>It was Chinese New Year and an acquaintance’s thirtieth birthday: what better opportunity to try another cheap and cheerful Chinatown eatery. China Bar came recommended by a few people. There are three branches, two in the city and one in Box Hill. We met up with the others at the Russell Street branch, right beside the entertainment stage where Chinese dancers, gymnasts, singers and performers entertained the hundreds of Melburnians who had braved the forty-degree heat to celebrate New Year in style.
China Bar is pretty small. It probably holds about fifty diners when full. Full roasted chickens and ducks are displayed proudly in the window, and above the counter a selection of dishes are displayed in full photographic glory.
We sat down the back with six others at the formica table, and helped ourselves to extra glasses for our BYO wine. Hunger, and the sheer beewilderment of the number of dishes on offer, made choosing an impossibility. Others picked my first choices – Mongolian beef, belly pork, choice of two roasts – and I was reluctant to order the same dish twice for the table. For the first time in my life, I sent the waitress away with no order from me after everybody else had chosen. Finally, somebody suggested that I limit my choice to the Specialities section, and I finally opted for satay beef.
We shared rice, noodles and stir-fried vegetables along with our own personally-chosen dishes. Everything was enormous and delicious.
We thought nothing could have detracted from our evening, until one creepy-crawly was detected on the wall near our table. In the course of the evening four baby cockroaches were seen emerging from the air-conditioning vent on the opposite wall, and making their way over to our table. They were dispatched with the aid of roll-up newspapers, but not before one almost made it into my hair, and one onto the table itself.
Now, a week later, the memory of the delicious food is fading as quickly as the memory of the cockroaches is growing. Despite the amazing food, I’m not sure if I will eat there again.