When James Frawley and Isaac Smith began visiting A Thousand Blessings in 2011, it wasn’t long before the pair struck up a relationship with the cafe’s owner, Evelyn Lau.
Both Richmond locals at the time, the Hawthorn footballers would visit the cafe two or three times a week, ducking in for a beetroot roll and coffee whenever their schedules allowed. They’d chat to Lau about business and local goings-on. After a while, it only felt natural for Frawley and Smith to offer Lau their support in a new restaurant venture.
And so the trio opened Jamu, a contemporary Asian-Australian restaurant housed in an apartment tower on Palmer Street, just around the corner from A Thousand Blessings.
Featuring exposed concrete floors and striking copper fixtures, the restaurant has a sleek, inner-city feel, with seating for 70 people. Custom timber tables and chairs add warmth to the space. A sea of ceiling lights adds a sense of drama.
The sharing menu, available from 5pm, is an interesting mix of familiar Asian classics, approachable Western adaptations, and dishes that sit somewhere in between. Coffee and light breakfast is available until 2.30pm.
Start with Pacific oysters served with a bittersweet calamansi sorbet, or a Vietnamese take on a kingfish ceviche that incorporates tamarind and smoked pineapple. Then move onto hyper-umami ma jiang mian (spicy sesame noodles) with braised-pork mince; cheeseburger spring rolls; and a half-chook that’s glazed in honey, cumin and coriander seeds and served with a spring onion sauce. Tender with a crispy outer skin, the chicken is cooked sous-vide for one hour, then cooked to order in a very hot oven so that it comes out with a slightly caramelised skin.
For dessert, there’s a refreshing coconut sorbet served on a bed of diced pineapple and mango and drizzled with a thai basil syrup, or a spring pastry served with oolong mousse and spiced pear. Wash it down with an Asahi on tap, something light and fruity from the cocktail list, or a cold, white drop from the international wine list.