| COPENHAGEN, Sept 2
COPENHAGEN, Sept 2 Claus Meyer, co-founder of
Denmark's famous Noma restaurant, became a star chef by using
local and seasonal Nordic produce. His new Copenhagen restaurant
Nam Nam turns that concept on its head with street food from
Nam Nam samples the cuisines of the different ethnic
communities that live in Singapore - Chinese, Malay and Indian -
and its menu reads like a selection from a food court in the
city-state: roti prata pancakes, laksa soup, beef rendang stew,
char siu barbecued pork and chili crab.
Taking the classics of the Chinese-Malaysian "Peranakan"
kitchen to a fine-dining level, everything is cooked and
presented with that mix of simplicity and sophistication that
made a name for Noma. The food is not greasy, like it can be in
some Singapore food stalls, and the spices give flavour but do
not burn the tongue.
Nam Nam uses local vegetables from Meyer's gardens and
Danish free-range pork, but it imports all the key ingredients
like sambal sauces, chilis and pandan leaves from Asia.
Meyer does not care if that seems to contradict the
all-local, all-seasonal philosophy behind Noma, which has been
voted world's best restaurant in the S. Pellegrino and Acqua
Panna list in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
"When people said that the Noma guy says you can't eat
lemons or kiwis, because they are not Nordic, it hurts my
heart," Meyer told Reuters.
He said Nam Nam is a statement about his love for ethnic
food, but most of all it was his way of helping his
Danish-Singaporean friends and business partners Michael and Tin
Pang Larsen, who had to close their restaurant a few years ago.
"I have had some of the best moments in my culinary life at
their table, and it would be unjust if this food were not
accessible anymore," he said.
With a new location in central Copenhagen, sleek interior
design and, most of all, the Meyer brand that is a magnet for
foodies world-wide, one-year old Nam Nam is thriving. Night
after night, it packs in a hip Danish crowd as well as some of
Copenhagen's many culinary tourists.
Anyone on a tour of Copenhagen restaurants would find it
difficult not to leave some money in the pockets of Meyer, a
serial entrepreneur who co-owns three restaurants and three
delis, and runs a corporate canteen that delivers lunches for
14,000 people every day.
This month he opens a new restaurant with a cooking school
outside Copenhagen and in October he will open a jazz club with
three restaurants across the harbour from Noma.
Meyer says that while he is a very good cook, many chefs are
better than him, and his strength is that of an entrepreneur,
who creates and judges flavour, as he does at Nam Nam.
"I never challenge the sambals, but I do make suggestions on
how to cook the meat and which dishes to serve," he said.
Singapore food stall owner Wee Liang Lian, in Copenhagen as
part of a Singapore street food festival organised by Meyer,
said one cannot compare the Nam Nam cuisine with the Singapore
original, but he's found the East-West fusion very appealing.
"We applaud Nam Nam for adapting the traditional way and
putting a new twist on it," he said.
"Street food" is a bit of a misnomer for Nam Nam, as
Singapore's popular food is not served by the roadside, like in
Thailand, Indonesia and other Southeast Asian nations, but in
open-air, covered "food courts" where each stall serves one
Prices too are on a higher level. A food-court meal in
Singapore will set you back just a few dollars. At Nam Nam, we
paid 766 Danish crowns ($140) for three, including drinks, but
it was the highlight in a week of trying out some of
Copenhagen's best restaurants, including "Manfreds", "Kodbyens
Fiskebar" and Meyer's own "Radio", run by former Noma cooks.
Some of the Nam Nam food is distinctly un-Singaporean, like
the goat cheese roti prata, and the creamy yoghurt dip, which
nicely cools some of the spicier dishes.
The most incongruous item on the menu hides among the
desserts: macarons. Not Danish and certainly not Singaporean,
but they were as fluffy and delicate as any found at French
luxury baker Laduree in Paris.
($1 = 5.5649 Danish crowns)