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