Wednesday, February 29, 2012


February 22, 2012

I had a fairly major milestone to mark on Wednesday, submitting the PhD thesis that has taken up a good chunk of my life for the past four years. It felt something like this:

To celebrate, Cindy and I decided to go somewhere fancy for lunch (having already started the day with breakfast at Seven Seeds). Thanks to Vegan Experience I had Seamstress on my list as a slightly upmarket place that did the veg thing pretty well, and when I realised it was open for lunch our decision was basically made.

Seamstress is on a fairly dead strip of Lonsdale Street, backing onto Chinatown. You come in past the kitchen on the ground floor and you head up the stairs to the restaurant area. It's a nicely laid out space, with a vaguely sewing-related them going on (a few old Singers around the place, some big bolts of cloth across the ceiling) and is surprisingly dead at 2pm on a Wednesday. There was us and one other table.

Our waitress was super helpful, running through the vegetarian options and giving us some idea of how much we should order. The Seamstress menu offers every dish in small, medium and large sizes, so you can mix and match your way through the various dishes.

After gauging our hunger, the waitress recommended we get two small dishes, one medium and a steamed rice to share. The first dish to come out was the snake bean and golden sweet potato poached won ton with green pea and coriander puree and pea foam ($14, the original dish has roe in it, which they happily excluded for us).

To be honest, this sounded a lot better than it was - the pea foam and the pea and coriander puree were pretty mild in flavour, and it was hard to really pick out the snake beans in the sweet potato dumplings. It wasn't a terrible dish, but $14 for 4 dumplings doesn't compare well to the kinds of deals on offer over in Little Bourke Street, and it didn't blow us away.

Next up was another small dish - the steamed silken tofu hot-pot in a shitake broth with julienne snow peas and Chinese mushrooms ($11).

We were kind of hoping that our rice would arrive to go along with this dish but it didn't, leaving us to slurp up the broth on its own. The tofu was lovely and the rich mushroomy broth wasn't too bad either - Cindy got a bit overwhelmed by the mushroominess of it all, but I was fairly happy. Again, not stunning, but decent enough.

The meal was capped off with our biggest dish, the medium caramelised eggplant with red miso and silken tofu sauce, crispy spice crusted firm tofu and toasted sesame seeds ($24).

This was clearly the best dish of the meal - like a high octane nasu dengaku. The miso/tofu sauce was wonderful, and the little crispy tofu pieces add some texture to the soft eggplant. We finished it feeling inspired to convert the Ottolenghi eggplant recipe into something miso-tastic.

Seamstress didn't quite measure up to my high expectations - it's challenging to fancy up Asian food and make it seem good value. It's great that Seamstress provides some interesting veg options but I'm not sure we'll be hurrying back any time soon - we might brave the queues at Chin Chin next time.

Vegan Experience brought Seamstress' veg-friendliness to our attention and were keen to go back for more. Almost all the non-veg reviews of Seamstress have been very positive - check out Dining Nirvana, Vetti Live in Northcote, Munch Brothers, Mayoress, Melbourne Gastronome, Saucy Onion, minibites, Daily Gloss, Off the spork, Ronnie's Spots, slicing almonds and zesting lemons and The World Loves Melbourne.

Joyce from MEL: HOT OR NOT was less convinced.

113 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
9663 6363
veg dishes $11-$36

Accessibility: Seamstress looks to be only accessible via a long flight of stairs. Once you're up there you've got a fair bit of space and table service. We didn't visit the toilets.


  1. Congratulations Michael on such a mammoth achievement! It's a shame to hear that your celebratory lunch wasn't up to your expectations, it certainly looks attractive.

  2. Congratulations michael - how fantastic to have submitted the thesis - Hope you enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation now that it is in.

    Seamstress dishes sound interesting but sounds like you need many more special dinners to complete the celebrations!

  3. Superdooper congratulations Michael! Have you collapsed in a heap of purposelessness now?

  4. Huge congrats on the submission, what an achievement! My husband is now just a stone's throw away from submitting so I completely understand the roller-coaster of student craziness when finishing your PhD! Well done :)

  5. Congratulations Michael! Have been following your guys blog for a while (it's my favourite) but have not commented before. I'm 2 and a half years in to my PhD so I can only imagine how amazing it must feel to submit the damn thing.

  6. Congratulations Michael!! So much hard work, I hope you can take some time to relax now it's done.