The Place Located along Telok Ayer, NAE:UM is definitely one of the hottest restaurants to open this year and is the inaugural restaurant of Chef Louis Han. Chef Louis precisely helmed the now defunct Kimme, and his new restaurant is gorgeous. Think wooden interior with counter seats and table setting, the dining ambience is cosy in a fine-casual setting.
In terms of the cuisine, Chef Louis introduces ‘contemporary Seoul cuisine’, not to be taken literally as Korean classics but rather dishes inspired by the culinary vibrancy of Seoul with other global influences.
The Food Available from 2 November 2021, NAEːUM has introduced its second episodic menu, ‘Mountain Lodge’, a 6-course menu at S$168++ with two supplementary dishes. This episode is inspired by the mountains of Korea where Chef seeks to recreate dishes from his hiking memories.
The meal started with some snacks like the Kkotge and Nurungji; the former is Flower crab served with kimchi powder and pickled beetroot on filo pastry while the latter is Puffed brown rice cracker topped with beef tartare, cured egg yolk shavings, pickled turnip and spring onion spears.
The last snack is the Duckgalbi, Feuille de Brick tartlet topped with grilled minced duck ball with a rice cake centre and garnished with spring onions curls. This is my favourite snack of the trio, as the minced duck ball is very flavourful after being grilled over binchotan and glazed with a special sauce.
The first course is the Domi, a refreshing sashimi salad where acorn jelly is interlaced with ice plant, Romanesco, frisée, edible flowers and herbs, as well as slices of konbu-aged sea bream. Citrus soy dressing is drizzled over as well, then capped with cucumber foam. The overall flavour is light and my favourite bit is the sea bream slices.
The next course is a supplementary dish (S$38) where I had the Somyeon, of cold Korean buckwheat noodles tossed in a housemade white kimchi, chives and truffle oil dressing, and topped with Kristal caviar, as well as uni or scallop, depending on the season. My version came with the scallop, with The Rantee commenting that the cold noodles is so good. You get that tinge of white truffle oil which is not too overpowering, and it is refreshing to spot white kimchi here instead of the spicy red kimchi which we are used to.
Next up is the Naengchae which refers to a cold meal or salad in Korean, and this dish is inspired by the nutritious chicken and abalone stew. Instead, what is served is slow-cooked French chicken and Jeju abalone braised in chilli dashi served with ‘doenjang’ (fermented bean paste) caramelised baby carrot, puffed millet, Korean herbs chimichurri, and soybean sauce. The outstanding ingredient for me is the chicken, which spots a juicy and tender texture. There is also a tinge of spiciness from the chimichurri which lends some punchy notes to the dish.
‘Samchi’ is next, and it refers to Japanese Spanish mackeral in Korean. Interestingly, this dish is inspired by the fish stews that are typically served at mountain lodges where hikers stop at to refuel and re-energise. The Doenjang’ brown butter slow-roasted Japanese Spanish mackerel is served with a ‘namul’ (vegetable side dish) of five mushroom varieties tossed in charred leek dressing, slow- simmered daikon, onion purée, sea asparagus, spicy winter mushroom broth, and chive oil. I love the broth most, slightly spicy with the gojuchang element and I can imagine having this comforting broth in a chilly weather. I’m a big mushroom fan too, so this dish literally ticks the boxes for me. One of my favourite courses on the menu!
The next course is the Iberico Tenderloin, where the Bincho-grilled Ibérico tenderloin is served with fermented burdock, char-grilled broccolini, confit onion, potato purée, and ‘galbi’ sauce. Expect a tender and flavourful pork, along with a lovely potato purée.
The last savoury course is the Sanchae Sotbap where we have Korean white and brown rice as well as Korean barley cooked and presented in traditional Korean cast iron pot. The rice is topped with char-grilled nuruk-aged Wagyu striploin, winter vegetables ‘namul’, egg jam, and Korean nori flakes; mixed with XO ‘makjang’ (traditional Korean fermented sauce) and accompanied by homemade white kimchi and pickles on the side. I will recommend to go generous with the sauce which adds a tinge of spiciness to the rice, and mix it all together for the best flavour. This dish reminds me of Bibimbap!
For dessert, I had the Mandarin, which looks like it is covered in snow. The base of this dessert is vanilla yoghurt, topped with fresh mandarin and grapefruit segments, ‘dalgona’ honeycomb, ginger snow, mandarin mint sorbet, and a mandarin zest meringue. As the ingredients sound, the flavour is light and zesty, which is timely as a refreshing course after the savoury courses. And yes, my eyes popped out excitedly a little upon hearing ‘dalgona’ honeycomb!
If you still have space for one more dessert, there is the Charcoal Jujube (Supplementary dish at S$12) which I highly recommend. I love that crispy charcoal tuile, which is so good on its own. That jujube ice cream is amazing too, and it marries the charcoal tuile so well. It is also my first time having red dates ice cream which is very unique. At the base of the dessert is puffed multigrain, so you get that added texture with each bite too.
Last but not least, Petit Fours of Fermented Rice Cake and Yakgwa are served. The grilled rice cake reminds me of a Korean version of madeleine, while the Yakgwa is garnished with edible gold flakes.
Rants It’s tough luck getting a table at the moment as the restaurant is fully booked till early next year.
Will I Return Again? NAE:UM is not the typical Korean restaurant. The flavours are nuanced and the dishes are quite forward thinking. I enjoyed the dining experience here, looking forward to the next episode!
This was an invited tasting, though all opinions expressed are our own.
Make your reservations instantly at NAE:UM here.
Taste bud: 4/5
Hole in the pocket: 4/5
Overall Experience: 4/5
161 Telok Ayer Street
Tel: +65 8830 5016
Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday: 6pm to 10:30pm
Thursday: 12pm to 3pm; 6pm to 10:30pm
Closed on Monday & Sunday
Ranted by The Ranter