Dinner @ NAE:UM

November 12, 2021 in Korean by thywhaleliciousfay

What do one do with a super long list of restaurants to try? I wconquer it by prioritising my visits according to friends’ recommendations and… The ease of securing a booking. Keke. And it was a foodie friend’s Instagram posting that made me quickly push forth with my booking at NAE:UM. Oddly though, my (not too foodie) friends weren’t keen. Ain’t sure why the idea of fine dining contemporary Korean isn’t as attractive as getting oneself smelly in front of the barbecue grill. But thankfully, NAE:UM accepts solo diner.

And even though I was booking for just myself, the earliest I could secure in mid August was for early November. Almost 2.5 months advanced booking!

  

Arrived at NAE:UM on a Tuesday for my 7.30pm dinner, and was led to the counter. Counter seats at NAE:UM weren’t the typical sit-facing-the-open-kitchen type of counter seats. They were instead bar counter seats with limited view of the kitchen. While I loved what they did with the space, I felt the layout wasn’t fully optimised. But it must had been a challenge because of the long narrow layout; To get to the toilet, one would need to pass through the open kitchen from the main dining area. Yes, one’s literally walking through the kitchen to get to the toilet.


Interior (Picture Credit: Link)

Upon seated, the staff explained the menu to me and informed there’s 2 supplement dishes which I could choose to add on. And of course, I did. Haha! I continued to ‘study’ the menu after the staff left with my order, and that’s when I realised NAE:UM had just launched their menu (Episode 2) with the theme ‘Mountain Lodge’ in November 2021.

And with that, I commenced my dinner tasting menu, $168 with:-


  

1) Appetiser #1 & #2 (above) – Kkotge (left) and nurungji (right). Was told to start with the rice puff with minced shiitake and shaved yolk first. But between the two, I preferred the other; Shredded flower crab served on a shiso leaf tempura and dusted with kimchi powder. I was initially pinching at the flower crab ‘tart’, trying to taste the various components individually. And the kimchi powder was as spicy as warned by the staff. But when I eventually got down to putting everything into my mouth, it was a beautiful burst of flavours.

2) Appetiser #3 (above) – Duckgalbi. Served warm, the meat patty was made with duck leg and had a rice cake stuffed in it. I liked the surprise of chewing into a chunk of (chewy) rice cake.

3) Domi (above) – Sea bream, acorn, citrus soy. And when this was first served, I thought the cucumber foam was burrata cheese because it looked so similar. Haha. And I learnt from the staff that the foam was made with snow from Korea. Interesting! Served with acorn jelly cubes (hidden out of sight in photograph), ice plant, romanesco broccoli, edible flowers and herbs, the staff further shared the sea bream (which was in season) was treated by dousing hot water over the skin to melt the underlying layer of fat and thus releasing its natural umaminess. However, I wasn’t impressed with the fish. Maybe it was sliced too thinly? It was gone with just 3 chews. Too quick for me to get a proper taste of it.

4) Somyeon, + $38 (above) – Buckwheat, kimchi, kristal caviar. Was told this was inspired by chef-owner Louis Han’s childhood memories where his mother would use his grandmother’s handmade white kimchi to prepare cold kimchi noodle for the family on Sundays. And this was so good! Served with thinly sliced Korean pear, chopped white kimchi and chives, and tossed in truffle oil… This reminded me much of Gunther’s angel hair pasta dish. I kid not. NAE:UM’s buckwheat noodle dish was of that calibre! The noodles were so good that I didn’t even think it needed the sea urchin or caviar. I definitely recommend having this when one is at NAE:UM. And to be honest, I even contemplated ordering seconds as takeaway to share it with my family. Decided against it only because I rationalised it’s better to bring them down to the restaurant instead!

5) Naengchae (above) – French chicken, abalone, soybean. And for the dish introduction, the staff decided to jazz things up by saying puffed millet was used because the chicken ate puffed millet. Haha. It was lame but that cracked me up. Though the staff went to clarify puffed millet was really used because of its texture. And 2 cuts of the chicken were used; Breast and thigh.

6) Samchi (above) – Winter mushrooms, daikon, onion. Slow cooked radish and Japanese mackerel cooked in brine first before it’s smoked in hay. Served in a spicy mushroom broth infused with soybean paste (doenjang) and red chili paste (gochujang). This was a very comforting dish to have on a cold wet night.


7) Iberico tenderloin (above) – Burdock, potato, galbi.


  

8) Sanchae sotbap (above) – X.O makjang, duck, namul. And because of my dietary restriction, what’s supposed to be beef was replaced with duck. I was told to mix the red sauce (made with Chinese XO sauce and Korean fermented soybean paste) into the rice. It was only after mixing that it dawned on me that this was head chef Louis’s rendition of the Korean dish bibimbap (mixed rice with meat and assorted vegetables). What’s usually served with bibimbap is a fried egg. And at NAE:UM, the yolk was presented in the form of small orange balls. Amazing. I enjoyed the dish very much, except that I couldn’t quite taste the duck. Either the duck could have been served in bigger chunks, or I should have gone easy with the sauce. Haha. I added a lot of it. The staff asked if I wanted more, but I had to say no as I was feeling pretty full by then.

9) Mandarin (above) – Vanilla yoghurt, honeycomb, ginger snow. Another dish inspired by head chef Louis’s childhood where he would sit in front of the television during school holidays and eat mandarins. Served with bits of mandarin and grapefruit, I liked how the honeycomb was made of dalgona (a Korean sugar sweet).


10) Charcoal jujube, + $12 (above) – Multigrain, jujube ice cream. After sharing jujubes (Korean red dates) were eaten in Korea for good luck, the staff went on to say “Here’s wishing you all the good luck.” Awww… Thank you! I gladly accepted it, of course. Haha. Although immediately after that, the staff said “Could I clear this (empty wine glass)?” So for the more superstitious people, one may think the good luck was taken back immediately after it was given out. Me? I refused to think that way and took all my good luck by wolfing down my dessert. Keke. And I really enjoyed this. The use of meringue isn’t a novel idea, but the ones at NA:EUM was really good. It was of the perfect thickness where it was light and crunchy all at the same time.

11) Dessert (above) – Fermented rice cake and yakgwa. The last dessert was served personally by head chef Louis. The madeleine-shaped rice cake, fermented with makgeolli (Korean rice liquor) and lemon juice, was soft and sticky. The kind of stickiness where it stuck to the top of my mouth and teeth. And I liked how the top was caramelised such that I could also taste a bit of sugar bits. And I enjoyed the traditional Korean deep-fried biscuit very much too. In fact, I was left reminiscing it and could only satisfy my craving by settling for a somewhat equivalent Asian snack ‘mahua’ (fried twisted ribbon biscuit). Ha!

And with my meal at NAE:UM, I understand why it’s so hard to get bookings. I enjoyed every single dishes. Well… Okie. Maybe except for the salad dish with sea bream. But it was truly an enjoyable dining experience. Beautiful space, great service, and delectable food. And to top it off, it wasn’t crazily expensive too! Highlights of my meal had to be the buckwheat noodles and charcoal-jujube dessert. Though it’s ironic both were supplement dishes.

But having said that, there was just 1 pretty odd incident. When I was having my rice dish, I accidentally dropped a blob of the red sauce onto the cream-coloured table surface. But when my cutlery were cleared, the staff didn’t clean the evident mess that I created. It was only 2 dishes later when head chef Louis personally brought the last dish that he saw it and got his staff to clean it up.

Would I recommend NAE:UM? A big fat yes! I am definitely keen to return and try their next menu (Episode 3). And NAE:UM accepts reservations up to 90 days in advance. So with some advanced planning including setting alarms for midnight, one should be able to secure a booking. :)

NAE:UM RESTAURANT
161 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore
+65 8830 5016, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon & Sun

Dinner @ Jungsik 정식당 (Seoul, Korea)

October 28, 2020 in Korean by thywhaleliciousfay

My trips to Korea were mainly visiting family-owned restaurants. I follow a few Korean food shows, and would hunt down the restaurants that appear on the shows. Uh huh, hunt. But when Michelin Guide Seoul was (first) launched in November 2016, it got me curious. It made me want to check out the fine dining scene in Korea. And I was lucky that one of my (ex-)crossfitters (from my Korea trip 2017) was keen too. And thus, we went to Jungsik and La Yeon.

Reservation at Jungsik was made through email with 1.5 months advanced notice. Dinner almost failed to materialise because Jungsik was closed for private event on our 2 preferred dates. But after adjusting our itinerary, we secured our reservation by returning a completed reservation form which included a credit card guarantee.

Jungsik was a short 5 minutes walk from Apgujeong Rodeo metro station. We were greeted by a receptionist who led us to our table at level 2. And with 2 options on the dinner menu, we each ordered the 5-courses, ₩120,000:-

1) Welcome drink, Complimentary (above) – With grapefruit jelly, the staff told us to drink it just like how we would down a shot. Keke.


2) Welcome dish, Complimentary (above) – Introduced as banchan (side dishes), we were told this was Jungsik’s style. And we were served scallop, truffle capellini, snapper with kimchi (to be eaten as a wrap), smoked salmon in a cone, rice ball with oyster, and fried burdock.

3) Appetiser with options of:


  

(A) Gujeolpan ver. 3 (for 2) (above) – Raw tuna. The ‘+2’ on the menu meant the dish was for 2. And so, my friend and I had to choose the same dish for our choice of appetiser. The staff explained gujeolpan meant ‘9 types of food’, and the 9 on our dish being sour cream, sprouts, seaweed, yam, wasabi, kimchi, minced tomato, jelly and tuna. I wouldn’t recommend stacking a bit of everything onto the piece of crispy seaweed. I tried and ended up dirtying the floor when I tried putting my tall ensemble into my mouth. Sob.

(B) Octopus (+ ‎₩10,000 supplement) (above) – Gochujang aioli. So glad my friend was a glutton like me. We decided to order the octopus dish although we had exhausted our appetiser option with the Gujeolpan ver. 3 (item #3A). And as an add-on, this a-la carte order cost us ₩25,000.

4) Rice with options of:


(A) Sea urchin (+ ‎₩10,000 supplement) (above) – Fried millet. We were told to mix the black rice, fried millet, puffed rice and sea urchin together. I liked the crunchy bits within. Just like scorched rice if I ain’t wrong. So good.

(B) Grilled rice (above) – Barley, duck. I really enjoyed this dish. Could taste the strong smoky aroma.

5) Sea with options of:

(A) Ok dom (+ ‎₩10,000 supplement) (above) – Namul. And was told that the red snapper was Jungsik’s signature from Jeju island. Served with vegetables and rice cake.

(B) Black cod (+ ‎₩10,000 supplement) (above) – Classic, dried radish. Cooked by pouring hot water over slowly to keep it tender inside, and placed on a base of acorn jelly and assortment of vegetables which included cucumber and onion.

6) Land with options of:-

(A) Tenderloin (+ ‎₩20,000 supplement) (above) – Deodeok.

(B) Duck 2017 (above) – Aging, brocolini.

7) Pre-dessert (above) – Palate cleanser. Jungsik’s take on Korea’s cinnamon tea. With pear, ginger pudding and cinnamon juice.

8) Sweet with options of:-

(A) Dolhareubang (above) – Green tea mousse. Dolhareubang, the large rock statues symbolic to Jeju Island. Served alongside milk ice cream.

(B) Cheongdam pie (above) – Apple pie. With apricot jam and jasmine ice cream.

(C) Rose of versailles (above) – Blueberry cremeux. Again, another dessert which we ordered as an add-on for ‎₩20,000. Blueberry (used to make the rose), lychee ice cream, rose meringue cookie (as the crown), and blueberry cheese cake.



  

9) Tea/Coffee – And after our meal, we were given the option to go with tea (peppermint, chamomile, mugwort and buckwheat) or coffee. I usually would go with coffee, but decided to try the tea instead.

10) Petit fours – Black sesame biscuit, chocolate cube, and earl grey choux.

My friend and I enjoyed our dinner thoroughly. Got to thank the staff who was attending to our table. My friend and I were trying to take notes of the ingredients and made him repeat himself a few times. But he was so nice and patient. Thumbs up! Could definitely see why Jungsik was awarded 1 Michelin star. Food, tick. Service, tick. Ambience, tick. And as a bonus, my friend and I even got to see a Korean actor!

I definitely recommend Jungsik for upscaled Korean cuisine.

JUNGSIK 정식당
서울 강남구 선릉로158길 11
+82 2 517 4654, Website, Naver
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sun : 17:30 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8

Lunch @ 진미통닭 Jin Mi Tongdak (Suwon, Korea)

March 13, 2019 in Korean by thywhaleliciousfay

As mentioned in my previous post, my (ex-)crossfitters and I took a day trip to Suwon from Seoul. And for lunch, we headed up to Jin Mi Tongdak as seen in episode 36 of ‘Baek Jong Won’s Top 3 Chef King’.

Located in Suwon’s chicken alley, the restaurant was easily identifiable by its huge logo. And arriving during lunch hour, the tables on the ground floor were fully occupied. It’s also on the ground floor that the kitchen was at. One could catch glimpses of the frying action since windows separated the kitchen from the dining area.

The staff pointed us to the staircase where there were more tables at second storey. And from the menu, we ordered:-

1) Side dishes, Complimentary (above)

2) 반반 (후라이드 + 양념), ₩16,000):


(A) Fried chicken (half) (above) – Fried in traditional cast iron pot (gamasot), these were finger-licking good! The batter was crispy, and the meat (within) was juicy. And what’s unique at Jin Mi Tongdak was that fried chicken gizzard was given too. A must try!

(B) Spicy chicken (half) (above) – Coated with a sweet yet slightly spicy sauce, the spicy chicken was good too. Although if we had to choose, our votes went to the original.

3) 후라이드, ‎₩15,000 (above) – Fried chicken. After trying the half-half, we wanted more and unanimously went with full portion of the original. Every table was also given a bottle of the ‘spicy chicken’ sauce. So we figured we can have the best of both worlds by ordering the original-flavoured chicken and also enjoy it as ‘spicy chicken’ with the sauce provided on the table.

4) Draft beer (above)

Said to be the original and number 1 fried chicken restaurant in Suwon, Jin Mei Tongdak is highly recommended. I am craving for their fried chicken as I pen my thoughts of this place. I wonder if they do delivery to Seoul… I would definitely order if they do, since I doubt I would be making any day trip to Suwon when I am next back to Korea.

JIN MI TONGDAK 진미통닭
117-1 Namsu-dong, Paldal-gu, Suwon, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
경기 수원시 팔달구 정조로800번길 21. [지번] 남수동 117-1
+82 31 255 3401, Naver
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 00:00
Ambience: 6
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon