The Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore has quite recently unveiled a refurbished Tower Wing with a striking new lobby, rooms, Horizon Club lounge as well as the introduction of a couple new dining concepts. The long-standing Japanese restaurant, Nadaman, which has been opened since 1984, has now been removed from the property and a brand new Japanese fine-dining restaurant, NAMI, is now open on Level 24 of the Tower Wing.
NAMI is located on the top floor of the Tower Wing (this is also where the newly-refreshed Horizon Club Lounge is) and it occupies the space where BLU Bar used to sit in. After undergoing a massive refurbishment period, NAMI occupies a beautiful and contemporary space that offers an impressive view of the city as well as the surrounding lush greenery through a glass wall. The restaurant features a relatively long and narrow space and it also offers two private dining rooms with seating capacities of six and ten respectively. There is also a small alfresco area outside where diners can enjoy a more casual setting and enjoy Japanese-style tapas as well as a curated list of whiskies, Japanese craft beers and sakes.
Head Chef Shigeo Akiba who has 30 years of culinary experience under his belt, brings along with him a series of accolades which include (but not limited to) the preparation of wedding banquet for Japan’s Prince Akishinomiya and Princess Kiko as well as the extensive experience he has gotten under Iron Chef Koumei Nakamura for five years as his executive chef.
Chef Akiba is well-known for his superior dashi stock that is a culmination of his depth of experience - this is also sometimes known as the "Broth of Life". Under the direction of Chef Akiba, the dashi over at NAMI will be made using the highest quality kombu and katsuobushi that is sourced from northern Hokkaido and Kyushu respectively.
The first course of the Omakase meal was an assortment of seasonal delicacies - crab, clam and oyster. I really enjoyed the crab (on the far left) for it's natural sweetness as well as the balance between that and the zest and acidity from the citrus. Another huge standout is the Hokkaido oyster on the right - I have not been eating oysters for a while but this could have just motivated me to start eating them again.
The second course of my omakase dinner is a soup of Winter Melon Velouté with Prawns, Scallop and Yuzu Pepper - all served in a bowl fashioned out of an actual winter melon. The first thing you would probably notice is velouté which is typically associated with French and modern European cuisine (I certainly did not expect to find it here in a Japanese restaurant). I am not too sure what Chef Akiba used in the stock but I am putting my money on dashi but I am curious to know what he used as the thickening agent since I did not quite taste any butter that is traditionally found in a blond roux. What I know for sure is that the result of this is beautiful - the soup is absolutely delicious and that yuzu pepper gave the immensely satisfying flavours a good kick of zest and heat.
The third course which is probably every Singaporean's favourite course, is the Sashimi and we were served a curated selection of premium sashimi that is air flown into Singapore four times a week from Japan (some are from the famous Tsujiki Fish Market). On the side, Himalayan salt and freshly-grated wasabi is served but what is even more interesting personally for me was the wasabi leaf - both the leaf and stem are edible. While I am generally not a fan of wasabi, I ended up eating most of the wasabi from my plate here at NAMI. I also tasted some of the wasabi leaf and have found the leaf to be a lot sharper than the stem portion. I am not a sashimi connoisseur but the fatty tuna belly (potentially an otoro?) and the amaebi are both huge winners to me.
Chef Akiba has prepared a Pan-fried Tuna Head with Sweet Soy Sauce for our fourth course and this like all the other dishes that were served, was perfectly done. This boneless piece of meat is cooked in a such a flavourful sauce and the texture of the protein (in its cooked state) is somewhat like a cross between a mackerel and pufferfish. While it has been recommended for us to try it with and without the lemon, I have found the former to be slightly better as the acidity of the lemon juice (please use it sparingly, this isn't fish and chips!) to bring out certain flavours in a more pronounced manner.
The fifth course is my personal favourite and utilises thinly-sliced Wagyu beef from the famous Saga Prefecture in Japan. This is perhaps one of the most well-known 'brands' of Wagyu that is insanely famous for the remarkable marbling and flavoursome fat. As you would have expected from an A4 beef, the beef practically melts in your mouth as you eat it. Underneath it, Chef Akiba has decided to showcase some of the local produce from Kyoto and the crunch from that really complemented the texture of the prized-Wagyu beef very well. Most importantly, that dashi broth is just everything you can dream of on a rainy night!
The final course before dessert was an Assorted Seafood Chirashi Rice, Pickles and Red Miso Soup. The version over here at NAMI utilises actual sushi rice (instead of just Japanese rice) in the chirashi and the taste of mirin is slightly more pronounced here than usual. Definitely interesting but I was having food envy from people around me who were having the Saga Wagyu Beef with Truffle on rice.
NAMI is definitely the best restaurant that I have ever been to across all the Shangri-La Hotels - this exceeds even the kaiseki experience at ibuki by Takagi Kazuo in the Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei. More importantly, NAMI actually offers competitively-priced omakase dinners from just S$150++ per person (make sure you sign-up for The Table by Golden Circle before dining for more bang for your buck!). I was lucky enough to be invited down as a guest to NAMI to experience their Omakase course and I was seriously impressed by not only the quality of food but also the presentation and execution of every single dish.
This was an invited media-tasting session, though all views expressed are my own.