Monday, 2 July 2012

Review - China Bar Signature Chinatown

Thursday, 14th June 2012 (Visit 1)
Thursday, 28th June 2012 (Visit 2)

China Bar Signature - Chinatown
222 Exhibition Street 

Cuisine: Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Seafood

Taste Rating: 8/10   Value Rating: 8/10

China Bar Signature (Asian Buffet) on Urbanspoon

In the last two weeks, I have been to China Bar Signature Chinatown twice for their lunch time buffet. The first trip with a group of six and two weeks later, with a group of nine. I have also been to China Bar Signature Burwood several times over the years.

Why did I and most of the group  come back a second time to the Chinatown branch? We were impressed with what the place had to offer -  great ambience, clean environment and good layout of the buffet areas,  attentive service that was not intrusive, and of course, the food. On both occasions, we were very happy with the large variety of food on offer. Our cultural backgrounds include Chinese, Malaysian, Singaporean, Indonesian, Italian, Indian, Middle Eastern and Anglo Saxon. Every single one of us found food which we were pleased with. We made multiple trips to the buffet stations, before groaning that we were stuffed and would like to eat more but it was not physically possible. Pace yourself or you will  struggle by the time you start on desserts!

There is a  promotion currently where you can buy a voucher for 'Buy 2 Get 1 Free'. For lunch on Mondays to Thursdays, this works out to $19.30 per person instead of the normal $29. Note that this promotional voucher has to be used at the same lunch by the three persons sharing this deal. I have always paid full price for the Burwood branch buffets so this was the first time I had used their online voucher system. It was very easy to register for the voucher, as well as optionally book a table online. The response for the voucher is real time (instant) to your email account, while the booking confirmation takes about a day to land in your email account. All you have to do then is rock up to the restaurant armed with a printout of the voucher at your booking time (they say they give away your table if you are 15 mins late), or they will accept a view of the email on your mobile phone. Friday Lunch costs more, as does Dinner  - check their website or call them.

It would be too much to write about every dish I have sampled or that the others were enthusiastic about, so I will mention just a few. I have taken heaps of photos and will post these here to give you an idea of the variety. It is interesting to note that quite a number of the main dishes on the second visit were different to the first trip (compare the photos if you are interested) - which is good if you are a regular visitor. 

So, what were the stand out dishes. The noodle station made me a fantastic Char Koay Teow to order - pick as much or as little of any of the ingredients available. The friendly and polite chef produced a very tasty piping hot char koay teow. The roast meat station has lean roast duck, crispy roast pork belly (which I skipped as I don't like any fatty meats!) and soya sauce chicken. These were hanging on display Chinese-style and with slices in trays which were refilled generously throughout the time we were here. There were 3 types of Chinese-style soups - my favourite was the herbal chicken soup which was light and clear but with a depth of flavour.

The other dish that stood out for me on visit one was the large prawns crumbed with salted egg yolk. The chicken (with bones) curry and the beef curry were not bad. I self-assembled a nasi lemak with these two curries, achar (Malaysian pickles), hard boiled egg which had been fried on the outside, Asian style roasted peanuts with skin on and coconut rice. I wanted to try the Drunken Chicken and Kung Po chicken on visit one but was so busy taking photos I ran out of time and these dishes were missing on the second visit. On the second visit, I liked the black pepper beef and the fish in soya sauce. I tried the mussels with baked cheese (which I normally skip at yum chas). I waited for the tongs while the girl next to me was loading about a dozen of these on her plate. I'm glad I only took a couple as the mussels were dry and I didn't really like the cheese combo.

I don't normally waste time on the yum cha station at a buffet but the variety here is tempting - Lotus Paste Buns, BBQ Pork Buns, Steamed minced Prawn Meat Dumplings (Shaomai), Steamed Prawn Dumplings (Har Gao), Steamed Shark Fin (in name only presumably) Dumplings, Steamed Prawn Dumplings (Har Gao), Japanese Fish Roe Dumplings, Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls, Steamed Chives Dumpling, Steamed Prawn and Vegetable Dumplings, Phoenix Claws (Steamed Chicken Feet) in Gui Lin Spicy Sauce, Preserved Chicken (Lap Mei Chicken), Kueh Koci and translucent Rice Noodle Rolls with Prawns (Har Cheong Fun). Fried yum cha snacks were also available (see photos). I managed to try only the Lotus Paste Buns (nice), BBQ Pork Buns (filling was not as nice as elsewhere), Fried Beancurd skin Prawn Rolls (nice), Peanut Puff Pastry (nice flaky pastry), Sesame Balls (nice) and the Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls (very nice). The last two items sound the same but are completely different (see photos).

The let down was the sushi bar as only sushi rolls were available - the sashimi was available only at dinner. I skipped the sushi rolls to make room for other more interesting dishes. Another person in our group tried these and was quite happy with his selection.

There was also Century Egg Porridge which I found a bit bland. The salad bar was well presented but I skipped the salad to save room. I also skipped the small cheese board. There is a row of fresh fruit in baskets.

The dessert bar was overwhelming with its variety. Overall, the desserts looked great but not all of them tasted great. You will have fun sampling and finding which ones you like. The variety of desserts on both visits was pretty much the same, although there was one dessert we liked called Green Tea Opera (I think) which was missing on the second visit. There is a chocolate fountain but I skipped this as I much prefered sampling as many of the desserts as possible. As with the Burwood branch, there is a freezer of Asian style popsicles with flavours like Durian and Melon - and a sign that says 'No Takeaways' - so don't take one for the road!

If you prefer warm water to sip (it's an Asian thing!), rather than cold water, they are happy to oblige and will provide cute double glass-walled cups which keeps the water warm for longer (see photo).

Overall, we are very happy with the buffet at China Bar Signature Chinatown. Both times, we have found the quality and quantity of food to be very satisfactory. I am being asked to organise a third visit soon!

Visit #1

China Bar Signature 

 Noodle Station

 How to Order
'Cooked to Order' Noodles

Select Your Ingredients

 What I selected
- Baby Octopus, Prawns

Fresh Green Vegetables

Turning these ...

 ... via Stir Frying in the Wok ...

... to This!
Char Koay Teow

Sliced Ham & Salami

Savoury Tarts

Spare Ribs & Rice in Bamboo Container

Sauce for Spare Ribs Bamboo Rice

Yum Cha Counter

Lotus Paste Buns, BBQ Pork Buns,
Steamed minced Prawn Meat Dumplings (Shaomai),
Steamed Prawn Dumplings (Har Gao),
Steamed Shark Fin (in name only) Dumplings

Steamed Prawn Dumplings (Har Gao),
Steamed Shark Fin (in name only) Dumplings,
Japanese Fish Roe Dumplings,
Sesame Glutinous Rice Balls with grated coconut,
Steamed Chives Dumpling,
Steamed Prawn and Vegetable Dumplings

Phoenix Claws (Steamed Chicken Feet) in Gui Lin Spicy Sauce,
Preserved Chicken (Lap Mei Chicken), Kueh Koci

Preserved Chicken (Lap Mei Chicken),
Kueh Koci

Translucent Rice Noodle Rolls with Prawns
(Har Cheong Fun)

Fried Shanghai Dumplings, Pan fried Radish Cake,
Beancurd skin Prawn rolls, Almond flake Prawn Rolls

Money Bags
(Deep Fried Prawn Dumplings)

Otak Otak Fish Cake

Kung Po Beef
Seafood Fried Rice

Mussels with Basil Leaves

Steamed Fish Fillet with Black Bean Sauce

Prawns crumbed with Salted Egg Yolk

Sesame Honey Chicken


Peanuts & Crunchy Anchovies

Achar (Asian Pickles)

Deep Fried Egg

Chicken Curry

Beef Curry

Roast Meat Counter

3 types of soup -
Chinese Herbal Soup with Chicken,
Pepper Fish Soup, Double Boiled Peanut and Pork Soup

Chinese Herbal Soup with Chicken

Chinese Herbal Soup with Chicken

Sushi Rolls

Sushi Counter


Dessert Bar



Chocolate Fountain

Baskets of Fruits

A selection of Desserts

BBQ Pork Bun (Pau) and Sweet Lotus Paste Bun

Glutinious Rice Ball Desserts

Double-walled drinking glasses



Visit #2

Her Majesty's Theatre on one side
Eat Pray Laugh - coincidence that we are having a buffet lunch today?!

China Bar Signature on the other side of the street

China Bar Signature entry

Wall Mural

Fried Sotong Ball

Salted Pepper Squid Rings

Stir Fried Baby Octopus in XO Sauce

Crispy Roast Duck

Crispy Roast Pork

Soy Sauce Chicken

Self Assembled Nasi Lemak with buffet ingredients 
- curry chicken, curry beef, fried hard boiled egg,
achar, peanuts, coconut rice!

Baked Mussels with Cheese

Black Pepper Beef

Steamed Fish Fillets with premium soy sauce

Sweet Sour Spare Ribs

Seafood Fried Rice

BBQ Buns, Lotus Buns in the Steaming Basket

Savoury Asian Porridge Counter

Century Egg Porridge

Salad Bar

- available only at dinner

Dessert Bar

Dessert Bar

Strawberry Mousse

Strawberry Romanoff

Fresh Fruit Tarts

Honey Dew Gateau

Rock Melon Gateau

Cherry Pancake

Strawberry Panna Cotta

Caramel Custard

Creme Brulee

Honey Dew Sago Pudding, Rock Melon Sago Pudding

A selection of desserts

Carrot Cake

A selection of desserts


  1. This is the worst. It's making me crave so badly.
    I enjoy your writing style, and the pictures are nice as well.
    Good post :)

  2. Hi Anon,

    Thank you! I enjoy writing and taking photos. And sharing with others. It's nice when someone reads a piece and comments. :)


  3. OMG!! I'm starving!!

    1. Hi Anon,

      LOL. Hope you're not still starving!