Fine Dining

Nae:um @ Telok Ayer

This is one table I have been wanting to try for a long time. And I have to wait for five iterations of the menus before I finally got a table for my birthday celebration. This is the meal for Nae:um, the innovative Korean fine dining place.

Korean chef/owner Louis Han named his restaurant Nae:um, meaning a fragrance that evokes memories. The 33-year-old chef who was born and bred in Korea has worked in Singapore for many years with Meta’s Chef Sun Kim and as head chef of the now-closed Kimme, before he opened Nae:um in 2021. The restaurant promptly got his first star in 2022.

Chef Han took a working holiday back to Seoul after the closure of Kimme and worked at 2-Michelin star Mosu in Seoul, Nae:um is Chef Han’s very own stomping ground to express and flourish. In terms of the cuisine, Chef Han introduces ‘contemporary Seoul cuisine’, not to be taken literally as Korean classics but rather dishes inspired by the culinary vibrancy of Seoul with other global influences. 

The bright room is furnished in a cream and birch colour scheme, imparting calmness and warmth. It was like walking into a Muji store rather than a fine dining restaurant. The utensils were not laid out like in a French haute cuisine, but hidden in a drawer with enough sets for the entire 7 courses. Actually, I used the chopsticks mainly.

Episoded 5 Front Yard Barbecue

Food culture and recollections of his home country are at the core of his episodic menu that changes with seasons. Innovative courses are precisely executed and presented in an ethereal, refreshing manner, but have inklings of their Korean roots. This time he brought was back to the BBQ in front of his house.

  1. Madai – Green Pea – Milssam
  2. Pairing #1
    1. Krug Grande Cuvée 170ème Édition
    2. Lemon & Ginger Chung Fizz
  3. Duckgalbi
  4. Kampachi
  5. Pairing #2
    1. Tsukiyoshino Skyblue Junmai Ginjo-Shu つきよしの空 純米吟釀酒
    2. Muri Kadeau
  6. Somyeon
  7. Dongchimi
  8. Pairing #3
    1. 2021 Lumen Escence
    2. L’antidote
  9. Red Mullet
  10. Pairing #4
    1. 2020 Faiveley Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Champ Gain”
    2. Boricha
  11. So BBQ
  12. Pairing #5
    1. First Drop Cold Sweat Eden Valley Syrah Craneford
    2. Blueberry & Rosemary
  13. Doeji-Galbi Bap
  14. Melon Lime Punch
  15. pairing #6
    1. Yeonyeopju Yakju
    2. Saicho
  16. Hotteok
  17. Jeongpyeon – Gwapyeon – Gangjeong – Gukija
Jars of Chung

Cheong (청; 淸) is a name for various sweetened foods in the form of syrups, marmalades, and fruit preserves. Chef Han made so many different cheongs in-house and he proudly displayed them on the shelves in the dining room. These formed the basis of his non-alcoholic pairings, on top of a full/half wine pairing. We opted for a full wine pairing and the non-alcoholic pairing.

Madai – Green Pea – Milssam

The concept behind the first appetiser course/amuse bouche is the backyard of Chef Louis’ house in Korea, with the charcoal pit in the middle for BBQ and the cats running around with porcelain jars of kimchi fermenting away.

The first bite is madai (Japanese sea bream), revered by the Japanese as the king of fish, and also known as a symbol of celebration because of its red colour. The fish was marinated with pickled chilli and fermented daikon atop a kimchi-tomato meringue.

green peas

The next snack was a small trough of green peas smoked over applewood, garnished with charred pickled shallots, citrus jelly, lemon zest and dill.


Milssam 밀쌈 is dish consisting of small crepes and thinly sliced vegetables and meat. Mil is flour and ssam is the action “to wrap”. The crepes were made with rice flour and were rolled with crab meat, wagyu, and sauteed bell peppers, topped with Siberian caviar and served with chives oil, pine nut cream and popped millets. This was one of the best appetiser/amuse bouche I have tasted. It has a multitude of flavours and texture all in single bite.

Pairing #1

Krug Grande Cuvée 170ème Édition

France, champagne, Reins

pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot meunier

Krug Grande Cuvée is re-created every year, and is blended from over 120 individual wines from more than 10 different years. The fullness of flavours and aromas achieved by this careful blending would be impossible to express with a single year.

Tasting Note: Dry, sparkling, easy to drink, just like a Krug.

Lemon & Ginger Chung Fizz

NAEUM Singapore

citrus, ginger spice, sparkling

From their own fermentation jar, this was like drinking a fizzy lemonade but more lemony and ginger flavour with a bit of kimchi juice taste.


Duckgalbi is a play on words, the original Korean dish is called tteokgalbi (떡갈비) a.k.a. minced meat patty usually made with beef ribs where the meat is minced and pounded on the bone, then marinated in a sweet, salty, and savoury sauce. Duck meat (or oli in Korean) was used in this version, with a hidden core of juicy tteok (rice cake) to make a “oli-tteok-galbi”.

The juicy duck meat patty with a chewy tteok core, grilled with gochujang glaze. This one-bite wonder has all the trappings of a tsukune (meatball), only that it is more textural and boasts decidedly intense flavours headlined by soy sauce and gochujang.

Covered with puffed rice and served on a perilla leaf, we were advised to eat everything in a bite (or two).

The duckgalbi was served on a stick made from a branch, which made it really fun to eat from.


myoga, winter melon, goose berry

Chef Han loves to eat hwae (raw fish) and he has stayed in Singapore long enough to understand Singaporeans’ love affair with sashimi. For his opening course, he serves his interpretation of mulhwae, a cold and spicy Korean raw fish soup popularly eaten during the summer season.

When this dish was served, the scent of burning hay was very obvious. The hay-smoked kanpachi (yellowtail) tossed with sliced baby cucumbers and gooseberries. These ingredients were accented with a chilled broth made from charred leeks, vinegar, soy and gochujang, and accented with myoga (torch ginger flower).

The fish wrapped another surprise inside, with julienned pickled radish and winter melon. I could not resist to take a spoon and scoop up everything on the plate. Very appetising and refreshing.

Pairing #2

Tsukiyoshino Skyblue Junmai Ginjo-Shu つきよしの空 純米吟釀酒

Japan, Nagano


Due its characteristics, it does not overpower flavour of dishes and is hence suitable for most occasions both as aperitif and pairing with dishes. This sake has mild melon aroma and slight sweetness in taste.

Muri Kadeau

Denmark, Copenhagen

gooseberry, smoked blackcurrant leaf, coriander

Non-alcoholic wine. Lots of floral flavours including flowering currant, rose and coriander. A hint of smoke – a classic part of Kadeau. The blend has that beautiful pine aroma with heady floral notes and a rich buttery mouthfeel.


buckwheat, kimchi, pork belly

Any Korean barbecue party isn’t complete with cold noodles eaten together with sizzling meat fresh from the grill. In this episode, the signature somyeon course was served with grilled kurobuta pork belly and old cucumber pickle.

An integral part of Korean cuisine, there are many types of Korean cold noodles. In the earlier days, preparing Korean cold noodles was a practical and convenient way for using excess grains and vegetables, while providing nourishment for farmers and field workers during the hot and humid months.

Old cucumber 老黄瓜 pickle

And the little surprises in the noodles – a homemade old cucumber pickle cut into a small sakura shape added some fun to the noodles. Besides the pickle, most of the flavours came from the kimchi juice with the tobiko (flying fish roe).

Grilled kurobuta pork belly

The cooling effect of the noodles feels so nice after a heavy meal. This is why naengmyeon will always be a popular a menu item in Korean barbecue restaurants. And Chef Han’s version is the pinnacle that would be hard to match anywhere else.


uni, scallop, red prawn


Then, dongchimi or radish water kimchi, traditionally served with barbecued meats as a refreshing element, got a fine dining glow-up.

uni, scallop, red prawn

Chef Han’s winning interpretation of his grandmother’s cold soup featured red prawns, sea urchin, winter melon kimchi and a chimichurri sauce of seasonal mountain herbs and grated mung bean jelly, all hiding under a silky “dumpling skin” made of Hokkaido scallop.


It did smell funky when the dongchimi was poured onto the “dumpling”. But the cold brew worked very well with the umami and sweetness from the seafood.

Pairing #3

2021 Lumen Escence

USA, Santa Barbara

Pinot gris

Lumen Escence is an orange wine, meaning that it is a white grape that is treated in the winery like a red grape. Pinot Gris from Sierra Madre Vineyard were picked a few weeks early, then fermented on the skins for a full 10 days. The resulting wine is full of character: strawberry and peach, piercing & puckering attack, kombucha and kimchi, lime.


France, Beaujolais

gamay, tea leaf, wild garden herb

A 0% alcohol beverage made from Gamay grapes, the L’Antidote Domaine Des Grottes is an incredible blend of unfermented Gamay grapes with apple, lemon, wild herbs and spices. Its sweet finish goes well with clean seafood dishes such as our very own dongchimi.

Red Mullet

norangchoksu, canola blossom, fermented bean

Norangchoksu 노랑촉수 Red mullet

The first of the main courses featured a beautiful piece of grilled red mullet served with parsnip puree, chargrilled kale, canola blossoms, finely diced russet potatoes in buerre monté sauce and fish stock foam.

Russell potatoes with beurre monté sauce

Beurre monté refers to melted butter that remains emulsified, even at temperatures higher than that at which butter usually breaks down. This was perfect with the potato and the little bits of kale.

Fish stock foam

The red mullet has been grilled with a coating of gochujang seasoning, that gave the fatty fish a lot of depth in terms of taste.

Pairing #4

2020 Faiveley Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “Champ Gain”

France, Puligny-Montrachet


The 2020 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Champ Gain is excellent, mingling scents of citrus oil and peach with notions of freshly baked bread, hazelnuts and nutmeg. Medium to full-bodied, ample and layered, it’s satiny but tensile, with a racy spine of acidity and a long, saline finish.


NAEUM Singapore


Homemade slow-roasted barley tea infused with pine bud water, a refreshing sip ending with an elegant smokey aftertaste.


wagyu beef, sweet potato leaf, banchan

The next course was the steak course, and before the tenderloin was served, we were presented the steak knife choices for the evening – Forge de Laguiole steak knives. Originally it was a peasant’s knife with an arched line, fly and a spring decorated with a guillochage pattern, commonly known as the spring-loaded pocket knife, which was invented in this tiny French village. 

Forge de Laguiole knives are manufactured in their factory according to the cutlery tradition that dates back to 1828, originally produced in the small village of Laguiole. Laguiole became synonymous with a specific shape of a traditional knife common to this area. I picked the one with the bone handle, while Princess picked one made with the olive tree.

The steak course featured a beautiful piece of Wagyu tenderloin marinated in a galbi sauce, grilled over binchotan and served with Chef Han’s take on traditional barbecue accompaniments such as pickled lettuce, grilled king oyster mushroom, shishito peppers and daikon salad. The OCD in Princess could not stand the off centre plating of this course though.

Grilled wagyu tenderloin

The tenderloin was so tender and moist, but it was done slightly more than medium rare. I thought it was sous vide as there wasn’t much blood in the beef. Then I realised it was marinated. It was like having KBBQ but better.

Pickled herb bouquet

A bouquet of lettuce, perilla leaf and other vegetables was prepared in the geotjeori-style (fresh kimchi without fermentation) and acted as a palate cleanser from the really greasy beef.

King oyster mushroom, shishito, pickled radish

King oyster mushroom was a common sight in KBBQ, usually served in thick cuts. Lightly brushed with the galbi sauce to give it flavours, the mushroom was accompanied by pickled radish and burnt shishito.

Celeriac puree

This was the piece de resistance on the plate, so flavourful and satisfying. There were so little of the celeriac puree that we were left longing for more. Creamy, buttery, full of umami.

Pairing #5

First Drop Cold Sweat Eden Valley Syrah Craneford

Australia, Eden valley


Garnet red with purple hues. A complex nose of dark cherry, tomato leaf, celery and pepper spice. A textured palate of fine graphite tannins support complex dark cherry, savoury spice flavours

Tasting Notes: Very interesting label on the bottle made from copper plates. Good tannin, and full body.

Blueberry & Rosemary

NAEUM Singapore

blueberry, rosemary, soda

Blackcurrant and blackberries lead the way, which is evident in the lusty colour of this drink. While layers of complexity are introduced thanks to the red fruit, raspberries, strawberries and plums which give an extra dimension and depth of flavour.

Mixed with soda and their in-house rosemary chung.

Doeji-Galbi Bap

pork ribs, corn rice, black truffle

Rice dish is inspired by dosirak or school lunch box rice, consisting of rice with simple toppings such as fried egg and kimchi packed in a tin box. Students love to shake the box to mix up all toppings before eating it.

Doeji-Galbi Bap

Their version featured pulled Duroc pork rib braised and marinated with soy sauce, apple, pear, onions, potatoes and chilli; served atop a mix of barley, short white rice and brown rice, garnished with pickled onions, carrots, edible flowers and black truffle, and served with house-made pickles on the side.

They brought back the pot to mix up the rice and ingredients like a bibimbap, but nothing else was added.

Pickled shiitake and salted pork rinds, pickled white cabbage, makbang

The makjang (traditional Korean fermented sauce) was infused with the delicious drippings from the pulled pork. The baek kimchi (white cabbage kimchi) was not too sour and you can get refills. The pickled shiitake and pork rinds were quite special and tasted like soften dried goods.

Serving portions according to your liking

There’s plenty to go around, and they can accommodate a full bowl of bap if you want. Princess regretted not having a bigger bowl once she had a taste of it.

Pulled pork ribs

The pulled pork was braised and overpowering with taste but it was delicious with the rice. In fact, add liberally the makjang to enhance the experience.

Multigrain with pearls of corn

I never imagined myself to say this, I enjoyed the multigrain rice. If this is how multigrain rice can be made, I would eat it everyday.

Melon Lime Punch

soju, vanilla yogurt, basil

Melon Lime Punch

After the satisfying rice course, we were into the first of two desserts. Chef Han used his favourite fruit, the melon, in this course. This is a play on the traditional melon punch called chamoe-hwachae 참외화채 that is served in the home BBQ in Korea.

A ball of honeydew melon-basil sorbet served on top of frozen vanilla yoghurt, pickled musk and honeydew melons and lime granita garnished with basil and a dash of soju. Very refreshing as you combined everything together and ate it together. As it melted in your mouth, it reminded you of the traditional punch drink.

pairing #6

Yeonyeopju Yakju

South Korea

nuruk, korean rice, lotus leaf

For centuries, the family behind the Ellyeop Pyunjoo brand kept the recipe to themselves, only using the drink for family rituals. This precious bottle contains the clear golden Cheongju, one half of the fermentation result of the discreet brewery. Bottled by hand, each uncorking reveals a new fruity flavor layered with the natural sweetness of rice.


United Kingdom

sparkling tea

Originating in Kyoto in the 1920s as a way of utilising leftover leaves, stems, stalks and twigs, Hojicha is a roasted green tea from Japan. The tea has a deep umami character and notes of nori seaweed, roasted hazelnut and delicate smoke, with dry and woody tannins.

Tasting Notes : sparkling tea which is refreshing, the best non-alcoholic among the pairing.


multigrain, jujube ice cream, charcoal

The final dessert was inspired by hotteok, a popular street snack of cinnamon and brown sugar in a fried rice flour pancake. Chef Han’s version involves jujube ice cream, Medjool dates, puffed multigrain and charcoal tuile on the traditional hotteok. This was a repeat from the other episodes and got great reviews.

Jeongpyeon – Gwapyeon – Gangjeong – Gukija

And finally the petit fours before they returned with the bill for the evening. It consisted of four items – Jeongpyeon 증편, Gwapyeon 과편, Gangjeong 강정, Gukija 구키자.

From left to right

  • Jeungpyeon 증편 is made by steaming rice flour dough prepared with makgeolli – it tasted a bit like Teochew steamed white sugar cake 白糖糕 bacause they used similar ingredients. The jeungpyeon was grilled with a coating of syrup before serving, so it was warm and comforting when consumed.
  • Gwapyeon 과편 is a traditional Korean fruit jelly made from boiling fruit juice with starch and sugar. The flavour presented was pineapple with popping candy on top. It was really fun to eat.
  • Gukija 구키자 is Korean for goji (wolfberries) and is the key ingredient in the kombucha tea. Couldn’t bring myself to say I enjoyed the goji kombucha. I have never understand the health food promotion of kombucha, to me it was tea turned bad. Give me my sujeonggwa anytime.
  • Gangjeong 강정 is a traditional Korean snack made from dried fruits, puffed rice and honey. Same lineage as the Chinese sachima 沙琪玛, the Korean version is more bold and innovative in the ingredients and flavours.
End of the meal

And with the petit four, we came to the end of a wonderful meal, lots of memorable eats and a couple of new favourites for me and Princess.


The food was flawless, and I expect Nae:um to get another star soon. However the wine list was something to work on. The pairings were like a roller-coaster ride, they did not work all the time, but when they did it was a highlight.

The service was attentive and fantastic. I don’t understand why the explanation of the food has to be so complicated – half of the ingredients were incomprehensible as the service staff tried to talk through their masks, why don’t they just type it in the menu? Still it was a really delicious meal, hoping to come back soon for their Best of Episode 1-4 lunch sets.

Nae:um Restaurant
161 Telok Ayer Street Singapore 068615
Tel : +65 8830 5016

Visited May 2023

#naeum #NAEUMep5 #frontyardbbq #내음#contemporaryseoulcuisine #michelin #michelinguide #singaporedining

Michelin Singapore Guide 1 Star 2022

Asia Best 50 #83 2023

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