Central Asian food may not be familiar to many but The Nomads Singapore shows that the region’s cuisine is vastly underrated. Its omakase-style offerings will also take your taste buds through a culinary adventure.

SINGAPORE (March 6): From the moment you step through the doors of The Nomads in Telok Ayer, it is clear this cosy restaurant is set up to give you the definitive Central Asian food experience. Open since November, The Nomads draw its culinary influences from the countries along the Silk Road (which used to run from from Southern Italy to Western China including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). However, they also do so with by incorporating their dishes with Singaporean flavours we all know and love. Suffice to say, this restaurant specialises in the unusual.

First, you spot some herbs you’ve never heard of being used in dishes, like marigold. Then, there are unexpected flavour pairings — like kaya and caviar, for example. The setup is also more speakeasy than restaurant, seating only 20 along a long table and high stools.

All these are deliberate choices of Five Ten Holdings (which runs The Nomads) founder Shawn Kishore, and after a lengthy two-and-a-half hour culinary journey through Central Asia (via Singapore), one could easily say he made the right call: This a meal that gently nudges your taste buds into the realm of the unusual yet familiar with its wonderfully balanced flavours and textures in every beautifully presented dish.

The Central Asian influence dominates in the delightful menu Kishore has crafted up — small, but satisfying dishes that are bite-sized explosions of flavours and textures. We sampled the Odyssey of Fire set ($148 for 17 courses), which is one of three omakase-style tasting menus. The other two are A Trail Ablaze ($98 for 11 courses) and Nirvana ($188 for 22 courses). The meal started with a bite of flaky, delicate filo pastry with horseradish mash and topped with smoked herring which piqued the appetite with its saltiness and pairs off perfectly with the first drink (beverage pairing is an additional $88), citrusy, sweet glass of Beluga Noble vodka, jasmine, lavender and raspberry.

This was followed by the Caviar & Kaya, a traditional Nonya pie tee filled with poached Argentinian prawns and house-made kaya that is crowned with glistening beads of Kristal caviar – a perfect balance of sweet and salty, Singaporean and Central Asian. I was hesitant at first but the creaminess and mild sweetness of the kaya was absolutely delicious against the salty caviar. Next up was the Lamb Samsa Cone. Lamb samsa is a popular dish in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, usually served as a baked pasty filled with meat. However, at The Nomads, they are served as Lamb Samsa Cones, which are filled with top quality lamb tartare of fresh Mottainai lamb short loin (considered the ‘wagyu’ of lamb) known for its light, clean and naturally sweet meat. This was a dish perfectly complemented by the Butterfly pea Gin (from local brewers the Brass Lion) vermouth, lavender and grapefruit cocktail.

When the Nomad’s Nan arrived — golden-brown, warm, fragrant flatbread with two types of house-made butter served in a hollowed-out marrow bone — I was floored. Anyone who says bread and butter is too simple for this price tag is wrong. There is nothing plain about this dish — The Nomads uses a secret family recipe where the flour is fermented overnight with yogurt, intensifying the flavour and richness. This results in a bread that’s dense enough to be satisfying but also soft and light enough not to make it feel like you’re filling up on bread. What really stands out here is the Hunter and Gatherer Butter, so named because the former was infused with animal fat while the latter was imbued with seaweed. This was served with a cocktail of Beluga Noble vodka, ginger and yuzu — a tart and refreshing mix that really cuts through the fat and cleanses the palate for the next dish.

Three vegetarian dishes then followed: Maitake mushrooms with tahini (sesame seed) glaze, khmeli suneli (a spice mix with marigold, dill and coriander seeds) and sesame seeds; Carrots in Soil (charred heirloom carrots, caraway olive oil emulsion and coffee crumble) and the Salat (a salad of grilled pears, seasonal greens, walnuts, cherry vinaigrette and a mild, creamy anchovy sauce). A carnivorous like myself may scoff at the idea of salads, but the Salat was exceptional. It was one of the most perfectly balanced salads I’ve ever tasted.

The vegetable dishes were quickly followed by seafood: Koji (fermented soybeans) cured scallops and spiced burn corn on a lentil cracker; Squid Laghman (their take on the popular la mian noodles) with smoked Szechuan paprika sauce, capsicum and pine nuts and Sturgeon with soy butter emulsion, crunchy grains and dill. The fish and scallops were stand-outs, once again perfectly cooked and seasoned with a good balance of flavours and textures. The seafood dishes were paired with a Lebanese wine, the Chateau Musar White wine from the Bekaa Valley. It was sweet and crisp with hints of honey and the tartness of fruit, and really brings all the seafood dishes together.

We then go to the meats (my favourite): The Beshbarmak — which is Wagyu beef cheek in a tea-spiced broth pickled shallots, soubise, pickled garlic and crispy potato sheets. This modern version of Kazakhstan’s national dish is tender and melt-in-mouth, and best devoured with a spoon to drink every last drop of the broth. Then there was the beef tongue: Braised for 48 hours, served with burnt wholegrain mustard cream, spice beef jus and almonds. These were served with the same Chateau Musar wine, but red instead, which had notes of prunes, figs, cedar and raisins. An easy, smooth, medium-bodied wine that goes well with food. A pomegranate and watermelon sorbet is next, perfect to refresh the palate and get your appetite going again. Then came the Foie in Ash (foie gras with cherry gastrique and charred breadcrumbs). It was salty, rich and indulgent — everything a good foie gras or duck liver should be.

Finally, there was the Hunter’s Plov, which was a bowl of A4 wagyu striploin, bone marrow and Carnaroli Risotto with pickled heirloom carrots, tea-braised quail eggs and brandied raisins. It was outstanding. The meal ends with two desserts: Almaty, a dainty tart of smoked apple ribbons with dollops of Gorgonzola cheese and cinnamon yogurt and a scoop of celery sorbet, and Medovik, which is honey cake served with sour cream ganache, and a blood orange, rose crystal and yoghurt sorbet.

The Nomads served up a wonderfully balanced meal, both in flavour and innovation. It was altogether unique, exciting and simply delicious.