SG Restaurant Review: The Nomads

SG Restaurant Review: The Nomads

Eating our way through Central Asia with it's delicious flavours, spices, exotic taste at Singapore's First Central Asia Kitchen, The Nomads

Passion is the spice to your life… without passion in your life, your life is bland. I believe food is… the way to understand how cultures evolve,” Olzhas Zhiyenkulov, co-founder of The Nomads

When we first stepped into The Nomads, located  at 70 Telok Ayer St, we were taken away by a curious closet of interesing artefacts and  items from The Silk Road and beyond.

The Nomads  is Singapore's First Central Asian Kitchen and we were curious to taste the different spices and dishes not known to many and we can honestly say , we had our senses and tastebuds consistently exploding with flavors and every course felt like an adventure,  an adventure that needed a pair of hiking boots, a fairly empty tummy as we went through the electrifying and exhilarating  17-Course Odyssey of Fire. 

Here are our top picks that we could eat countless times, over and over again, 365 days because it is that good. 

Nomad's Nan

The Nomads Nan with Hunter-Gatherer’s Butter is a traditional Kazakhstan-style bread that goes by many names such as patir or lepeshka, and symbolises the sanctity of breaking bread with friends and family . And to eat with, was a big hollowed bone filled with seaweed butter and an animal butter of the day. This was so good we urged the chef to start selling them butter in bottles and the bread by pieces for takeaway.

Lamb Samsa Cones

A local favourite typically enjoyed in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, lamb samsa is traditionally served as a baked pasty filled with meat. However, at The Nomads, they are served as Lamb Samsa Cones* filled with top quality lamb tartare of fresh Mottainai lamb short loin (considered the ‘wagyu’ of lamb)  Be prepared to be pleasently surprised by the handmade cone that is coated with coffee sugar which helps further accentuate the meat. We needed many rounds of this and could eat this over and over again without feeling tired of the taste,  definitely a good sweet and savoury combination.

Carrots in Soil

Simply said as beautifully charred heirloom carrots with an olive oil emulsion and coffee crumble however the taste got us a little perplexed to wondering if this a dessert, a healty dessert as we would put it. Lovely bits of almost chocolatey crumble lacing the sweet minature carrots, our journey was sweetened midway and we are not complaining for its surprise was a good surprise for what's to come.

Hunter’s Plov

A staple in most cultures across the Silk Road, Plov is whipped up using ingredients on-hand. Taking inspiration from the version traditionally prepared in Uzbekistan, the Hunter’s Plov is a bowl full of A4 wagyu striploin, bone marrow and Carnaroli Risotto; using similar condiments as a Samarqand-style plov: pickled heirloom carrots, tea-braised quail eggs and brandied raisins. One word: Comforting. If we had to eat only one dish at The Nomads, this would it it as it hits every flavour, every texture, it was sweet, salty, creamy and not forgetting the fatty umami from the wagyu. Speechless.

Medovik

Not your usual honey cake, this version at the Nomads which includes Honey Cake, Sour Cream Ganache,  Blood Orange, Rose Crystals and Yogurt Sorbet was just the perfect end to our 17 course meal, it was light and fruity , nothing too heavy to end our 17-course meal with absolute delight, satisfaction and knowledge about Central Asia. We couldn't have asked for more!

& Other Stories, Inspirations and More.........

With such wonderful dishes comes many questions we were curious about and being the first Central Asian Kitchen in Singapore, we had burning questions for the owners for The Nomads to understand their thought process behind The Nomads SG:

If there was only one dish that you could eat for the rest of your life from the menu, what would it be and why?

o   Olzhas Zhiyenkulov (OZ): I am torn between Beshbarmak and Sturgeon. Beshbarmak is our most traditional dish that in itself contains a lot of defining elements of our culture and history. Sturgeon from the Caspian Sea is one of the most sought-after delicacies where I come from.

o   Shawn Kishore (SK): I enjoy the Plov for its balance – crunch from chickpeas, acidity of the pickles, creaminess because it is a “risotto”, and hearty with seasonal A4 wagyu. There are so many parallels I can draw between the Plov and South Asian rice dishes that I’m familiar with too. It’s simply comforting.

How did you create the right kitchen (chef/staff) for the whole concept which is rather rare in Singapore?

o   OZ: To do that, I knew I had to expose my business partner Shawn Kishore and our Executive Chef to the most important culinary and cultural phenomena in Central Asia. We even got exclusive access to some of the top-rated kitchens across the region when we were there.

o   SK: I believe the right kitchen is an ever-evolving one that meets the demands of the industry, chefs, and diners, so we’re always keeping abreast of new kitchen technology and equipment to inject new life to what we can serve up.

How long did it take from start to launch for The Nomads and what was the toughest thing you had to deal with when starting The Nomads?

o   OZ: Including the design stage, it took us a year. Considering this is my first F&B venture, I had lots of doubts, but Shawn helped me to understand and see through them.

o   SK: We launched right before COVID-19 hit, so surviving the pandemic as an experiential dining establishment was a huge challenge. Thanks to government support and the team’s resilience and readiness to pivot, The Nomads was able to capture the food delivery market share during the lockdown.

Can we expect any exciting new concepts coming up?

o   Kafe Samsa is about to spruce up its wine list to include Central Asian offerings from the fertile soils of Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Morocco. A new food menu will be launched too in June.

o   OZ: We also have a number of ideas that are equally unique and disruptive as The Nomads, for example, The Silk Road Bar & Grill. The mission behind Silk Road Concepts for me is to share the heart and soul of my old home with Singapore, my new home, through a common language – food. As long as the situation with COVID becomes more manageable and can raise the necessary funding, we will continue to do so via new dishes and new concepts.

Now, the hands behind the dishes, the brains behind the flavours, we had to find out about Nurul Ain Malek, head chef and what goes behind those kitchen aisle and to understand the birth of all the wonderful dishes.

Having played a key role in helping European-British restaurant JAAN earn its first Michelin star back in 2016, Nurul has six proud years of experience in the kitchen with the industry's most outstanding. After working with JAAN and Burnt Ends to name a few establishments, she now heads Singapore's first dedicated Central Asian dining spot The Nomads, kindling curiosity and passion around flavours and ingredients of the region with smoke and fire. Nurul's diverse and rigorous training in different restaurants shines through her menus and presentation and enriches The Nomads experience.

How long did it take to create the menu and what was the thought process like?

o   Countless tastings took place over three to four months, during which we would gather feedback from our Kazakh co-founder and local co-founder, our trusted gourmand friends, the restaurant team, and many more creative minds working with us. It was all an ongoing process of balancing the injection of local elements with the original Central Asian inspiration while discovering new insights about each work-in-progress dish. I’m glad to report that we successfully executed the playful idea of putting much adored kaya in kueh pie tee shells in Caviar and Kaya, for example. It is in such dishes that local diners are able to find the familiar in the foreign, which helps to gently open their minds to new ingredients and combinations.

What was the hardest and easiest part when creating the menu?

o   A key hurdle which continues to stay at the fore when the team creates dishes for diners in this part of the world is finding ways to ease locals into Central Asia’s vastly different food culture – including aggressive grilling and roasting techniques, and their bold ingredients and styles of presentation. With our strong command of the local palate and preferences, the team has to constantly manage diners’ expectations while delivering an experience informed by the Central Asian sense of adventure. The foie gras dish, Foie in Ash, for instance, underwent a few iterations before the current rendition – a tart berry component was required and after toying with the forms of grilled and fresh fruit, we finally arrived at a complex cherry gastrique for its luscious, almost velvety mouthfeel.

o   Another challenge is the reality of being neither Central Asian nor having grown up there. As much as we are guided by our Kazakh co-founder and his network hailing from Central Asia, The Nomads takes advantage of the new grounds where we now tread and set precedents as we thoughtfully interpret cuisines from a region far flung.

If there was only one dish that you could eat for the rest of your life from the menu, what would it be and why?

o   The Nan and butters have my heart – it’s quite the no-brainer for a lover of carbs, especially warm, fluffy bread that’s tasty on its own. Paired with the Hunter-Gatherer’s Butter, the humble bread is instantly elevated and the struggle to consume it in moderation is real.

What is your favourite local Singaporean dish and if you could fusion central Asian and Singaporean dishes – what would your dish be?

o   My favourite local dish is the astounding laksa loved by all the world over.

What is your favourite comfort food that you go to after a long day at work?

o   Plain steamed rice (nasi kukus), two fried eggs, and sambal belacan. A guilty pleasure of mine that works as an equally gratifying alternative is the Korean Nong Shim instant noodles with two fried eggs. It’s not often that I indulge in supper post-work though as I try not to sleep with a full stomach.

We can honestly say we are definitely booking our next trip to the Nomads and bringing everyone we love to experience this unique and exciting journey across Central Asia.

When asked what was the overall takeaway that the owners wanted diners to feel, they summed our entire experience with exact sentiments which is a sense of adventure is of essence at The Nomads.  "We want to open the heart and mind of each diner to the refreshing culinary offerings of Central Asia, and in turn an exciting glimpse into the cultures that inform cuisines. A modern reimagination of nomadic ingredients and foods along the Silk Road is what diners will enjoy; they leave better able to relate to the nomadic lifestyle – the nomads’ relationship to fire and smoke, their dependence on produce found in close proximity, and the camaraderie amidst" 

They couldn't say it better for it is as accurate that we had our hearts and minds open and they stay open, stay hungry, and stay curious till our next delicious expedition at The Nomads.

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