Tucked inconspicuously in the underground is one of the best food we had this year. Opened by the Les Amis Group, “Nam nam” is a wordplay on “Vietnamese” food; a wordplay on the name of the Vietnamese Chef Nam Quoc Nguyen who grew up in Denmark; and “nam nam” in Denmark also means “yummy.” The extremely long queue–no reservation–attests to how “nam nam”-licious the food is.
Southern Roll with prawn, egg, herbs ($4.90)
The menu is limited but clearly demarcated into starters (or small plates); baguettes (banh mi); Vietnamese noodles that is split into Hanoi Pho (North of Vietnam) and other noodles from central and southern Vietnam; beverages and desserts.
For starters, we had the Southern Roll which by itself was fresh and bland. You really have to eat it with the dip, hoisin sauce fried with chicken liver. The dip enhanced and brought out all the incredible flavors of the roll, a beautiful couple that brought out the best in each other.
Caramelised 5-Spice Pork Belly ($5.90)
The vegetables added a crunch to the baguette but what is unique about this 5-spice pork belly is that the pork belly is padded with pork pate. Although I found that it had a pork stench, the overall contrasting textures and flavors worked very well together: it had a bite but not too chewy, sweet and appetizingly sourish.
Pho Beef Combination ($9.90)
The difference between pho from Northern and Southern Vietnam is that the Northerners have clear soupy pho while the Southerners prefer it dry with vegetables. From the Hanoi Pho section, or North Vietnam, we had the all-in-one, pho beef combination. The meat was so-so but the broth, boiled for 24 hours, was incredibly tasty, sweet and complex.
Flower Crab Noodle Soup ($13.90)
Dry Sauteed Lemongrass Pork noodle ($7.90)
From the Central and Southern Vietnam section, we had the flower crab noodle soup, also boiled for 24 hours with crab meat, and lemongrass pork noodle with very tasty pork. Mr NGFL, who prefers lighter flavors, thought that the noodles dishes were generally oily. However, Huccalily and I disagreed: we didn’t find the noodles oily. We all agreed that everything was extremely delicious, far exceeding our expectations: the noodles were cooked to the right degree that wasn’t too soft or too hard; the soups were complex and defied descriptions and because of the complexity, you will not get sick of the soup and can slurp it to the last drop. Vietnamese noodles are known for its plainness so you’d have never thought that noodles could taste as amazing and flavorful as this. And to accomplish all the taste and complexity without MSG! What a feat.
The food was so well conceptualized that even the desserts were good. The Fruit Cocktail ($4.90) has pineapple, lychee, jackfruit, kumquat while 3 Color Dessert ($3.90) has red ruby, chendol, mung bean, red bean, corn. You may think that the desserts looked ordinary and are the same as your hawker centers’ desserts. They are not. The flavors of the fruits and stuff complemented one another so well – and again, you can easily finish one or two on your own – or three.
Nam Nam is indubitably one of the best restaurants we have eaten lately: every dish can be a specialty; none of the dishes score below 8.5/10; the dishes are very well thought-out and well carried out; and best of all, the food is affordable. Our usual rating for restaurants range from 3 to 3.5. This year, we awarded 10 eateries or so above 4. And we gave Nam Nam more than 4.5. That’s how fantastic Nam Nam is. Our only grouse is why is the queue so long???
Nam Nam Noodles Bar
252 North Bridge Road
Raffles City Shopping Centre B1-46
T: 6336 0500
Rating: 4.568/5 pho
PS: Thank you Valencia and Les Amis group for the invite.