Our team goes undercover to suss out the latest and most talked about restaurants in town
I have to make a disclaimer upfront: I have never been to Naughty Nuri’s in Bali. When I did go to the new outpost in Singapore, I made sure to bring three friends with me who had. One is somewhat of a die-hard carnivore and another remembers her experiences vividly from multiple visits, so their opinion on how the signature pork ribs here measure up to its Indonesian counterpart is something I don’t take lightly. They all agreed it was comparable to the original.
In terms of looks, the two restaurants couldn’t be more different. In Indonesia it comes in the guise of a traditional smoke-emanating warong. Here, in the air conditioned comfort of Capitol Piazza, it’s clad in minimalist wood furnishings and industrial granite walls. The Japanese influences are unmistakable – this was Zaku not so many moons ago after all, the sumiyaki restaurant helmed by Dan Seagall. When it suddenly closed in the span of a few short months, the Massive Collective group filled the space with grilled specialities of a different kind.
While I can’t say for sure if the ribs ($18.80/half rack, $35.80/full rack) are as authentic, I can certainly vouch for their sheer succulence. Never has the descriptor “fall off the bone” been used in a truer sense. Attempt to pick up a section of the rack and you’re left with a clean bone in your hand. The meat slides off with ease into a heaping pile on your plate, its intoxicatingly smoky scent coupled with a sweet, sticky marinade. What constitutes the latter is a trade secret of course, though like at its flagship, the ribs are charred under the white heat of a charcoal-fired grill.
The ribs delivered both the occasions I visited, but the Crispy Pig Ears ($6.80) were as different as night and day. They were hard and chewy the first time, but delightfully crisp and left a rich oleaginous mouthfeel on the second visit. When my dining partner jokingly mentions that Naught Nuri’s should sell them for patrons to bring into the movie theatre just opposite, I think he’s really on to something.
The Wagyu Steak ($23.50) is an inside skirt cut and seasoned without any salt or pepper, just a brief soak in fish sauce before it’s slow cooked and slapped on the screaming hot grill. It’s paired with a bright lemony béarnaise, and asparagus that is taken right to the acceptable edge of burning so it’s deliciously blackened but not at all bitter.
The Asian Specials were met with mixed feelings. Beef Rendang ($9.80) was melt-in-your-mouth tender, Maggi Mee Goreng ($11.80) was limp and soggy, while the Nasi Goreng ($11.80) retained a wonderful bite from its use of both brown and white rice. Both the chicken dishes of Ayam Masak Merah ($6.80) and Lemak Chilli Party ($6.80) were middling, but the Soy Glazed Chicken Wings ($9.80), stuffed with chorizo, shishito peppers and cheddar cheese to the point of bursting, were out of this world.
Expectations of Naughty Nuri’s cocktails run high too – they have been touted, after all, as “the best martinis in the world” by Anthony Bourdain in the restaurant’s original guestbook. Not to mention that the drinks program is managed by Ricky Paiva of Manhattan Bar fame, who complements the distinctly Southeast Asian flavours on the menu with lime, lemongrass syrup, pineapple, papaya and passion fruit. Our Coco De Aqua ($16.50) was an instant perk-me-up with Plantation 3-star rum, fresh lime juice and carbonated coconut water. If you’re sticking to Nuri’s Signature Martini ($19.50), beware of a coconut milk overtone so rich, it masks the palate’s ability to pick up much else.
Increasingly, you see gula melaka in almost every butchered ondeh ondeh-inspired dessert, but it works beautifully here in a crème brulee ($8.80), its warm syrupy notes sweetening a barely set custard. Despite our initial apprehension, we’re sold on Naughty Nuri’s ribs – and then some. #01-84 Capitol Piazza, 17 Stamford Road. Tel: 6384 7966
Average dinner bill for two, with drinks: $100
Must-tries: Pork ribs, gula melaka crème brulee