NamNam is a chain of Vietnamese eateries, most of which are conveniently nestled next to escalators in busy department stores. As such, every outlet is surrounded by a whirlwind of pedestrian traffic moving both laterally and vertically. The Plaza Singapura branch is an eatery that I felt like I knew before I even knew it (if you know what I mean). The management appear to have mastered the art of subliminal awareness, something which I think is very clever indeed.
Perhaps such locational savviness is to be expected, as Nam2 is nestled within the Les Amis Group’s pantheon of brands. It is, accordingly, a pretty slick operation. Nearly everything – from the decor, to the website, to the pricing – is about right. The flooring deserves a special mention: geometric blue and white squares that are nicely worn and dizzyingly retro-cool. The one thing letting it down is the inefficient seating and payment system – whilst you are meant to queue separately for each, most people don’t. What follows? Confusion.
Nam2’s self-proclaimed “Pho-Losophy” is to serve MSG-free Vietnamese street food quickly, and at an affordable price. The menu spans a range of banh mi’s (Vietnamese-style baguettes), pho’s (rice flour noodles in broth), other noodle and side dishes, and desserts. Desserts aside, there are precisely two savoury vegetarian options on the menu: a vegetarian banh mi and fried vegetarian rolls. Pathetic. Nonetheless, the banh mi sounded enticing enough for me to rise above such blatant veggie-snubbing and politely join the lunchtime queue. An exemplar of grace and good manners, what!
NamNam Noodle Bar
68 Orchard Road, #01-55 Plaza Singapura
Open 10:00-21:30 daily
The rolls themselves were rather run-of-the-mill (containing radish, carrot, and glass noodles), although it should be noted that the oiliness was minimal, and they were served on a very cool sheet of greased paper that was printed with a Vietnamese streetscape. Nice touch. The dipping sauce was good – the chilli, garlic and citrusy (lemon and lime) notes really helped to transform the taste into something from the streets of Saigon.
These baguettes are often sold from roadside carts in Vietnam, and are one of the more enduring (and positive) legacies of the French occupation. My banh (“bread”) mi (“wheat”) was served warm, and densely packed with lemongrass tofu (although the lemongrass was non-existent), omelette, fresh and crunchy ‘erbs and vegetables (coriander, red chilli, cucumber, radish) and glass noodles. Whilst the bread was quite dry, the vinaigrette used to season the vegetables was refreshingly sour, and another sauce added a deliciously smokey flavour. Overall it was very tasty and well-priced, although the flavours weren’t definitively ‘Nam-esque.
Served well-chilled, the vanilla pudding looked incredible. The first few bites were rich and creamy and full of character. The texture was very solid and robust, to the point that it reminded me a little of nougat. Vanilla seeds were strewn liberally throughout the pudding, but it would have benefitted from having a little more caramel sauce. Whilst i’m happy to turn a blind eye, the more staunch vegetarians out there might want to give this a miss, as the use of gelatin was quite apparent.
Nam2 offers an infuriatingly small selection of vegetarian dishes that are, nonetheless, quite delicious and very good value. It is very well-conceptualised and quite well-executed. I like this place; I only wish I had a few more reasons to return.