Sustainable eating is all the rave nowadays, what with the planet slowly deteriorating before our very eyes. Many chefs and restaurants are producing and offering sustainable dining, with the farm-to-table concept taking centrestage at several new establishments.
Where there isn’t exactly a cut-and-dry definition, in essence, farm-to-table dining is built on the foundation of serving up locally sourced, natural and organic (though, it doesn’t have to be) produce. The rise of the concept can be said to be a reaction to the unhealthy nature of processed food as well as the worsening state of the world we reside in, and mirrors the greater trend of sustainable culture slowly spreading all over the world.
While it’s more prevalent overseas, Singapore has its share of farm-to-table restaurants, the most well-known of which is perhaps Open Farm Community, in Dempsey. An open kitchen space with an actual farm just outside the main restaurant, Open Farm Community takes the herbs and vegetables grown in the farm and turn them into delectable dishes served directly to your table.
What is NOKA?
Photo courtesy of NOKA.
Open Farm Community’s newest project takes the form of NOKA, which means farmhouse (农屋) in Japanese, a farm-to-table Japanese dining concept now occupying the top space in the newly reopened Funan Mall.
Helmed by acclaimed Chef Seki Takuma, whose globe-spanning experience has taken him from the European kitchens of Los Angeles and Paris to the fine dining halls of Marina Bay Sands, NOKA is the latest in the line of sustainable dining, while being the first urban rooftop restaurant of its kind.
Chef Takuma hails from the Niigata Prefecture in Japan, known for its pristine waters, and brings with him traditional Japanese cooking techniques to pair with the local ingredients found in the rooftop farm, adjacent to NOKA.
Local and Japanese Produce
Photo by nokasg via Instagram.
The urban rooftop garden is managed by Edible Garden City, the company that is behind several farm-to-table dining concepts, chiefly Open Farm Community. When it comes to Japanese cuisine in Singapore, many restaurants belabour the point that all the ingredients they use are flown in from Japan. And that is where NOKA slightly deviates from the norm.
Pink oyster mushrooms, freshly harvested and grilled to perfection. – Photo courtesy of NOKA.
While important ingredients are indeed flown in from Japan, especially the award-winning Koshihikari rice, most of the other produce are fetched right from the rooftop garden just outside. A trip to the rooftop farm reveals a bevy of herbs and vegetables, such as pink oyster mushrooms, golden mushrooms, microgreens, Mexican tarragon and kale. There are even some of Japanese origin, such as the Okinawan spinach.
Now, sustainable food and fresh produce is all fine and dandy, and I’m all for the movement, but does the actual food stack up? Happily, yes – you’ll find decadent dishes that showcase a symphony of the local farm produce and Japanese flavours.
Besides the fresh sashimi that you can find here, there are some noteworthy mains that NOKA hangs its hat on. Marinated in miso, the Black Cod Saikyo-yaki (SGD$38) features ikura, pulut hitam furikake and Edible Garden City’s Mexican tarragon.
Black Cod Saikyo-yaki – Photo courtesy of NOKA
A dish that is near and dear to the heart of Chef Takuma, the Snow-aged Niigata Wagyu ($89) sees the beef being prepared using a 200-year-old snow-aging technique, before being charcoal-grilled to perfection. Paired with Okinawan spinach and yuzu ponzu, it’s an unforgettable dish.
Snow-aged Niigata Wagyu – Photo courtesy of NOKA
NOKA brings a novel take on sustainable food and eating, along with an urban setting that isn’t usually seen. If you’re looking for something fresh, both in terms of produce and dining concept, NOKA at Funan Mall could be your new favourite spot in town.
Funan Mall #07-38, 109 North Bridge Road S (179097)
Opening hours: 11.30 AM – 2.30 PM, 6 PM – 10 PM
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