Nouri, Amoy Street: “My Favorite Dish Is the Bread.” Yikes.

Nouri at Amoy Street has been favourably reviewed. A celebrity chef told me privately, “This one confirm two Michelin stars.” A F&B public relations officer with no ties to Nouri said that it is the best restaurant to open this year.

The salvo of rave reviews is hardly surprising, considering the pedigree of Chef Ivan Brehm. He has worked at the best restaurants in the world including the 3 Michelin-starred Per Se in New York and The Fat Duck under Heston Blumenthal. He also led Bacchanalia to its first Michelin star.

The etymology of Nouri comes from Latin, meaning nourishment. The restaurant brands the food as “crossroads cooking,” which in reality is just borderless cuisine or fusion (an obsolete term, often disliked by chefs), that is, the ingredients can come from different cultures and countries.

For lunch, there is a la carte lunch starting from $28++ (a main and a dessert) or a 5-course omakase meal ($85++), a prelude and sampler to the 5-course dinner ($140++).

When we were there for a weekday lunch, taking the 5-course omakase, we were pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous space. A long marble table runs along the length of the room and is contiguous with the chef’s cooking area. It is as if you’re eating at somebody’s home.

Here’s a not-so-pleasant surprise: there is no free tap water. They use the Nordaq filtration system to provide freeflow filtered or filtered sparkling water at $5/pax. Basically, we’re drinking and paying for Singapore already-filtered tap water passed through another filtration. Okayyyyy. I’m going to drink 50 glasses.

The bread arrived. What is usually gratis at other restaurants costs $6 here, but lucky for us, it was included in the omakase set. For bread that costs $6, it came cold. Fine-dining restaurants of this stature should always, always serve warm bread; it should come freshly baked from the oven. Nevertheless, the parsley butter, sprinkled with salt and peanut dust, is delightful. The warm and comforting shot of 7-root vegetables consomme, with drops of parsley oil, confers bliss of umami. Our expectations spiked.

First course: the burrata from Puglia, Italy sits in oats soup speckled with basil oil. It’s accompanied by golden berries, tomatillo, and cherry tomatoes (“from our farm at Cameron Highlands). It’s topped with oats, caviar, and petai leaf. My friends like it but the berries are too tart for me and the sudden sharpness destroys the balance of the dish.

Second course: this is like, the server introduced, “Brazilian falafel.” It sits in three concentric circles of curries: the outer ring, Asian herb curry; the center, Thai curry; and the nucleus, shrimp curry. The “falafel” tastes airier than a falafel and is in fact closer to the Indian vadai. When you mix the three curries together, it’s spicy and the Thai curry overwhelms all other flavors. This dish is ok for me but my friend said the curry is unnecessarily potent, tipping the balance of the dish.

A piece of art, we exclaimed when it arrived on our table. The purple streaks are sweet potatoes, orange are tomato, green are Asian herbs oil. But unfortunately, the sweet potato puree is thick and starchy and gelatinous; it also tastes artificial like yam bubble tea. I love Hokkaido uni but I don’t understand how it is supposed to interact with other elements on the plate. In fact, I don’t understand how the ingredients complement one another; they are fine on their own (except the sweet potato) but why are they placed together? How do they make each other greater than its own?

The French chicken is delicious but it is also problematic. It’s placed in a water bath, but the cooking time is different for different parts. The forequarter is ok, but there is blood on drumlet and midjoint. While I don’t mind the rareness, they are difficult to cut and difficult to eat. I put the entire drumlet in my mouth as I usually do. Usually, a clean drumlet emerges, but here, I could not bite the meat off the bone no matter what. I gave up. I tried cutting the midjoint but because of the rawness, the meat couldn’t come off. I gave up too.

The fish has the same problem of uncooked-ness. Again, it is cooked by a water bath (a server said at 62 degrees, another said 52). It’s a grouper from a local farm, covered in a vanilla stock reduced from the bones and head of the fish. The sides are grapefruit, heirloom carrot, and shiitake. Again, I don’t understand how the grapefruit fits into the picture. The grapefruit says, “I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative.” #taylorswift

Again, the fish is undercooked. Cooked fish should be easily cut, falling off in flakes. But here, it took me some effort to hack through the sinewy fish (the server offered to get me a steak knife). When I chewed it, the texture was as chewy as steak. The chef tasted the fish and said it is supposed to be like that. Is it? Is fish supposed to be tough?

The dessert, the saving grace, the happy ending, consists of a 48-hour banana foam (which tastes slightly fermented and piquant), buckwheat crumble, calamansi jelly, and a very rich and delicious vanilla ice cream. A good balance of textures and flavors.

At the end of the meal, we asked each other what our favorite dish is. My friend said without hesitation, “The bread.” There are many problems with the food: it lacks balance (burrata and falafel); both mains are sous vide-d and undercooked; the dishes are too complicated that the ingredients don’t match with one another. Instead of adding so many ingredients that don’t work together on the plate, I suggest that the chef should first go back to basic and conceptualize how they can cook the food properly in the limited space they have.

It’s a pity about the food because the space is gorgeous and the service is wonderful and thoughtful. We paid $105 per person. The price is very steep for lunch but I’m glad we came for lunch instead of the $140++ dinner. Be thankful for the small things in life, right?

72 Amoy Street Singapore 069891
tel: +65 6221 4148
Lunch M-F 11.30am-3pm, Dinner M-Sat 6pm-12am

Food: 5.5/10
Service: 8/10
Decor: 8.5/10
Price: 5.5/10

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Written by A. Nathanael Ho.

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