Nami: Dainty set-lunches that champion the Art of Dashi

It's easy to build a killer menu from a bunch of gastronomical accessories and premium ingredients. But to build a restaurant's menu on the backbone of Japanese cuisine - dashi - is anything but derivative. Nami in Shangri-La Singapore does so with guns ablazing, and in doing so, challenges culinary boundaries of the eating out folk.

Stepping into it's glass anointed facade, peppered with just enough flowy fabrics to break it out of its hard-surfaced, modish appearance -  one's wallet will be intimidated initially. However, if lunch is on the agenda, you can stow away the defibrillator you have put on stand-by for when the bill lands.

The restaurant dishes out three different Dashi inspired executive set lunch priced at just $35++ per set. They have even thrown in seasonal appetisers, assorted tempura, chanwanmushi and ice cream to appease the bargain hunters.

Dashi is quite the peculiar subject with origins from katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), Konbu (dried kelp), Niboshi (small anchovies) and even dried shiitake mushrooms. Following that, the first dashi stock is called ichiban-dashi and the second stock is referred to as niban dashi, both with different applications when it comes to Japanese cuisine. This specificity is highlighted mostly in the Nami Special Gozen set which features a medley of small dishes dressed up to the nines. A favourite of mine with be the Chanwanmushi made using Niban Dashi topped with crabmeat - it's silky elegance and subtle fragrance nudging you towards making peace with the world.

There is also Pan-fried beef marinated with Nihan Urume(made using dried and smoked sardine) Dashi Sauce, it's slightly smoky aroma plumping up the mouthfeel. This is in the wonderful company of steamed rice with seasonal Hokkaido corn. Assorted tempura are best relished with Niban-kombu dashi dipping sauce, it's subtle sweet flavours adding a whimsical touch to the eponymous affair.

Noodle lovers will come to appreciate the choice of cold or hot udon, the Tempura Udon Gozen places a bowl of udon steeped in Saba-Niban Dashi Soup, graced with poached egg, wakame and shimeiji mushrooms. A heartier option that's best saved for rainy days.. or Mondays.

If anything, my curiosity on the subject of dashi making has been piqued. It's fascinating how such a simple stock and its various methodologies can give rise to umami inflictions in a whole array of Japanese dishes. On every last Saturday of the month, NAMI hosts an afternoon dashi appreciation class ($118 per person) which aims to explore the in-depth craft and appreciation of dashi. The insightful food journey cumulating with an exquisite four-course set lunch.

Shangri-La Hotel
22 Orange Grove Road
Level 24, Tower Wing
t: 6213 4398

Operating Hours:
Daily: 12 - 2 30pm; 6 - 10 30pm

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