The word naeum means ‘a fragrance that brings back memories’ in Korean. Helmed by young Korean chef Louis Han, the restaurant NAE:UM is a contemporary Korean restaurant that expertly infuses a sense of familiarity through flavours old and new, and a cosy interior designed to evoke the comfort of home.
Thirty-one-year-old chef Louis started his training at the age of 17. He has worked in his native South Korea, Lebanon, Abu Dhabi, and Singapore. He landed in Singapore in 2016 to join the team at Meta Restaurant and later to be the head chef of modern Korean fine dining restaurant Kimme in 2017.
Located in a shophouse in Telok Ayer, the 28-seat NAE:UM is chef Louis’s inaugural restaurant and a result of intense labour of love.
Collaborating with a host of local design talents, Chef Louis was involved in every aspect of the dining experience, from the logo design, the interior layout, and the selection of furniture and accessories.
The artisanal pottery at the entrance is made by local ceramicist Jeanette Adrienne Wee.
He collaborated with multi-disciplinary creative Dean Chew of spatial design studio DRAWN for the interior design.
The dining area sports a minimalist aesthetic, pairing raw cement flooring with birch and solid oak furniture. A variety of seating, including banquette, table and counter, allows for a flexible number of parties, easily adjusted according to the regulations.
There is even a semi-private nook that seats four people partitioned with Venetian blinds that can be raised to create a large dining table that seats up to 16 diners.
The kitchen is open, and the food prep became a feature of the interior. A dry-aging cabinet and a bar counter in the middle of the dining area showcase produce, liquor and house-fermented pickled and kombucha as part of the ambience.
A combination of pendant lights, wall lights, and indirect lighting placed along the perimeter of the space bathes the interior in a golden glow that flatters both the diners and their foods.
NAE:UM’s menu is designed in ‘episodes’, each showcasing chef Louis’s culinary journey. Episode one, for instance, features his favourite ingredients that he grew up with in Korea. The dinner menu starts from five courses at $148++. One of the chef’s favourites is the contemporary spin on mulhwae, a traditional cold spicy raw fish soup.
Instead of a soup, NAE:UM’s version uses a refreshing yuzu chilli sauce. Another recommendation is the Challands duck (dry-aged in-house) marinated in gochujang, long considered Korea’s mother sauce. The duck is then seared, roasted and grilled over binchotan and served with pickled beetroot and onion puree.