May 05, 2013

NamNam Noodle Bar @ Raffles City ~ A Moo-licious Pho Night for the Cow's Birthday

Just one call was all it took for the few of us to ditch our evening plans and make our way to NamNam Noodle Bar at the basement of Raffles City Shopping Centre instead, simply because it's The Hungry Cow's birthday! It was a rather impromptu gathering as the cow managed to finish all his work that evening, thus freeing himself up for a celebration. Arrangements were quickly made in a frenzy among us as the cow's Blackberry whatsapp decided to fail him on this day of all days. I shook my head in disbelief as I'm back in town after leaving office and commuting in the train for 1.5 hours. Cow, see how we he♥rt you! Got 感动 mah? :p


Brought to us by the Les Amis group, the casual NamNam Noodle Bar is the sister restaurant of the more upscale Annam Vietnamese Cuisine in Shaw Centre. While Annam features traditional home-style Vietnamese food, NamNam keeps to the core simplicity of quintessential street favourites.

Before we proceed further, let's all be good boys and girls and read this namnam-tiquette which was strategically placed in front of NamNam Noodle Bar's entrance. Follow it in orderly obedience will beget you a bowl of pho-tastic pho. Yes sir!

A warm lively atmosphere embraced me as I stepped into the casual eatery, but the closely placed tables and stools means comfort level is rather low. Though a tad squeezy, the space confinement however gave me a glimpse of how a Vietnamese street dining experience is like, where locals plonking themselves on small plastic stools and tightly packed tables to enjoy their food in front of makeshift stalls set up by food vendors along the sidewalks are not an uncommon daily sight. Having only visited some touristy restaurants and cafes during my previous working trip to Danang and Hoi An, I felt as if I've never been to Vietnam nor experienced their culture before. Would this be as close as I can get to an authentic taste in Singapore?

The menu offerings at NamNam is modest yet showcased the best of Vietnamese street cuisine. We are definitely here for the Vietnamese Pho, a rice flour noodle soup dish born in the northern city of Hanoi. Also featured are some classic noodle recipes from Southern and Central Vietnam and of course, Banh Mi, the Vietnamese local sandwich. We ticked our choices on the order chit, paid at the cashier and waited for the food to be served to us. I like it that that prices are already inclusive of GST and there's no service charge.

What caught my attention was not only the vintage looking mug which holds the order chit, but the multiple bottles of sauces on the table as well. While asking for condiments in France (the former colonial power over Vietnam) would definitely get you cold stares, adding a dash of extra flavours to better suit our individual taste buds seems to be encouraged at NamNam here. Time for some experimentalism!

I was contemplating between the Pho Wagyu Beef Slices ($16.90) and Pho Beef Steak Slices ($8.90) before deciding on the latter. My eyes ogled at the seductively pinkish beef slices the moment my bowl of pho arrived. Thinly sliced and delightfully a tad undercooked, the tender beef steak was a delicious choice! But still, I greedily wondered how the more luxurious wagyu cut would be like. Ahh I should have ordered some extra toppings which is at $2.50 per slice/serving, to try.

The beef pho soup is flavorful, sweet and tasty, yet incredibly clean and light at the same time. A squeeze of lime provided some zest, adding further depth to the broth which is boiled for over 24 hours. The flavors are very well balanced with subtle hint of herbs, aromatic yet not overwhelming. Best of all, there is no MSG! Each slurp of the soup with the thin smooth rice noodles is so enjoyable!

If you prefer beef balls to beef slices, the Pho Beef Balls ($8.90) would most probably be your perennial order I guess? For you who don't like/can't eat beef, you may be happy to know that there's always the Pho Chicken ($7.90) for you.

The Pho Beef Combination ($9.90) was the choice of the cow and BFF. The medley of moo moo goodness comprising of Beef Steak Slices, Beef Balls, Beef Shank, Tendon and Honeycomb Tripe satisfied the boys, but still, "nothing compares to the ones I had in Vietnam", said BFF, who just returned not long ago from the original land of pho. Though it may not match those found in Vietnam, BFF agreed that NamNam is one of the places where you will find a decent bowl of pho in Singapore.

Compared to our familiar tasting soupy pho, the choice of Dry Yellow Curry Duck Noodle ($8.90) would be considered as an adventurous one. The bee hoon (yes, it's bee hoon and not noodles as stated on the menu) is smothered in curry gravy and topped with slices of duck which are a tad too tough for my liking. Though the curry flavor is strongly present, the overall taste is flat and came across as rather one-dimensional.

A noodle dish from the menu representative of the Central Vietnam would be this bowl of Quang Style Egg Noodle ($10.90). Pork Rib, Prawn, Fish Cake and Rice Cracker are served over flat yellow noodles which is not unlike our local mee pok. Though generous in ingredients, the blandness of the dish did not get any vote of approval from the table. That's when the bottles of sauces came in handy and made the dish a little more palatable.

Pho may be the iconic dish of Vietnam but Banh Mi is nothing less of a shining star as well. The people of Vietnam were introduced to baguette when the country was colonised by France, and soon they added local elements like pickles and fresh cilantro to it, creating what I called, a fusion sandwich!

Banh Mi comes in a number of varieties and we opted for my favorite Caramelized 5-Spice Pork Belly ($5.90). The warm toasted baguette is light and airy with a crisp outer layer and stuffed with pork belly and pork pate. I love the pork belly which is so very well seasoned and tasty! Enhanced with mayonnaise, hot chilli peppers, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber and fresh cilantro, the sandwich was a wonderful combination of texture and flavors.

Another dish which is closely associated with Vietnam is the Fresh Southern Rolls with Sweet Shrimps, Egg & Fresh Herbs ($4.90). However I'm not a fan of rice paper rolls though it's a healthier choice and chose the Fried Prawn & Pork Roll ($4.90) instead. Very crispy without any hint of oiliness makes this appetizer worthy of the calories.

With its affordable prices and reasonable quality food, it is not hard to understand why NamNam has a perpetual queue during meal peak hours. Do check out their set meals, which is really of good value.

Breakfast Set - $5.90
  • Choice of Banh Mi + Hot Black Coffee / Classic Iced Coffee / Tea (hot/iced)
  • Available 8am-10am (Only on weekdays, excluding Public Holidays)

Lunch Set - $9.90
    • Choice of Pho Chicken or Pho Beef Steak Slices + Fresh Southern Rolls + Classic Iced Coffee / Iced Lotus Tea
    • Available 10am-3pm (Only on weekdays, excluding Public Holidays) 

      We left NamNam after dinner and adjourned to a nearby watering hole where we got cow a chocolate lava cake as his birthday cake. Quite pathetic looking though lol, but it was the only cake they had.

      (Photo Credit: PeiShan)

      It's a rather overdue post, but still... Happy Birthday, LeRoy!! Blessed always :)

      NamNam Noodle Bar

      Raffles City
      Address: 252 North Bridge Road, #B1-46/47, Raffles City Shopping Centre, Singapore 179103
      Contact: +65 63360550
      Opening Hours: 8am - 9.30pm (last order)

      Wheelock Place
      Address: 501 Orchard Road #B2-02, Wheelock Place, Singapore 238880
      Contact: +65 67351488
      Opening Hours: 8am - 9.30pm (last order)

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