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Another instalment of the J.ma+ myself’s eating adventures have come and gone. Dinner this time around was J.ma’s picking and she made the excellent suggestion of Seamstress.
Walking up the stairs didn’t give much away. The surrounding brick walls and wooden stairs exuded historic charm mixed with a slight twinge of dinginess. When we arrived at the first floor landing, several funky decor items came into sight: a sewing machine (ahhh very fitting for a place called Seamstress), the flowers+coat hanger decorations and then finally, the wine bottles stored in, wait for it… LOCKERS! We definitely didn’t use our lockers for this purpose back in our high school days…
Whilst walking down the elongated dining room layout to our table, I was immediately struck by the chilled and laid back ambience. Given that we both had just got out of a 9am to 5.30pm working day, it was the perfect place to be at.
More sewing machines. Their lights cleverly served as another element of lighting in the restaurant.
The quirkiness that we had first seen at the door was carried all the way through to the main dining area: hanging chairs, fabrics of various patterns covering the ceiling like sheets being hung out to dry, and flowers in glass tubes hanging off coat hangers. It seemed like an eccentric mix of decor items thrown together without rhyme or reason but I thought this fitted in perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere: after a long day’s worth of work, you’re not here to think!
The table setting.
Venetian Cooler - French sparkling wine, combined with pureed peaches, pomegranate, lemon and a splash of sherry.
Grapefruit julep - vodka, lime, honey, mint & pomegranate, topped with fresh pink grapefruit juice and served in a balloon of crushed ice.
The grapefruit juice initially exuded sweetness when it made contact with the palate but combined with the vodka, it quickly gave way to a subtle bitter flavour that lingered. The mint addition was an interesting one: while refreshing, its presence in a sweet drink did reminded me of chewing gum.
Crispy tempura oysters - with betel leaves, togarashi, wasabi & yuzu dressing.
I’m going to start by singing this dish’s praises… divine. Heavenly. Scrumptious. I would happily order a few of this same dish alone next time. We were told by our waiter to eat the oyster WITH the betel leaf. The leaf helped to balance out with the strong flavours from both the wasabi+yuzu creamy sauce and slightly salted tempura batter. The tempura layer was crisp and delicate, and melted to give way to the fresh oyster underneath. The slight saltiness of the batter enhanced the seafood flavour from the oyster. I required only two bites to finish each oyster and both bites were packed with explosive flavours. Highly recommended.
Crispy soft shell crab - on sugar snaps with sweet & sour style chili sauce.
Two for two. Yet another well-executed dish from Seamstress. The batter was crisp but less fluffy than the tempura batter. The flavour was also slightly different, with the addition of a subtle lemony hint. The beans were bland but helped to balance out the stronger flavours of the batter. The sauce was more sweet than sour and possessed a very prominent ginger flavour. It did “dress up” the soft shell crab, providing a chutney-like taste that I don’t normally associate with crab, but I was happy to go without.
Twelve hour braised Berkshire pork belly - with drunken potatoes, steamed baby bok choy & red wine jus.
When I first read the menu description, the question on my mind was “what are drunken potatoes?” Even after trying them in this dish, the question remains. Drunken with sweet flavouring? The potatoes seemed to have been bombarded with some sort of sweet soy sauce (or a combination of sauces) and almost stole the spotlight with its potent sweetness. The sweet taste seemed even more prominent when contrasted to the comparatively savoury pork belly and served a similar role to apples in an apple+pork dish. The pork belly itself was beautiful cooked and tender to the point that cutting into it splayed the meat into shreds. The crackling however was not in top form and could have been a little more crisp. Still, a very delicious pork belly dish.
Plum sauce glazed roast duck - with sweet pickled candy lemon zest, jasmine rice & orange jus.
The duck was good BUT aside from the citrus additions in the form of the lemon zest and orange jus, the taste was a familiar one. It was very much just like the duck my mum buys from St Albans or Footscray.
Coconut, lime & pandan leaf tart, with lemon sorbet.
And we were able to finish off our meal on a high note with this dessert dish. The tart filling was very smooth and creamy. Its flavour was a potent citrusy lime taste that gradually gave way to a pandan one. Random pieces of chewy and stringy pandan leaves were encountered in the tart and added bursts of pandan flavouring. The base of the tart itself was quite unusual. While the taste was spot on, my palate was in for a shock when it realised the texture was different. It wasn’t crisp like a normal tart, lacking that biscuity crunch, and it almost seemed like compact+softened dough. The mango sorbet was just as delightful as the tart: the mango flavour was bountiful and tasted more like actual pieces of frozen mangoes rather than mangoes that had been processed into sorbet. The presence of multiple fresh fruity flavours meant a lighter and not-too-sweet dessert dish that can easily be fitted in no matter how full you feel after the meal. AND if you feel like there isn’t room, I would recommend waiting it out and fitting it in after some digestion :)
Seamstress scores very highly in all categories that define a good restaurant. Good food, good dining atmosphere, and excellent service. All of these factors culminated in what can only be described as an enjoyable and memorable dining experience.
113 Lonsdale St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9663 6363