[SG] NamNam Noodle Bar @ Wheelock Place

Friday, May 31, 2013

We have always wanted to give NamNam a shot but whenever we walked past, the queue was quite a deterrent to say the least. That being said, there must be a reason why we never fail to spot a queue outside this humble looking eatery located at Basement 2 of Wheelock Place and we were determined to find out why on this occasion! With an open concept with no partition as a former restaurant, it set a relaxed and casual ambiance. In fact, for some reason, we thought it was located within ION Orchard for we walked over unknowingly. We tried to beat the lunch crowd but still ended in a short 10 minutes queue, which seemed reasonable and acceptable.

It was sensible for the management to actually put up the below billboard at the entrance of the eatery to give diners clear instructions on order placing - NAMNAM-TIQUETTE indeed!

Order Chit

Value Set Lunch (S$9.90)
Wanting a quick lunch, I settled for the set lunch, which had just two options, either the pho chicken or beef as main with a freshly made Southern shrimp roll and an iced beverage. The drinks option was limited to classic iced coffee with condensed milk or iced lotus tea.

Fresh Southern rolls with sweet shrimps, egg, and fresh herbs

There is a stark difference between the Vietnamese spring rolls with the 'Northern' style typically being deep-fried flour rolls while the 'Southern' version is a healthier rendition. The sweet shrimp was thinly sliced into half, so you are actually served just a prawn despite offering two rolls. The rice-paper roll wrapping the generous serving of rice vermicelli, fish cake, dried beancurd skin and herbs felt slightly stiff, thick and rubbery. We actually struggled a little with trying to tear off a portion for a mouthful. On its own, the spring roll was rather bland for the plain rice vermicelli formed the bulk of the filling, which pretty much nullified the flavours from the complementing ingredients. It was disappointing for we had expected a much better offering from an eatery that prides itself for offering Vietnamese local delights. That being said, they had a beautiful 'special homemade sauce' - according to the serving staff.

This brown sauce had a blend of a few condiments but peanut and 'hoi sin' sauce came out as the prevailing tastes that lingered at the back of our taste buds. The generous mixture of crispy fried shallots and crunchy peanut bits gave good complementing texture to the spring roll. The sauce, standalone, had the 'hoi sin' sauce being the dominating flavour, which might be a tad too strong for some.

Verdict: 6.0/10

Pho beef steak slices

We were quite surprised to find about 10 beef steak slices, albeit finely sliced, in this generous bowl. If you prefer your beef on the raw side, either tuck in real quick upon being served your noodles or fish them out onto a side plate like we did. The beef slices came in 'heaps' with about 3 slices per 'heap', so expect to peel each slice off yourself for each mouthful.

The savoury tasting broth was well-seasoned and tasty, perhaps a touch too strong for our palate, which left us scurrying for water to wash it down. According to what was stated on the menu, the intense broth was a result of over 24 hours of boiling. There was a good tang from the wedge of fresh lime, but it seemed too mild to provide a refreshing after-taste. While some of the beef steak slices were slightly overcooked, that could be owed to us spending some time on photo-taking before digging in! For the semi-cooked beef slices, they tasted smooth and 'okay'.

The rice noodles or pho were cooked al dente and that helped to salvage the dish. Overall, the portions of noodles and protein were generous, which certainly fit the bill for being value for money.

Verdict: 7.0/10

Pork Meatballs, Pork Pate Banh Mi (S$5.90/-)

The well toasted baguette came stuffed with tender and succulent pork meatballs and pate, with enhanced flavours from mayonnaise, hot chilli peppers, pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber and fresh cilantro. The meatballs were delicate and moist on the inside while the pate had good full flavours without damping the baguette nor did it cause any sogginess. The overall feeling was very clean, healthy and fresh. The heat from the chilli peppers cut through the meaty flavours with a solid punch and awakened our taste buds much. We felt that the portion was pretty large, definitely more than what the classic '6 inch sub' at Subway would offer.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Complementing sauces

An array of different sauces were provided at the benches for sharing among the diners.

Classic Iced Coffee

The drinks were among the last to arrive but while making the payment at the cashier, he gave a pre-empt notice which I felt was considerate and appropriate. The iced coffee was part of the value set lunch and it was one of the better coffees. Do note that the typical orders came with condensed milk but I changed it for a plain black coffee. It was dark, intense, full-bodied, and had the right amount of acidity that would suit those with sensitive stomachs. Despite the load of ice cubes, the coffee stayed dense and in no way diluted, leaving that much desired beautiful after taste at the back of your throat. Slurp!

Verdict: 8.5/10

Fresh young coconut (S$5.90/-)

It was after payment did I realize that the coconut was priced equally as the baguette, which left us slightly bewildered. It seemed slightly overpriced according to the rest of the items on the menu. Nonetheless, it was everything we wanted in a good coconut drink. The coconut flesh was tender and could be scooped off the inside of the husk with great ease and the drink was sweet and refreshing, just the perfect beverage for a hot afternoon!

Verdict: 8.5/10

The kitchen, like the eatery, was open concept as well allowing diners an exposed view to food preparation.

Admittedly, not all the dishes were fantastic but we would definitely return for the banh hi (baguette) and the coffee most probably as takeaway orders. Be prepared to cramp together with adjacent diners, shoulder-width apart, if you are looking to dine in. On the plus side, the prices of the dishes were affordable, value for money and catered for the mass market, especially at this corner of Orchard Road.

NamNam Noodle Bar
501 Orchard Road
Wheelock Place,
Singapore 238880
Tel: 6735 1488

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