August 2016 Update: Restaurant NUR is now closed.
Restaurant NUR, a new feather in the Prive group’s cap, brings innovation and sustainability to the gastronomic world of Hong Kong. Chef Nurdin Topham, a British import by way of Copenhagen (he did R&D at NOMA’s Nordic Food Lab) spent years honing his culinary skills at the various outposts of Michelin-starred Chef Raymond Blanc, a world-renowned cooking talent who regularly proselytizes about the importance of balanced eating and respect for ingredients and where they come from- his approach to cooking can almost be said to be spiritual. Chef Nurdin has inherited these values and made them his own, and Restaurant NUR is the culmination of his ‘journey de cuisine’.
The interiors feel authentic and Scandinavian- or at least what one imagines Scandinavian interiors should feel like. The space exudes discreet, simple elegance with a touch of quirk. Clean lines, a feeling of spaciousness-the ceilings feel high for Hong Kong- with varying shades of grey stone, oak-beige floors, and wooden tables and chairs that are graceful rather than rustic and lighting fixtures that quietly scream funky sophistication. There is a charming balcony that borders part of the restaurant, with a couple of tables where diners can enjoy drinks- though its true purpose is to showcase the over 100 varieties of plants the NUR team is growing, most of which they hope to make use of in NUR’s dishes. It is a wonderful sight in the middle of the crowded urbanity of lower Soho.
NUR is the epitomization of the farm-to-table movement that is currently taking Hong Kong by storm, with the Chef and his Creative Director Sarma Gaj seeming genuinely dedicated to sourcing as much as they can from local farms and wet markets, as well as exploring interesting regional suppliers and local ingredients. Upon meeting them, I was happily inundated with questions about where to source organic this and artisan that. More than happy to oblige, I could sense their excitement upon learning of the many addresses they could make note of- they are eager to locate the hidden gems. They are both also passionately keen to immerse themselves into the world of Hong Kong flavours and foods. There is a real sense of working with the local rather than working on the local- they want to participate rather than inculcate. Their hunger (sorry!) to learn and discover is infectious and inspiring.
Nurdin Topham is not your average celebrity Chef- poised and quiet, with large, curious eyes, he appears to lack much of the braggadocio that has become de rigueur for chefs in today’s fine dining world. Some say personality translates to cooking, and if that’s true, the effect is certainly appears to be at work here. The food is curious and inventive, with thoughtful yet playful ingredient pairings like pickled wakame, fennel and cumin cultured cream and Jasmine kombucha.
Throughout the perfectly conducted tasting menu, there were multiple delicious surprises along the way. In the Tomatoes dish, organic cherry tomatoes and King Crab pieces were surrounded by basil oil- Thai basil, that is. Its licoricey intensity provided an unexpected contract to the sweet vinegariness of the tomatoes, which had been marinated in Chinese vinegar. A watercress emulsion in a crispy beetroot ‘taco’ shell on the amuse bouche plate felt like herbed guacamole on the tongue and one wonders incredulously why watercress hasn’t been played with in this way before since it is so very refreshingly creamy.
Chicken, the brined and rolled thigh and breast chicken dish, is so juicy and gamey I first thought it was pork- and the accompanying nori and konbu ketchup hits all the right umami notes. My favorite dish of all was Egg: a mixed grain ‘porridge’ that had the comforting appeal of a chewy congee and included red quinoa (the tastiest of all the quinoa seeds) and both dried (fermented) and fresh (rewardingly fleshy) Shiitake mushrooms, topped with a Japanese Taiyouran poached egg (eggs made by chickens raised on a diet of Stevia leaves no less!) accompanied by another emulsion, this one of the Chinese garlic chive variety. I found myself wishing I could indulge in this dish every morning for breakfast.
Leaves and flowers abound on every dishes- there can be no doubt as to Chef Nurdin’s faithful allegiance’s to the world of plants: whilst the proteins are tender, delicious and chosen carefully, his love affair with greens of every species is evident throughout the meal. Chef Nurdin understands how to coax the most delicate characteristics out of his beloved ingredients into a perfect medley of East meets West flavors and it is a testament to his talent that his creations never once feel like the forced fusion fare that is so often served around town. There is no wink-wink, trendy irony here. Restaurant NUR and its Chef are simply looking to offer Hong Kong beauty, creativity and nourishment with luminescent authenticity and grace- and succeed they do.
Restaurant NUR offers 2 tasting menus: Light (6 courses, HKD 788) and Feast (9 courses, HKD 988). The restaurant is located on 3/F, 1-3 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central. They are open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 6.30PM to 12AM. Their last seating is at 9.30PM. For reservations call +852 2871 9993 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy of Restaurant NUR.