Central Asia is a mammoth geographic region spanning Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. That’s over four million square kilometres, — which is why The Nomads’ endeavour to bring its culinary heritage to life in Singapore is nothing short of ambitious.
Shawn Kishore and Kazakhstan-born Olzhas Zhiyenkulov co-founded the restaurant after embarking on a three-week trip across the region with Chef Dannel Krishnan. While The Nomads draws on culinary heritage of the Silk Road, most dishes lean more progressive than traditional, as they’ve been crafted with upmarket and local palettes in mind.
Each item on the menu spotlights a certain facet of Central Asian culture — be it a national dish, cooking method, or ingredient — so you’ll be sure to walk out a little wiser than before.
An open kitchen with a custom-built grill stands in the restaurant’s centre, so diners can watch as chefs break open steaming loaves of nan, plate intricate dishes, and char meats over roaring fires. Customers can also expect a warm, convivial atmosphere — there’s a celebratory toast for everyone who comes in — so there’s no reason not to start your meal in a jubilant mood.
We embarked on The Odyssey of Fire (S$148), a seventeen-course tasting menu that incorporates fire-based techniques, such as grilling, searing, and braising. Don’t let the number of courses put you off; service is quick (though it can feel a tad rushed) and the restaurant strives to complete the menu in two and a half hours. There are also à la carte, eleven-course (S$98), and twenty-two-course (S$188) menus available.
At the end of the day, The Nomads is an exciting shake-up to the local culinary scene and succeeds in shedding light on a cuisine that some Singaporeans might not be as familiar with. We’re keen to see what the restaurant comes up with next.
Caviar and Kaya
The unconventional pairing marries iconic flavours from Siberia and Singapore. Poached Argentinian prawns and house-made kaya sit pretty in a crisp, Nonya-style pie tee cup — a playful take on the local snack. The generous serving of Latvian caviar on top adds a potent ocean flavour to the sweetness of the seafood and coconut jam. Be sure to eat it whole.
Bread lovers will be enamoured by the Nomads Nan, a Kazakhstan-style bread that’s traditionally known as patir or lepeshka. The nan is dense, aromatic, and incredibly addictive with a light citrus flavour. Thyme and a brush of lemon glaze emphasise the distinct tang that comes as a result of fermenting the flour with yoghurt overnight.
Slather the hearty nan with mounds of the accompanying Hunter-Gatherer’s Butter, the selection of which changes with the seasons. On our visit, we got a luscious, cardamom-tinged foie gras parfait and savoury butter made with four types of seaweed — consider our appetites whetted.
Lamb Samsa Cone
This dish reinterprets the traditional samsa, a baked, meat-filled pasty enjoyed across Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. A heap of buttery Mottainai lamb tartare sits atop a handmade cone that’s coated with whimsical coffee sugar to accentuate the bovine’s natural sweetness. Enjoy this marriage of earthy, meaty flavours in one fell swoop.
The vibrant and refreshing Salat recalls the grilled fruit salads Shawn and Chef Dannel Krishnan had in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Gently charred vegetables, seasonal greens, juicy pears glazed with tangy cherry vinaigrette, crystallised walnuts, gleaming pomegranate seeds, and a drizzle of anchovy sauce come together harmoniously. This well-balanced dish might just convert those who refuse to eat their greens.
This dish pays homage to the fish’s traditional origin of the Caspian Sea, which travellers would have passed while following the Silk Road. Slices of plush sturgeon sit in a gleaming, ochre-hued soy butter emulsion and are adorned with crunchy grain and lashings of aromatic dill oil. Each bite is dense, silky, and bears a sweet, freshwater flavour while the grain adds a contrast in texture.
The Nomads’ bershbarmak reimagines Kazakhstan’s national dish. The eponymous term means ‘five fingers’ as nomads on the road would’ve eaten it with their hands. The dish traditionally sees the inclusion of boiled meat, noodles, and onion sauce, but the contemporary iteration features slices of wagyu cheek; crispy, dehydrated potato sheets; and pickled shallots in a spiced onion-based broth that’s reminiscent of bah kuh teh. Savour the wildly tender meat and don’t be afraid to slurp up the broth.
The Hunter’s Plov is a decadent take on the rice-based staple that’s present in most cultures along the Silk Road. The dish traditionally features ingredients that are on-hand, but this lavish iteration sees Carnaroli risotto topped with luscious A4 Kagoshima wagyu striploin and silky bone marrow. Typical Uzbekistani condiments, such as pickled heirloom carrots, tea-braised eggs and brandied raisins, add some acidity to the otherwise too-rich dish. It’s a generous portion as well: meaning that if you weren’t full at this point, you would be now.
Almaty is a dreamy dessert that takes its name from Kazakhstan’s largest city, also known as the birthplace of apples. A scoop of celery sorbet accompanies ethereal ribbons of sweet Fuji apple, while dollops of potent Gorgonzola cheese and cinnamon yoghurt add hints of creaminess and spice. Perfect for those who prefer lighter, more refreshing desserts.