In a world so divisive, Ivan Brehm wants us to explore our interconnectedness through Crossroads Thinking, his new menu that explores the links between food cultures.
Why are we the way we are? That’s what Brehm wants you to ask at his one-Michelin-starred restaurant Nouri. His new culinary approach is a thoughtful exploration of the intersections between food cultures. To celebrate the restaurant’s fifth anniversary, chef-owner Brehm has refined his interdisciplinary philosophy of Crossroads Thinking with a new menu anchored on storytelling and research.
Dining at Nouri is not just an experience. It’s an education, particularly for those new to the restaurant. It begins from the waiting area, where we wait with our aperitifs. A hand-washing ritual, involving a Song Dynasty vase, commences before the meal. Ablution is a common food tradition across the world, and it’s here that we are introduced to the rites and ceremonies that meet in Crossroads Thinking.
The nine-course menu features star mains that succinctly showcase chef Ivan’s ethos. Every course is a chance to learn.
There are the snacks served as dips, shots and single bites, recalling pre-meal rituals of mezze platters, Italian antipasti and Chinese xiao chai. The broth – a long time signature of the restaurant – is served alongside silken cheese; a nod to paneer, silken tofu and posset. A tomato, is treated with calcium oxide (a firming agent used across the world and for thousands of years), is filled with a fragrant meat jus. Shanklish is an old Levantine or Arab cheese, wrapped around a herb paste of Georgian origin called pkhali. Each of the snacks are served in a variety of purposeful crockery; handmade, hand-hammered or in pieces meant to be linked together.
Brehm and his team have clearly done the work, deep diving into anthropology texts and food history. All of their research and discoveries can be read here.
The Raw & The Cooked, served as a main, is named after a book by French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and examines the relationships between perspectives on food. A tartare of raw carabinero prawns, with strawberries and varying cultural elements such as Kerala’s chemmeen chammanthi, is presented alongside prawn heads stuffed with roe and tomalley.
The Narezushi relays the history of edomae sushi through a cross-cultural lens. Nouri’s research had unearthed that sushi’s roots can be traced to Southeast Asia, as the fish preservation techniques were brought to Japan through China. Served on a platform plate made for Taoist and Buddhist food offerings, the dish features the Indian fermented rice cake of idli topped with pickled Japanese sardine, and Southeast Asian elements such as prahouk, a Cambodian salted and fermented fish paste, and a pickled ginger flower.
The meal ends with the Chocolate Fishball, which is chef Ivan’s take on Southeast Asia’s love for savoury desserts. Chocolate –
a tribute to its roots in South and Central America – is made into an ice cream and rolled with a black pepper and chocolate “soil”. It’s accompanied by ikan bilis and colatura di alici, an Italian anchovy sauce.
Nouri’s experiences are likewise reflections of its philosophy. Several dishes are presented with toasts between the team and guests to signify the shared dining experience and pay homage to the European tradition, which originated in China. Brehm is precise with his choice of crockery, introducing plates that are significant to certain cultures, and working with artisans and craftspeople. The restaurant also plays host to two annual exhibitions featuring established and emerging artists, as part of an extension of sister establishment Appetite’s art programme.
It’s worth noting that guests can choose how much information they want to receive about the various courses. But we guarantee that you’ll leave feeling nourished, both in your minds and in your stomachs.
“Crossroads Thinking is a way of seeing moments of connection in the world. Food is an easy and approachable way of highlighting this. By incorporating a little understanding of this in our lives, I hope that we can nourish better relationships with ourselves, each other and the world we share,” says Brehm.
Nouri, 72 Amoy Street, Singapore 069891