Restaurant Review

Nouri - Nourish with myriad flavours

Unexpected ingredients and interesting pairings make for some delightful and fascinating dishes at Nouri

Nouri, explains chef Ivan Brehm when I am there for dinner, is not a restaurant you go to for an experience, but to experience it.

They may sound like the same thing, but I get what he means. He wants you to feel involved in the restaurant and the thinking behind the food.

To achieve this, he has designed the restaurant differently from most others.

It is dominated by a long stone counter that stretches almost the entire length of the dining room. Guests sit at the half nearer the entrance, while the remaining counter space is used by the chef and his assistants to plate the dishes.

At the end of that is the stove fitted with a plancha, and right at the back of the restaurant is a tiny kitchen with ovens and a washing area.

For those who do not want to sit at the communal counter, there are a few small tables set against the wall as well as a private room for 10 diners. A bar at the front of the restaurant can also seat single diners and a bar food menu is in the works.

It is a comfortable setting that feels airy and bright, lit by beautiful lamps, and there is space for diners to walk around both the counters in the dining room and the bar - which is how Brehm sees them experiencing Nouri.


  • NOURI
     

    72 Amoy Street, tel: 6221-4148; open: 11.30am to 3pm (Mondays to Fridays), 6pm to midnight (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays and public holidays

    Food: 3.5/5

    Service: 3.5/5

    Ambience: 4/5

    Price: Lunch is from $28 to $85 a person; dinner is $140 or $170

The cooking is even more interesting, featuring what the chef calls "crossroads food" that encompasses different cultures and countries from around the world.

Nouri comes from the word nourish and the wholesome food here lives up to that promise.

For dinner, there are two tasting menus - at $140 for five courses and $170 for seven courses. At lunch, there is an $85 five-course menu as well as a small selection of a la carte "teishoku" choices ($28 to $42), which are meals that comprise just a single course.

With a difference of just $30 between the dinner menus, I pick the bigger one - as do the other diners at the restaurant the night I am there.

Some dishes are delightful, some fascinate because of the unexpected ingredients and some are just too funky for me. What they have in common is that you never know what to expect.

With each dish made up of ingredients that often require the server to take half a minute to list out, you can expect explosions of different flavours, textures and sometimes temperatures.

The meal starts with Bread And Broth, rye sourdough served with a silken cheese dip together with a small glass of vegetable broth.

It is nothing fancy, but I appreciate the idea of the restaurant welcoming guests with something so homey. Even though most restaurants would serve you bread, the way it is explained here makes it a gesture that feels warm and sincere.

The three snacks that follow are promising too - a black rice cracker topped with an umami-packed miso-uni-lavender emulsion; an Indian idli made to look like a blini and topped with caviar; and a square slice of gherkin with a little blob of tarhana (a Turkish paste) and pickled peppercorns. It's like a United Nations assembly of ingredients working in harmony - something rare and delightful.

Other courses continue this journey through the world's culinary heritage.

What works for me is the King Crab, with shreds of sweet Alaskan crab meat covered by a soya emulsion, golden chives, strips of lettuce heart, green bean flower, a chunk of crab leg and bits of dehydrated crab.

The Mushroom is good too, comprising a mix of maitake, shiitake and black trumpet mushrooms sitting on black truffle puree and a drizzle of Sichuan peppercorn oil.

Hot mushroom broth added at the table binds the dish and the oil sets the tongue tingling most delightfully. Bits of tangerine layer the flavours further, but I find the bursts of acidity a bit jarring.

The main course offers three choices: Chicken And Fennel, Wagyu and Raymond's Grouper. My dining companion and I pick the chicken and wagyu, and our votes go to the chicken.

It comes in two parts. The first is made with thigh meat that is diced and cooked in a white pepper emulsion, then covered in a housemade cheong fun (steamed rice sheet), and served with a sauce made from the reduced emulsion and a drizzle of fennel oil. It is tasty and the smooth cheong fun will do any dim sum chef proud.

The second part is a piece of butter poached chicken breast covered with a layer of dandelion puree that turns it a toxic-looking green. It may have the scary skin tone of the Incredible Hulk, but the meat is wonderfully juicy and the dandelion, fennel flower and anise on top give it a subtle bitter-sweet flavour profile that does not obscure the chicken.

What I find too weird for me is the Tomato And Oat, a mix of organic berries from Cameron Highlands, cherry tomatoes, burrata, oat broth plus petai leaves. It tastes funky, with unseen things that seem to be in various stages of fermentation - though the petai flavour is surprisingly not as odd as I would expect.

Desserts are just as multi-faceted in flavours and textures.

Milli Vanilli, for example, comprises banana and rum foam, Tahitian vanilla ice cream, buckwheat crumble and calamansi. The combination works and I especially like the nasturtium leaves on top, which not only add colour to the plate, but its green bite is also something you would not expect in a sweet dish.

What truly wows, however, is the pre-dessert - a tiny piece of nasturtium marshmallow with candied orange, topped prettily with a fresh nasturtium leaf. Pop the whole thing in and enjoy the burst of fireworks in your mouth.

Dining at Nouri is a journey that comes with highs and lows, but it is one that never bores.

•Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke and on Instagram @wongahyoke

•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 02, 2017, with the headline 'Nourish with myriad flavours'. Print Edition | Subscribe