When it comes to modern Korean fine dining restaurant in Singapore, NAE:UM is that one dining establishment that would surface again and again among conversations.
Known for its modern Korean cuisine, NAE:UM has received 1 Michelin star and also a spot in Asia’s Top 100 Restaurants (debuted at No 83).
This makes this Telok Ayer restaurant a must-visit for foodies and those looking for a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
Reservation must be done months early, and you can imagine converted spot is hard to get. So patience and early blocking out of time is needed.
(Just in case you are wondering: I don’t get any privileges when it comes to restaurant reservations as I do it just like other customers. Don’t think Chef Han recognised me anyway 하하하.)
I tried NAE:UM twice – during the earlier days for Episode 1, and now Episode 5.
The restaurant’s name NAE:UM actually means fragrance that evokes memories, and is apt as each menu which change seasonally is episodic and tells a different food story.
Chef Louis Han, who hails from Korea, is the mastermind behind the menu and draws inspiration from his experiences and travels.
Based on traditional Korean cuisine, he incorporates modern techniques and ingredients to create innovative dishes that are also beautifully presented.
Upon entering the restaurant, guests are greeted by a chic and minimalist interior, with muted earthy tones of creating a calming atmosphere.
The restaurant is considered on the smaller side, seating only 20 plus diners at a time, ensuring an intimate and exclusive experience.
There are two options for the menu – “Classic” and “Signature”. The “Classic” menu is priced at $198, while the “Signature” menu is priced at $258.
Diners can also choose from a wine pairing option priced at $168 (half at $98) or a non-alcoholic pairing priced at $98.
I had the pleasure of trying Episode 5 (thanks to a friend who helped book), which has a Korean house front yard barbecue meal theme and will be available until the end of summer 2023.
Previously, I had tried Episode 1, and I could see and taste the culinary tea’s progression from the plating to the balance of flavours.
The more delicate presentation indeed showed the maturity over the years.
As the menu constantly evolves, I thought of focusing more of the signature and standout items.
The Duckgalbi with a tongue-in-cheek name was grilled minced duck ball skewer on perilla leaf was stuffed with rice cake in the middle and glazed with special sauce, then topped with puff rice.
It was recommended to wrap it all up in the leaf, then take it all in one mouthful to appreciate all the textures going on together.
How the team was able to keep the rice cake soft and chewy in the middle, indeed demonstrated the technical competence they had.
The Somyeon was another refreshing dish, featuring house-made buckwheat noodles layered with white kimchi as base, topped with pork belly and pickled cucumbers.
It was recommended to mix the noodles first and then eat with the kurobuta pork.
The Doeji-Galbi Bap or Pork Rib Rice was the highlight for many of us, a hearty dish made with Duroc pork that had been braised overnight in the oven.
The meats sat atop three different grains – barley, short white rice, and brown rice.
It is seldom we describe a rice dish as pretty, but this was and much more than that.
The Hotteok dessert with jujube ice cream with the juxtaposition of hot and cold was an apt way to end the meal.
The service at NAE:UM was great, with knowledgeable and attentive staff on hand to guide diner through the menu and offer recommendations.
The main downside to the dining experience was a group table of customers who were too noisy, especially after drinking, which interrupted the dining pleasure of the rest of the restaurant.
As the space was small and echoey, it made it hard to have proper conversions and listen to the service staff describe the dishes. However, this was not the fault of the restaurant but rather the behaviour of some customers.
The modern Korean cuisine, exceptional service, and intimate setting make NAE:UM a true gem in Singapore’s dining scene.
161 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068615
Opening Hours: 6pm – 10:30pm (Tues – Fri), 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 10:30pm (Sat), Closed Sun, Mon