lower milk content so it tastes less creamy and more like cacao.  It was all right.

Overall, staff are smiley and attentive, even a bit hardcore - two different waitresses tried to take away our plates before we even finished, and at times it felt a bit like sitting in the dining room of an imperial palace with guards in the form of young girls on patrol.  

The buffet will satisfy those looking for good variety and of course your garden variety huge eaters.  The quality is pretty good for an all-you-can-eat - seriously, if you wanted fine food you would have gone to a hatted restaurant.  I hear the seafood, sashimi and Peking Duck are the best dishes here, however if you're not a seafood or sashimi person (or don't think $59-69 is worth it) like us, lunch on a weekday (Mon-Thurs) for $29 is fairly reasonably priced for the variety you get.   

P.S. Have a look on the website, it says all the lunch sessions will be $33 in December, so if you're planning to check it out on a weekday, do so soon and save your $4 ;P

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