Last Updated: February 19, 2020
One of the many things I appreciate about Singapore’s food culture has to be how incredibly diverse it is. Our melting pot of cultures has given us the privilege to tear into a crispy round of roti prata simultaneously slurping into a spicy, tangy bowl of mee pok.
The choices are endless; whether you want Japanese today or Cantonese tomorrow, there’s a restaurant around the corner to suit your fancy. Well, if all these options are feeling a little boring, The Nomads along Telok Ayer Street is sure to take your tastebuds for a spin.
Just like the myriad of cultures that influence our rich food heritage, The Nomads takes inspiration from The Silk Road and the many countries along this ancient trade route.
A little historical tidbit about The Silk Road, this extensive and lucrative trade route connected the East and West starting from China and ending in the Mediterranean. You can just imagine the rich confluence of cultures and ideas that happened on this ancient route—a little like Singapore if you will.
The Nomads takes a cue from this mingling of cultures as well as paying homage to their sojourn to Kazakhstan. So, expect a unique reimagination of Central Asian cuisine delivered with ingenious, modern little twists.
The Nomads sits behind Bee’s Island Bakery, a tropical hole-in-the-wall juice bar by day and cocktail bar by night. A cheery pop-up for you to imbibe before dinner at The Nomads.
The interior of The Nomads is sleek and intimate, with natural elements of wood, stone and greenery to represent the nomadic lifestyle. What really steals the show has to be the custom-built grill pit in the centre where most of the action happens.
A glistening, dark concrete countertop dominates the space, accented by black and gold elements to really complete the contemporary and modern look.
Not to mention, you’ll spot intricate ornaments sourced from Kazakhstan for a touch of heritage. With all the thoughtfulness that has gone into the conception of the restaurant, I was intrigued and excited to see what The Nomads had to offer.
The Nomads has a total of three tasting menus, A Trail Ablaze (S$98), an 11-course introduction that would be great for first-timers. Or, if you are feeling like you want to splurge a little The Odyssey of Fire (S$148) is a 17-course that features a wide range of signatures and seasonal must-try items.
Now, if you really want a gastronomical experience then, the Nirvana Omakase ($188) with 22-courses will ensure you reach a state of utter foodie bliss. Plus, if you just want to dip your toes and not commit to a full course meal at The Nomads, there are a la carte menus at your disposal.
Just like Goldilocks, we’ll settle right in the middle for The Odyssey of Fire. Also, as much as I would like wax lyrical about each course, I’ll leave some for you to experience yourself but here are the highlights from my time at The Nomads.
Before we began the meal proper, as per tradition in Kazakstan, we toasted each other including the chefs as a sign of hospitality that Kazakstan takes pride in. We started with a whole slew of small bites to whet our appetites. Each item is served personally by the chef and each element on the plate is carefully explained to further add to your dining experience.
One of the notable appetisers had to be the Lamb Samsa Cones. Two delicate and pocket-sized Feuille de Brick cones filled with lamb tartare sitting on a bed on spices you’ll commonly find in Kazahstan cooking. Already winning on the presentation front, I picked up this dainty little number and popped the whole thing into my mouth.
Now, you might be a little squeamish about lamb tartare and its reputation for being a little pungent but this is not just any lamb. These are made with Mottainai lamb short loin, or better known as the wagyu of lamb. The lamb tasted light, clean and even a little sweet—no gaminess here.
The Feullie de Brick cone provided good textural contrast to the lamb and the coffee along the edges accentuated the flavour of lamb even more. A perfect mouthful if I do say so myself.
Perhaps one of the most raved-about item during my meal has to be the Nomads Nan with Hunter-Gatherer’s Butter. A secret recipe of The Nomads, this traditional Kazakhstan-style bread is fermented overnight with yoghurt for a more intense flavour.
Served warm and with a brush of lemon, this was definitely different from any bread I’ve tried before.
Never one to say no to bread, I tore into this loaf with gusto. Though soft and aromatic, the bread also had a wonderfully hearty texture. Slightly herby and good enough to eat on its own, you’ll have to practice self-control and not wolf it down in one go.
It’s even harder when to stop at one piece with this thing of beauty on the side. Served in a hollowed-out bone, you have a combination of seasonal dips to go with the bread.
On one end, you have the foie gras butter and on the other, a seaweed butter.
I suggest slathering your bread with a heavy dollop of each to get a sense of what you like. The foie gras butter was light-as-air, with that distinctive fatty and rich quality that foie gras is known for. Skillfully balanced, such that the butter doesn’t ever feel cloying or unctuous.
As for seaweed butter, what can I say? We’ll start with ‘absolutely divine’. The moment the butter hits your tongue, you get a whiff of that concentrated seaweed flavour, and it’s savoury to boot.
With the same whipped texture of the foie gras butter and chock-full of umami, I dare say it can even rival the famous Bordier Butter.
As we move on to the vegetable section of the menu, the Carrots in Soil caught my attention for sure. This one featured charred heirloom carrots and covered with a coffee crumble soil with a carraway olive oil emulsion.
I have to give props for the presentation for sure. Carrots are an often-overlooked root vegetable, and I liked how The Nomads brought it front and centre.
With a good bite and wonderfully charred, these moreish carrot sticks were both sweet and smoky. I would gladly have carrots like this all the time.
The Salat caught my attention for sure. A cornucopia on your plate, there was a mixture of bright verdant seasonal greens, juicy cubes of grilled pears with a handful of candied walnuts before being drizzled with anchovy sauce.
Light and crisp on my palate, this was a pleasant change from richer, heavier starters. The frozen raspberry pieces was a nice play on temperature while the candied walnuts provided a sugary crunch to each bite. Savoury but tempered with the tartness of raspberries and sweetness of the pears, The Nomads sure knows how to keep you on your toes.
As someone who holds seafood in pretty high regard, I couldn’t wait for the seafood section of course. The Nomads share my sentiments as well. Seafood is a precious commodity in Kazakhstan, and The Nomads give them the royal treatment.
Here, we have the Squid Laghman. Traditionally, a native noodle dish from Xinjiang Uyghur.
Instead of noodles, Executive Chef Dannel Krishnan of The Nomads has opted for slippery strands of lightly grilled squid. With added cubes of capsicums and pine nuts, these translucent ribbons tasted both familiar and new at the same time. Reminiscent of our lamian (hence the name) but a more modern and lighter rendition. I slurped each strand up in no time.
A treat for our adventurous eaters out there, the Sturgeon is sure to satisfy all curiosities. We are familiar with briny caviar pearls that come from this ancient fish but it turns out that you can enjoy the rest of the fish too.
The fish was mild-tasting and had a firm texture, the creamy soy butter emulsion complemented the fish while the grains provided a good contrast. An interesting dish that left an impression on me for sure.
The Beshbarmak is one that perfectly encapsulates the vision of The Nomads.
Kazakhstan’s national dish but given the signature Nomads makeover. For this one, you have a chunky 72-degree wagyu beef cheek basking in a savoury tea spice broth and soubise surrounded by a fortress of papery potato sheets.
Even though this was given a facelift, the Beshbarmak was still comforting and warm. Tender and soft, the beef cheek melted in my mouth and was truly the pièce de résistance of this one. Simple and to the point, this truly hit the spot.
Expected Damage: S$40 – S$148 per pax
Price: $ $ $
Our Rating: 4 / 5
70 Telok Ayer Street, #01-01, Singapore 048462
70 Telok Ayer Street, #01-01, Singapore 048462