One word. Wow!
There must be a dozen restaurants I’ve set my mind on visiting, but I knew The Nomads had to come first the moment our paths met on social media; simply because I’ve never had Kazakh cuisine! So here we are!
We were booked for The Odyssey of Fire Omakase menu. One that consisted of 17 dishes. Don’t let the number startle you. I promise you will persevere to the end.
Since I’ve never had Kazakh food, I really can’t rate it against anything. But bear in mind this is modern Kazakh culinary, incorporating Asian and western ingredients and cooking styles. The creative team had also tweaked them to suit our (foreign) taste buds. The chefs would introduce and explain each dish in detail, including its origins, ingredients and even eating methods! Fret not should you lose them halfway through the commentary, which I did a few times (there’s a lot to digest, literally!), cuz you will bounce right back once you put the food in your mouth!
Smoked Herring – Bits of herring in a zingy horseradish mash enclosed in a crispy filo pastry tart. A little mouthful to wake your appetite for the feast!
Lamb Samsa Cones – Lamb lovers rejoice! This mini lamb tartare “ice cream” plopped on a coffee cone, and served in a spice box planter, is a flavor bomb. While most people are turned off by lamb meat’s wild gamey scent and taste, I kinda embrace the those exact “flaws” (well… until it gets vulgarly unbearable!). But this little ball of lamb tartare was pretty flawless! The rawness of the meat is mild. I could not make out any extra marinade yet can’t imagine there was none. Pop it in your mouth and the combo melds like the perfect marriage. Enjoyed this little one very much!
Caviar and Kaya – Creamy shrimpy cream topped with salty caviar in a crispy (wonton skin?) cup. The last thing you’d expect is Kaya (a local coconut jam) and there it is! Right there on your tongue amidst the umami caviar! Before you go Eeewww.., believe me, it was absolutely delightful! I can’t explain why it worked but it did! The sweet Kaya, subtly enhanced the whole experience without robbing the star flavor of the caviar. In fact, its light little aroma kinda made it pop!
Nomads Nan– This is the one item on the menu you gotta watch yourself with. I know, it’s just bread, and butter, technically. But really.., they’re really not just bread and butter. The bread is warm, thick, fluffy and smells of aromatic oils and grains. It is bloody good! We were advised to save a little butter for another dish but, it didn’t happen…though we really tried. It was pretty phenomenal, that butter, both of them! Expect no marrow despite being served in the hollow of a marrow bone! Infused instead with herbs and seaweed and spices and nuts, this is literally the best butter I’ve had ever! Incredible shit! *We did find out after, that the marrow had been exhumed for another dish.
Maitake Mushrooms– Lovely earthy mushrooms, grilled tender and moist with a little spice dusting. Though I can’t pinpoint anything wrong with it, I can’t say it stood out in any way either. Im gonna blame the bread and butter for this, they were a hard act to follow!
Carrots in Soil– Then an unsuspecting star arrived; in the form of vegetable root and soil! Before you roll your eyes at the humble root and gimmicky soil disguised food, just know I would obligingly take this off your hands if we were dining together! Without giving too much away, this is one dish I absolutely loved. Could seem a little un-fittingly sweet in the middle of the meal but so damn good all is forgiven!
Salat– Like the name implies, a salad. And a very pretty one! Riotous splashes of reds, greens, yellows and purples; bursts of sweetness, tartness and crunchy juiciness. It’s straight up refreshing, no doubt, but I was too hyped up for fruits, petals and veg. I wanted more excitement. More surprises.
Scallops– Remember the dish I was supposed to save some butter for? Knowing how clean I’ve polished my butter, the chef swiftly sent a fresh knob of it so we could swipe some of that awesomeness on these Koji cured scallops. I constructed a little open face Canapé. Lentil cracker, smeared with a little butter, topped with spiced dusted scallop. Nice! The scallops, though thin, were sweet and juicy. The cracker had a slight smokiness to it. The butter added oomph. I made another canapé, this time without the butter and although it still tasted good, that crazy butter does give an extra edge to it. So save the butter!
Squid Laghman– The chef kindly whipped up a non spicy version of this Szechuan spiced squid dish as I do not take spicy food. Tender squid cut into thick noodle-like strands and dressed in a sweetish dressing with bits of crunchy pine nuts and capsicum. Though the squid noodles were nicely cooked to a tender bite, the flavor felt a little plain tomato-ish to me. In this case, I reckon the spicy version might have been better.
Sturgeon– I’m a little biased here since I much prefer soft flakey fish and have always found Sturgeon meat a little too firm. This little chunk here was done nicely. But what really made it shone was the creamy sauce that came with. Lightly savory and lusciously buttery! That’s a sauce that’ll save lives!
Beshbarmak– Something interesting about this classic National dish of Central Asia. The name itself means ‘five fingers’ because it istraditionally eaten with your hands! Typically this dish is made with either horse meat or mutton and only sometimes, beef. At Nomads, a chunk of 72 degree Wagyu cheek is served on a shallow sea of soubise sauce surrounded by potato crisps. I put my chopsticks to the meat to pry it apart. It took a bit of effort…, uh-oh… But alas, in the mouth, it softened and melted like a meat marshmallow! I was blown away! And how wrong I had been I almost apologized to the Mr cheek himself! Customarily served with noodles but swapped with potato crisps instead. The crunch balances out the soft cheek while the beautifully sweet oniony sauce glazes everything to a T! Each mouthful was better than the last. Another highlight for me!
Beef Tongue– Beef tongue is one of my favorite beef part. So it mustn’t fail me!! Not that this was bad. The tongue was perfectly cooked. And really only needed the grainy mustard cream that was smeared over it. But I guess that may come across too simple? So tiny almond curls were added. The almond shavings was surely a unique touch. They taste fine too, on their own; but for me, they just didn’t add any taste value to the tongue.
Pomegranate– A much needed break and palate cleanser as I was gradually filling up! 13 down, 4 more to go! And what a delicious break this was! Pomegranate and watermelon. So refreshing and delicious and stirred my appetite right back up again!
Foie in Ash– Except for a sense of mystery, the ‘Ash’ aka burnt breadcrumbs didn’t do much for me. Whilst it added a lil crunch, it didn’t enhance the creamy foie gras much. Nice piece of liver but mixed feelings about the ash.
Hunter’s Plov– By now (dish number 15), I am wishing I hadn’t eaten all that bread and butter; and was quite willing to skip the final rice entree. I mean.., who needs carbs?! But when Hunter’s Plov was set before me, I knew I was doomed! To start with, I am a closet carb junkie!! A subtle aroma whiffed pass my nose. The pink Wagyu stared temptingly at me. And the whole dish just looked absolutely handsome and tempting! One mouthful, I thought to myself… sigh… didn’t happen. Cleaned out the entire bowl! Beautifully cooked…, every grain of rice is infused in clear savory broth. I love the addition of sweet raisins, tender carrots and crunchy chickpeas. The Wagyu, though a high A4, wasn’t as buttery as I’d expected but still good. And a bonus treat, the tea smoked quail egg with runny yoke! Don’t know anyone who doesn’t like a runny egg. Very, very comforting rice dish to finish. And of course, very yummy.
Almaty– Our first dessert was a combination of apple slivers, yogurt, Gorgonzola and sorbet. Seemed like a lot going on there but every ingredient fell nicely in place. Cant believe it myself but I rather unexpectedly liked the celery sorbet best.
Medovik– The Medovik is a popular honey cake in Russia. It’s tastes rather much like pound cake to me. The honey part didn’t really stand out but the subtle sweetness went very well with the cold sour cream and yogurt sorbet. Didn’t care so much for the blood orange cubes but those rose crystal sprinkles were a nice touch.
So there you go, 17 mouthfuls that make up a full meal. I was impressed; and entertained. With the food, the presentation, the service and the chefs, who each has designated tasks in putting the dishes together. Sitting at the counter surrounding the open kitchen, I witnessed how the young crew was super confident and professional. They take turns to present their dishes and are ready to take on any questions thrown at them. They worked so quietly and swiftly around the kitchen it’s mesmerizing to watch!
The Nomads’ owners hail from Kazakhstan and word has it they are very hands-on not only the menu, but also with the food quality; imparting family recipes they’ve grown up on and involving themselves with modifications of the traditional cuisine. Head chef, Nurul, explained how most of the conventional Kazakh dishes had to be modernized and tweaked to suit the local palate. Not only have they done so, they’ve done well. Hence it seems I still haven’t quite tasted actual Kazakh food!? Nevertheless, I am glad we have The Nomads to lead the way. And I’m looking forward for the the team to gradually wean us into some true blue Kazakh cuisine. Horse meat, anyone?
Take your pick…Honey Cake; Lamb Tartare pops; Squid or noods; An extensive wine list; Nature never tasted so good!
Clockwise from top left: Mid meal palate cleanser; start with some herring; Head Chef Nurul; Friendly Bartender Jonathan; Scallops on Lentil chips; an irresistible Risotto; Foie skewer.
The Nomads @ 70 Telok Ayer St, #01-01, Singapore 048462 Phone: +65 6977 7057
Disclaimer- This is not a sponsored post.