Nanam Eatery has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of Coco Restaurant. We loved Coco and its very talented chef Daniel Nguyen; it was unfortunate the market wasn’t ready for modern Vietnamese fine dining without the plush accoutrements. The owners of Nanam worked at Coco, and they have created an exceptional smart casual modern Filipino restaurant which works well with its environment.
My experience with Filipino cuisine spans all of one restaurant, and I found the liberal use of vinegar takes some getting used to. However, Nanam’s chef does a gentle introduction to Filipino flavours, taking what makes Filipino food unique and interesting whilst adding them to dishes which are more readily recognisable.
The menu is divided into pica-pica (snack) dishes, A.Y.O. (assemble your own), mains and sides. From the pica-pica menu, we chose the adobo croquettas – pulled lamb shoulder cooked adobo style (with vinegar and soy sauce), wrapped in bay leaf potatoes and served with a Vietnamese mint crème fraiche dip ($2.50 each). The croquettas are simply delicious; the crisp potato mash enhanced the sweet, slightly tangy meat.
The taco-pao ($14) from the A.Y.O. menu came with stunning beetroot red baos, which you layer with pickled radish and carrot, sticky pulled pork, pork chicharron (crispy pork rinds) and chopped peanuts. This is do-it-yourself mini gua bao, with a delicious twist.
For mains, we had the relyenong (stuffed) squid. The squids were stuffed with vigan pork longganisa (pork sausage) and served with tomatoes, baby onion, cashews and ‘malunggay’ Filipino horseradish leaf pesto ($18). Stuffed squid is a dish I am familiar with as it is a Chinese and Vietnamese dish, however, this was definitely a cut above. The squid is tender, the sausage is flavoursome and chunky. I wasn’t sure about the pesto, it was slightly bitter in flavour.
The crispy lechon at sarsa ($23) was wonderfully tender pork belly sitting on sarsa, a spicy liver sauce. This was accompanied with artichoke crisps and pickled cucumber. This was another knockout dish.
We shared a side of migas, which was roasted brussel sprouts with chorizo garlic crumb. The sprouts were fabulous, well caramelised with still a good crunch. The chunks of fried bread was somewhat odd.
For dessert, we shared a turon which was a crispy caramelised banana parfait with jackfruit gel, chocnut and pinipig (pounded young glutinous rice) soil, beetroot crème fraiche and coconut ice-cream. The banana parfait was full of flavour and smooth, and encased in a thin flaky pastry. I really liked the balance of the nutty ‘soil’ and the delicate coconut ice-cream. I only wished the jackfruit flavour was stronger. Overall, this was a great dessert, clever and delicious.
Nanam was humming when we came at 6pm on a Wednesday. They fill up quick, so come early. They don’t take bookings for groups smaller than 6, but if you call right before you come, they may be able to reserve a spare table.
We were highly impressed by Nanam. The service had a shaky start, – our drinks order was missed, but it was redeemed by our very cheerful and attentive server. The food was balanced, looked great and hit all the right notes. On a side note, they are probably the only eatery in Auckland serving beer from the Philippines.
126 Symonds Street, Royal Oak
Ph: 09-887 7477
Opening hours: Tue – Sat 4:30pm – 10pm