Filipino cuisine isn’t something I’ve had a whole lot of experience with (read: I’ve never eaten it before), but that all changed when Nanam recently invited The Urban List to their Royal Oak restaurant.
Opening last year, Nanam is the brainchild of chef Andrew Soriano and his partner chef Jessabel Granada. The duo first started their hospo venture by selling sia pao at the Auckland Night Markets. These steamed buns were so popular with market-goers that they decided to take the next step and open their very own restaurant.
Situated off the crazy Royal Oak roundabout (you know the one), Nanam is off the beaten track for a lot of Aucklanders. But don’t let that put you off—Nanam is the type of restaurant that’s definitely worth making the trip for.
When we entered the cosy restaurant on a recent Wednesday evening, we couldn’t help but gasp with delight. The tiny (yet mighty) eatery was a thing of beauty. There was so much going on—from the wooden lanterns and exposed brick walls to the colourful windows shutters and the tables covered with pages from old dictionaries. The decor, as we later found out, is all the doing of Andrew and Jessabel—talk about a creative dream team!
Our waiter Tan greeted us with a broad smile and didn’t stop smiling for the entire length of our visit. We took our seats and eyed up the menu. We wanted to eat it all—everything sounded delicious. Tan explained the dishes to us, pointing out Nanam’s must-try dishes as well as his faves.
Turns out Filipino cuisine takes inspo from a handful other cultures. Evolving over many centuries, their food has Austronesian origins mixed with everything from Malay and Indian to Spanish and Chinese.
Guided by his expert opinion, we started with some ‘pica-pica’ dishes. We each tried an adobo pulled lamb shoulder croquette as well as a smoked Edam cheese croquette (our fave) topped with carpaccio Wagyu and served with chipotle mayo. Hellooo deep-fried goodness.
It was then on to their longganisa entree that featured a grilled Wagyu beef sausage in a soft tortilla shell. Paired with peanut sauce, pickled radish slaw and a garnish of coriander, the spicy sausage packed the perfect amount of heat and was a fave from the night.
No trip to Nanam is complete without trying their signature ‘taco pao’—the steamed buns that started it all for Andrew and Jessabel. They’re not your average steamed buns, though. Coloured with beetroot, these buns are bright pink—yes, pink. They come with serves of sticky pulled pork, homemade pickles, pork crackling and peanuts so you can stuff your bun just the way you like it. Delicious annnd interactive, we like!
As for the mains, we tackled three dishes: dinuguan pork belly, chicken sinigang and inasel beef. The generous serve of roast chicken was flavoured with a tamarind rub and serve with smoky grilled salsa. The pork belly was perfectly crispy and came served in a rich black pudding sauce. The dish also features a pork shoulder croquette, pickled bok choy, seeded mustard, green chilli chutney and a garnish of Kawakawa leaf.
The inasel beef dish took the cake for the favourite main of the night. It starred chargrilled Waygu marinated in lemongrass and annato and cooked to our liking (medium rare). It was served on a bed of butternut puree (yum!), drizzled with jus, dollops of pandan crème fraiche and topped with green paw paw pickle. So tender, so flavoursome and oh-so delish!
Bellies full, Tan convinced us we couldn’t leave without trying their dessert menu. Not that we needed much convincing—we’d heard good things about their dessert and, in particular, their turon banana dessert.
Nanam’s take on this traditional Filipino dish was all sorts of incredible. We’re talking about a caramelised banana parfait that is wrapped in pastry before being deep-fried to crispy goodness. It was served with jackfruit gel, choc-nut and pinipig soil, beetroot crème fraiche and a dollop of coconut ice cream.
One dessert is never enough so we also tried the bibingka cassava. The dish centred around a cassava and coconut slice-like component and had also pieces of roasted pineapple, white chocolate crumb, coconut tapioca and ice cream. This dish was unlike anything we’d ever had before—so many textures and flavours! It was truly divine.
Thanks for introducing as to our new favourite cuisine, Nanam—we’re hooked! Something tells us we’ll be booking tickets to The Philippines very soon. In the meantime, we’re more than happy to get our fix from this incredible Auckland restaurant.
Want to know the location, opening hours and all the deets? Find Nanam in the Directory.
Image credit: Nanam and Natasha van der Laan