Basement 407-409 Swanston St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Head down a set of dark stairs,
And through a heavy wooden door,
You’ll find Joomak, a restaurant so beautiful that it made us do a double take.
I confess I’ve been a little lazy recently. But can you really blame me after the whirlwind of Malaysia and the hectic mess that was Christmas? All I’ve really wanted to do, when I find the time, is to sit down and read a book, or maybe put on some of the old episodes of the Simpsons. But then again, having been going out less recently due to the holidays, maybe it makes sense that I’ve gotten a bit slack without a bunch of blog posts clamouring to get written.
So anyway, Joomak was one out of the handful of restaurants that are open over the Christmas and New Years period. Having painstakingly found our way to number 407-409 on Swanston Street (it’s right opposite RMIT), we headed downstairs and were greeted by what’s likely the most stunning restaurant interior we’ve ever come across. Like an indoors night market, there were wooden booths lining a narrow walkway, fairy lights draped from the eaves. It opened up at the back into a more traditional and open space but who are we kidding, we both wanted to sit in the booths. And thankfully there was a cosy little nook for two that made us draw comparisons to Harry’s Cupboard Under the Stairs, or Compartment On The Hogwarts Express.
Hidden away in our little corner, we were undisturbed as we perused the menu (accompanied by Chris doing his silly dance to the blaring K-pop) and drank cool glasses of water flavoured with corn, aka what Chris dubbed as Plain Dorito Water. And when we were ready, all we had to do was press the nifty little call button, and a friendly waiter would be at our booth before our finger was off the button, order pad in hand.
|Mild Pan Fried Pork ($22)
|Having read that the Mild Pan Fried Pork($22) was what Popcorn and Toast always returns to Joomak for, I couldn’t pass up ordering a plate for ourselves. It may not look like much to start with; just a generic (though generous) plate of pork laced with onion slivers, but it was actually pretty magical. The thin slices of pork, having been marinated in a sweet yet salty sauce, caramelised into unabashedly fatty and succulent goodness in the pan. We couldn’t stop shoving slice after slice into our mouths, and thankfully there was more than enough to go around.
|Spicy Pan Fried Squid ($19)
Compared to the marvellous pork, the Spicy Pan Fried Squid ($19) fell a little short. We were warned that this dish was very spicy, but after Chris asking for it to be toned down, it barely had a tingle left to it – no fault of theirs though, we were the ones who asked for it that way! The flavours were pretty forgettable, the sauce being a thick, spicy soy that coated the tender yet slightly crunchy pieces of octopus. It’s not that this dish wasn’t good, but compared to thin slices of juicy pork, ribboned with fat, nothing can really measure up.
Every now and then, we visit a place that’s a lot more than the sum of their parts, and Joomak is definitely one of them. We both agreed that the food was good but not fabulous, the loud pop music was amusing bordering on annoying, and the prices were cheap – enough. But somehow, hidden in a cosy little booth and munching down these homely dishes with mouthfuls of rice and plenty of kimchi (crunchy and sour, the way I like it), Joomak managed to become one of the most enjoyable meals we remember having.
Rating: 14.5/20 – magical fairy lights.