Located in the isolation of Barsha 1 (Dubai), Nom Nom is the little Asian ‘hidden gem’ that has been in the spotlight on social media in the past few months.
Perhaps its the quirky Instagram-friendly name, or the hashtagged chopstick logo. Perhaps its the influx of diners raving about the food and posting drool-worthy tributes. As a foodie with a genuine passion for South-East Asian cuisines, I headed to Nom Nom Asia last Wednesday night with the family to investigate on what all the fuss was about.
How funky is the Asian-inspired graffiti art on the front of the restaurant facade? From the exteriors itself, Nom Nom Asia gives out casual-quirky vibes which extends to the brightly lit interiors.
Nom Nom Asia is a tiny space, yet you’d never feel it with the cleverly done up decor. A full-length mirror at the end of the restaurant reflects back and elongates the narrow space. The tables are lined closely together, and quite reminiscent of the communal dining eateries of Europe.
A collection of Asian-inspired pop art covers a section of the wall, and I think the paneled ceiling and modern fish-bowl lighting look exceptionally stylish.
We got to Nom Nom Asia at 9 pm, and the place was packed. The popularity of this little space has spread fast!
Despite the crazy rush, the staff were genuinely friendly and cheerful, and we even had a long chitchat with the owner who entertained us with interesting tales of how Nom Nom Asia came to being. With no previous experience in the catering business, the success of Nom Nom Asia is attributed to the sheer passion and hard work of its founders.
Given the size of the restaurant, I was quite impressed with the sheer diversity of the menu. Nom Nom Asia caters to Chinese and Thai flavors, and all in all (inclusive of appetizers, mains and desserts) their menu lists 112 different dishes!
To top it off, each of the appetizers and mains can be customized per order. You can have your choice of protein and adjust the level of heat per dish. 112 dishes with up to 7 variations of proteins (plus vegetarian if you please!)… you do the maths!
We started our dinner at Nom Nom Asia with their signature Iceberg Lettuce Wrap and Pepper Chili Tossed.
The Iceberg Lettuce Wrap is a clever little dish. You get a head of fresh iceberg lettuce, a bowl of stir-fried chicken mince (you can also opt for vegetable or tofu), some crisp fried noodles, as well as plum sauce and Nom Nom’s ‘Dynamite Sauce’ on the side.
We then got busy assembling our Iceberg Lettuce Wraps: a smear of the sauces onto the lettuce, a pile of chicken, a toss of noodles, wrap and munch. Seriously good #omnomnom that is also pretty low on the calorie count! This was the very first dish I tried at Nom Nom Asia, and it sure left a seriously good first impression!
Caution: Go easy on the Dynamite Sauce. This signature green Nom Nom Asia creation takes a day to make, and is packed with a seriously hot chili punch. Lethal stuff!
Once again our choice of protein was chicken for the second appetizer. The Pepper Chili Tossed is a platter of wok-fried chicken marinated in a medley of ginger, garlic, spring onions and garnished with cilantro.
The Chinese at Nom Nom Asia leans towards Indo Chinese. It’s authentic Chinese with an Indian face-lift so to speak, and in my opinion has more of an oomph in flavors, spices and levels of heat. Not surprisingly, Nom Nom Asia’s Chinese Chef hails from Calcutta, India – the Eastern region of India best known for their Indo Chinese creations. The Thai dishes are created by a lovely lady from Thailand, and are brimming with authentic Thai flavors (more on that coming up below!).
Nom Nom’s Pepper Chili Tossed Chicken lived up to its name. It had the fiery heat of pepper and chili, and the finely minced ginger-garlic combination made it flavorfully delicious.
While having our appetizers, we sipped on the freshest coconut juice right out of the shell. Nom Nom’s tender coconuts are Thai imports, and are called ‘Maphraw’ in Thai. Its amazing just how much of that refreshingly fresh juice a shell holds! After finishing his drink, my husband had his shell split open and he was raving on and on about the creamy smoothness of the tender coconut flesh within.
For the mains, we decided to try something from both the Chinese and Thai sections of the menu.
From the Chinese section, we ordered Nom Nom’s Black Pepper Chicken and the Crispy Burnt Garlic Fried Rice.
The Black Pepper Chicken was actually the last item we ordered. Hubby saw the neighboring table had left some behind, and got tempted to try it out. After a mini debate on whether this additional order will far exceed our eating capabilities, Hubby won and for once I’m glad he did.
Nom Nom’s Black Pepper Chicken was one of my favorites of the night. Just look at all that juicy, flavorful sauce! The chicken pieces are succulently tender, and brimming with a decadent peppered aftertaste, and the stir-fried veges tossed into the mix not only add color to the dish, but their crisp freshness make every forkful all the more delicious.
The Black Pepper Chicken went beautifully well with the Crispy Burnt Garlic Fried Rice. The ‘burnt’ garlic flavor in the rice is beautifully aromatic and accentuates the humble fried rice several notches.
From the Thai menu, we had the Glass Noodle Salad, Pad Kee Mao and the Chicken Penang Curry.
The Glass Noodle Salad uses very fine, translucent vermicelli noodles that have been tempered with the heat of a special Thai chili dressing. The noodle is tossed with a generous handful of peanuts, dried salted prawns, finely chopped shallots, strips of carrot and tomato wedges. This salad is a refreshing medley of exotic flavors, with an undertone of chili heat.
Pad Kee Mao or ‘Drunked Noodles’ is one of my favorite Thai noodle dishes, and is our personal barometer for testing the Thai culinary skills of a restaurant. One of my earliest blog posts compared the Pad Kee Mao of 3 prominent restaurants around Dubai, and we raved about the one at Lemon Grass restaurant (read all about it here). We have finally found a strong contender to the one at Lemon Grass; Nom Nom’s is excellent! The noodles are moist and slippery, and loaded with the perfect balance of the dish’s characteristic chili-basil combination. Highly recommended!
The Chicken Penang Curry at Nom Nom is decadently rich, creamy and nutty. You can taste the peanut base with every mouthful and with a curry like this, the gravy is even tastier than the actual chicken pieces! It went exceptionally well with the Crispy Burnt Garlic Fried Rice.
By the time we ended this epic meal at Nom Nom, we were far too full for desserts (and the restaurant was about to close!). We will have to be back for the sweet treats next time; I hear their Fried Ice-cream is phenomenal!
Nom Nom Asia definitely lives up to the hype its created. The quirky, simplistic stance of the restaurant with the main focus on exceptionally good Asian cuisine already has a major fan following from across the Emirate. The lonesome location deep into the Al Barsha district has not hindered Nom Nom’s success, and delivery orders are just as popular as dine-ins.
If you’re into Indo Chinese and genuine Thai dishes, Nom Nom Asia has a wide variety to choose from starting from as low as AED 27.
Nom Nom Asia is located on the ground floor of Barsha Oasis Building, (Opposite Al Maya Supermarket), Barsha 1, Dubai. A detailed map along with the GPS coordinates can be found on their website. For more information on table bookings and deliveries, call 04 3929 322 #omnomnom