Is there anything more gluttonous and excessive than a degustation menu? Course after course of rich, heavy-handed food in a menu that's often drizzled with words like butter, bone marrow and pork belly... So it's a strange feeling to walk out of a place like NUR and not feel like I've run out of notches on my belt (to loosen mind you), having eaten through nine courses of its tasting menu.
A pleasant breeze wafts in from the gorgeous third-floor balcony overlooking Lyndhurst Terrace and Wellington Street, as the doors into the dining room are swung open. But as my dining partner discovered, this could become tricky as summer rolls in, mosquitoes and all.
Alaskan King Crab from NUR Restaurant
Just like its cuisine, NUR’s decor is not painfully pretentious or exuding extravagance. Perhaps founder and executive chef Nurdin Topham’s time at the Nordic Food Lab (run by four-time best restaurant in the world winner Noma) has translated to its fit-out, which is undeniably Scandinavian.
As for the food, the DNA of the restaurant has always been to ‘’connect the dots'' between nutrition and gastronomy. Basically, how to eat a “light’’ degustation without rolling out the door afterwards.
Prepare to get your hands dirty as a quartet of snacks arrive first. There’s a beetroot taco with watercress emulsion, barley cracker with pickle cordycep mushrooms, mushroom butter and organic mushrooms from Zen Organic Farm, slow-cooked carrots, and nashi pear and cucumber pickled in jasmine kombucha. All tasty and quickly gobbled.
Keeping with the eating-with-hands theme, the Romaine course (with sardine, pistachio and mint) follows. It is basically a tiny lettuce sandwich and I challenge you to find a crunchier piece of lettuce. It’s very good, light and I’m wanting more.
However, a couple dishes fall just short. The BBQ’d Beef (aged ‘’Mayura’’ bavette, black garlic, hen of the woods) held so much promise, but the beef was slightly chewy and overcooked past medium rare. The King Crab (with fermented radish, apple and nasturtium) seemed confused, with a mish-mash of salty and sweet flavours that undermined the gorgeous crab.
But there’s also some absolute knockout dishes. The Golden Egg (taiyouran egg, peas, lovage, rocket) will sweep you off your feet. One for the #eggporn lovers, the Japanese egg is cooked perfectly with turmeric to bring the wonderful ooze onto the plate.
The Hamachi (with hass avocado, grilled pepper juice and kimchi) accentuates the freshness of the fish, and the flavours are brought to life by the red pepper and creamy avocado. The standout dish of the evening.
The restaurant lost its Michelin star last year, which came as a shock to Topham (and to us). "[The star] was something we had never considered when we opened … but it was certainly a shock not to be included in the book,’’ he said.
NUR is pushing the envelope in its own special way. Here, vegetables are not the supporting actors. Instead they are pushed to the forefront, and Topham's philosophy shines loud and true with each course. The service is prompt, warm and delightfully hospitable.
There’s a huge focus on trying to source as much local produce as possible. Whether it’s the different herbs from its patio garden used in various courses, to produce from farms in the New Territories. There’s no gimmicks at NUR - it’s innovation and commitment to its brief makes the trip worthwhile in itself.
The British chef is currently traveling through Asia searching for new inspiration and research for an upcoming paper for the Basque Culinary Institute. Follow his travels at #NURonTour and on @ntopham and @nurhongkong. He’s set for stops in Japan, Vietnam, the UK and back to Denmark’s Nordic Food Lab.
The 9-course tasting menu costs $1188 per person.
3/F, Lyndhurst Tower, Lyndhurst Terrace, Central
+852 2871 9993
Written by Kevin Cheng