The Nomads, Telok Ayer: Gastronomic Journey Through the Silk Road

I almost never use the word “gastronomy” in any reviews because too many people have used it in frivolous ways and because it seems few restaurants in Singapore are worth the epithet of “art of cooking and eating good food.” But I shall use it on The Nomads at Telok Ayer.

Smoked herring, horseradish mash, filo tart

By the people behind Five Ten Holdings and Kazakhstan native Olzhas Zhiyenkulov, The Nomads serves Modern Central Asian cuisine (anything along the Silk Road from Southern Italy to Western China) on a bar counter for fewer than 20 people.

There is a secret bat cave, a panic room, a private dining area, behind a bookshelf. In this private room, you dine directly on the table (without plates) like people in Kazakhstan.

Caviar and kaya: Russian and Latvian caviar, homemade kaya, Argentine red shrimp

On top of the a la carte menu, there are three tasting menus (by reservations) at $98++, $148++, and $188++.  For the purpose of this review, we sampled The Odyssey of Fire ($148++), a 17-course meal.

Lamb samsa cones: tartare in coffee feuille de brick

A disclaimer first. Food reviewing is about experience; the more you eat, the more knowledgeable and qualified you are to write about food. But I’m not widely travelled enough to know about food on the Silk Road. So I will be first to admit that I am not qualified to review the food in this restaurant.

Nomads Nan with foie gras butter and seaweed butter

That said, the food in this restaurant seems very familiar. The cooking methods are Westernised and the flavours could be found in a Western kitchen. Familiarity is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it can help you relate to the food here. Also, it is a Modern Central Asia restaurant, not a traditional one.

Maitake mushroom, tahini glaze, sumeli, sesame seeds

Most of the courses come in bite size but you will be stuffed by the end of the meal.

Side note: kudos to the chefs for the arduous tasks they have accomplished here. Each dish consists different components, and each component takes so much effort. Let’s estimate 17 dishes x 4 components in each dish x 20 minutes for each component. That’s about 1360 minutes (22 hours!) of cooking for each guest.

Carrots in soil: charred heirloom carrots, caraway olive oil emulsion, coffee crumble

I won’t talk about the entire 17 courses but will talk about the outstanding ones and then a flaw with the food.

Salat, grilled pears, seasonal greens, crystalised walnuts, cherry vinaigrette and anchovy sauce

The traditional lamb samsa from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan (Indians also have their own version called the samosa) is transformed here into lamb samsa cones, rare Mottainai lamb short loin tartare in handmade cones coated with coffee sugar.

It’s a little scary to eat rare lamb since we seldom do so, but it is not gamy at all. Quite tasty.

Koji cured scallops, spiced burnt corn on lentil cracker

The salat or in English, salad, is adapted from the grilled fruit salad found in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It consists pears glazed with cherry vinaigrette in an anchovy sauce but the dominant flavour here is smokiness from the grilling.

Eating what you expect shouldn’t be smoky be smoky gives you a surprise.

Squid laghman, charcoal grilled squid noodles, smoked Szechuan and paprika sauce, capsicum and pine nuts

Beshbarmak is Kazakhstan’s national dish of beef noodles. Here, they substitute the noodles for potato sheets (like potato chips). The 48-hour wagyu beef cheek is super and the broth delicious, but I thought I would have enjoyed it more as a noodle.

Sturgeon, soy butter emulsion, grains, dill

Similarly, the squid laghman (or read in Chinese, la mian), a native noodle dish from Uyghur (sad about their current situation), uses grilled squid instead of noodles. I thought it would be better if it was noodles.

Beshbarmak: 72-degree Wagyu cheek, tea spiced broth, pickled shallots, soubise, pickled garlic, potato sheets

The only body of water near the Silk Road is the Caspian Sea so The Nomads serves Sturgeon although they also serve scallop which is nowhere found near the Silk Road.

Beef tongue: 48-hour braised beef tongue, burnt whole grain mustard cream, spiced beef jus, shaved almonds

The foie gras in ash is an interesting interpretation of people cooking meat in the ground.

Pomengranate and watermelon sorbet

So after all the interesting and delicious food, some of the dishes can be quite confusing to us. There can be all sorts of flavours in a dish–sweet, savoury, smokey, pungency–and there is only so much the human tongue can handle.

Foie in Ash: foie gras, cherry gastrique, and charred breadcrumbs

Hunter’s Plov: carnaroli risotto, A4 wagyu striploin, bone marrow, pickled heirloom carrots, tea quail egg, and brandied raisins

Almaty: smoked apple puree, celery sorbet, bay leaf tart, gorgonzola, cinnamon yogurt

Medovik: honey cake, sour cream ganache, blood orange, rose crystals and yoghurt sorbet

The Nomads
70 Telok Ayer St Singapore 048458
T: +65 6977 7057
11.30am – 2.30pm, 6pm – 9.30pm daily

Food: 6.5/10
Price / value: 6.5/10
Ambience / decor: 7/10

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Coucou, Craig Road: Rare Swiss Restaurant in Singapore Serving More Than Just Rosti
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Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.

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