Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NUR - More Than Bearable Lightness of Being

Oyster - NUR Feast menu, June 2014
(Sorry about the punny title. I couldn't help it... #notsorry)

This is going to be another one of those posts with photos collated from several meals at NUR, which I currently have a restaurant crush on.

NUR is completely different to anything that's available in HK. It's not solely "organic" for the sake of it, and although often touted as "new Nordic", it's not a wholesale import, or carbon copy (thank goodness) of nouveau Scandinavian/Noma-esque cuisine.

Indeed, in many ways it follows the "new Nordic" principles - as much local sourcing as possible, sustainable sources, the inclusion of foraged or forgotten plants, a light, subtle touch when it comes cooking, but because of this, it is quite thoroughly Hong Kongese too, but in a completely different way - no kitschy "Asian touches", just local ingredients reimagined.

Salmon - Feast menu, Nov 2014
Before NUR officially opened, I got the chance to meet with the chef behind NUR, Nurdin Topham, for an article I then wrote for SCMP. Even before meeting him, I'd been stalking various Instagram accounts for peeks into their development kitchen, countryside foraging trips and so on, and when I met him, he was even more passionate than I had imagined. One of the most telling things was, I thought, his use of the word "cultivar" repeatedly in our conversation, and the fact that its importance was drilled into him by Raymond Blanc, with whom Nurdin worked for many years.

Tomato - Feast menu, Nov 2014
Since day one, the seats had been hard to book, and often I would try to drag friends and family there for all our special occasions. The space is beautiful, with its own herb garden and terrace, and yes, rather Scandi. The size of the (open) kitchen is astounding - that proportion of square-footage is hardly ever seen in this city, where rents dictate all.

30+ ingredient salad - Light menu, Apr 2014
The food has always been satisfying, yet light. Amazingly, despite the long degustation menus (only 2 menus are available, one longer than the other, $788 and $988 respectively as of this moment*), I've never once come out feeling sickly full. I mean, I actually felt like I had a spring in my step. From the summer period, I particularly liked the ever-so lightly poached oyster with wasabi foam.

Maitake - Feast menu, Nov 2014
In the new menu, the "equivalent" of the oyster seemed to be "salmon" - ikura with grated horseradish - similar salty oceanic flavours punctuated by nose-clearing (hehe!) mustard. Launched this month (November - the plan, I was told, is to change it up monthly), the menu wasn't as light as the previous ones, but then again, it's now winter, and despite the temperature not telling us so, the seasons have indeed changed. Hong Kong is in its happy growing period once again (nothing much grows in summer here, except gourds). The menu features heavier dishes, like squid and pigeon, and leaves you feeling satisfied, although in a less spring-in-my-step kind of way.

Squid - Feast menu, Nov 2014
I loved the playful meat-like presentation of the maitake, although it was too buttery for me (can't believe I'm saying this). The mackerel had a divine pillowy texture, and its delicate, slightly metallic flavour (which I love) tempered by the gentle cooking and well paired with the slightly herbal, faintly bitter herbs.

Pigeon - Feast menu, Nov 2014
The main meat course was pigeon, surprisingly from Guangdong (as opposed to, say, French, which is the norm in fine dining restaurants in Hong Kong). When we eat Cantonese pigeons in Hong Kong, they're usually at barbecue shops or Chinese restaurants, either roasted or poached and marinated in Shaoxing wine (ie. "drunken"), and in these situations, they're invariably cooked to well done. The meat is always grey and a bit stringy. I had no idea they could be so juicy until I had this one at NUR, which was aged in-house for 5 days before being cooked to medium-rare. I've had a lot of medium/med-rare tough pigeon in non-Chinese restaurants too, but this cut like tenderloin (but so much more flavour!)

Blossom (not dessert, this was the pre/cleanser), Feast menu, Nov 2014
Dessert on this (Nov) menu was fun but not for me - iced onion cream, pickled onions, milk crisp. I'm very sensitive to onions that aren't fully caramelised, and having that intensity in a delicate cream was  a little too overwhelming.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm definitely going back to NUR. This was just the first couple of nights of the new menu. The constant tweaking and hyper-seasonal changes are really exciting - something that the restaurant fully embraces through its open-to-public "development kitchen" dinners held every so often. NUR is to me, by far, one of the most interesting openings of the year in Hong Kong. We need more young minds doing things a little left field in this industry, or heck, in this city, full stop.

*With even the most mediocre, uninspired degustations in Hong Kong running upwards of $1000, actually more like $1500, I'd give my money to NUR any day.

NUR [map]
3/F, 1 Lyndhurst Terrace
Hong Kong
+852 2871 9993
Dinner Mon-Sat


  1. I am so unoriginal that I use puny titles ALL THE TIME