NamNam, Singapore

SCRIBBLES

Category: Vietnamese – Casual

NamNam is probably the first vietnamese restaurant to have made it to multi-branch status. Owned by the Les Amis Group which owns other restaurants such as Peperoni Pizzeria and the newer brother to NamNamConnam (or “Broken rice bowl”), NamNam is especially popular amongst the weekday lunch crowd – in part due to its accessible location, and in part due to its affordable set lunch.

252 North Bridge Road, #B1-46/47 Raffles City Shopping Centre, Singapore 179103, 10 – 9.30PM daily (Multiple Branches)

Namnam is conveniently located at major shopping malls, and has spread its reach across Singapore with branches at Suntec City, Wheelock Place, Plaza Singapura, and even Resorts World Sentosa. Greens and browns feature strongly in the decor at Namnam, and it often jumps out because of its rustic vibe.

Damage: $ – $$

Lunch set meals are good value for money at $9.90 flat, and include a bowl of beef or chicken pho, a small plate of appetizer (which used to be the fresh southern rolls, but is now a salad), and a vietnamese coffee or lotus tea. At other times, the noodle dishes are about $10, with appetisers and sides going at about $5 – $6, which is still affordable especially when you’re eating about town.

To go: Possibly yes, but don’t expect consistency

I used to be a loyal fan of Namnam and went at least once a week for lunch when they first opened, but after a short while, as their business picked up, the standard dropped considerably. Service is eyebrow-raising at times, especially at the Raffles City branch, with service staff leading you to tables that are not yet vacated or swapping you about between different tables for no apparent reason at all, but I think that boils down to specific kanchiong (colloquial speak for someone who is over eager and tending to cause blunders as a result) staff rather than the entire team. I find Namnam to be either hit-or-miss, about 50-50 both ways, but I guess at the price point we couldn’t ask for too much.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

The atmosphere is pretty consistent across the NamNam branches – packed and cramped with tables just the width-of-the-spread-of-your-fingers apart, with hurrying staff carrying bowls of pho and others ushering customers from the queue to available seats, NamNam is a no frills, quick eats kind of place, with a do-it-yourself approach when it comes to service – but there’s no service charge so that’s fine.

NamNam Pho Singapore Food Review Blog Vietnamese Noodles SaladThe appetisers at NamNam have always been consistently good. The salad of crunchy pickled vegetables, slices of fish cake, fatty pork belly, tossed with crunchy peanuts and crispy shallots is full of intense, alert flavours. However, the pork tends to be very fatty, slivery and lacks taste, but the other parts of the salad is undoubtably good and perfect for prepping the palate for the rest of the meal.

NamNam Pho Singapore Food Review Blog Vietnamese Noodles

The Sliced Beef Pho has sometimes been a hit – springy noodles with a slight bite, with thin, tender slices of beef – and at other times, a miss – noodles going way too soft and soggy probably from sitting in the broth for too long, and chewy tough beef with lots of hard tendon going through. When it’s good, it’s good, but when it’s bad, it’s bad. The only thing that’s really been consistent is the broth which always has a good depth of flavour and is sufficiently flavoured with thai aromatic herbs and spices.

NamNam is okay to go with familiar friends, but not a good place to chat about much because even if you’re quick with your meal, you can never seem to be quick enough. Service can be appalling – once I’d been at my meal for barely 20 minutes when a family suddenly appeared beside our table. The couple and their two children looked befuddled, and we too were confused by their presence. They told the waitress who’d led them there that we weren’t done yet, and she promptly waved a hand at us and decided, “no they’re finished”. On another occasion, I was halfway through my soup when a waitress came, just took the saucer of chilli and dropped it right into my soup. I looked up at her in shock, and she said “you’re done right?”- too late, soupwrecked. My visits dropped from weekly to once every few months, and now, when prompted for pho, I’d suggest we go to So.Pho instead.

So.Phô, Singapore

SCRIBBLES

Category: Vietnamese – Casual

When it comes to pho, Namnam is usually the first suggestion to be thrown out because it’s conveniently located at multiple locations, and I suppose, not very expensive. I’d never heard of So.Pho perhaps because it was later to the market than Namnam, and so was pleased to hear about it as a new alternative – I’d long cut back on patronising Namnam because of the declining standard of the food and somewhat appalling service.

Paragon, 290 Orchard Road #B1-20, Singapore 238859, opens 11am – 10pm (Multiple Branches)

I visited the branch located at the basement of Paragon, but there are three other branches; at Jem (Jurong), NEX (Serangoon), and Tampines Mall (Tampines). The Paragon branch is just around the corner from Starbucks, and with bright white words against a black sign, and a bustling casual concept – an ease to locate.

Damage: $$

Pho is a relatively simple comforting dish, and at So.Pho, the prices were about $9 for a bowl which is about the average rate at Pho restaurants in Singapore. Side dishes averaged slightly under $10 as well, but portions were quite small. All in all, I’d say prepare to spend around $20 each for a main and a side to share.

To go: For casual comfort food, and to fix Pho cravings when about town

If you’re out about town or at any of the major malls at the extreme corners of our island and want tasty, comfort food, So.Pho is a good idea. Given the choice between So.Pho and Namnam, I can now safely say that I’d pick the former any day. They’re as packed and seating is tight as is at Namnam, but they have a lot more variety and noticeably better service attitudes that really makes the meal that much better. The food is good as well, and nowadays, almost always better than Namnam.


A MORE DETAILED REVIEW

So.Pho is your typical Vietnamese restaurant – tables barely 30cm apart from each other, quick and colourful food, and a lively crackling atmosphere. If you’re looking for privacy, this won’t be it. But if you want vibrant asian spices and flavours and love noodles, rice rolls, and that sort of stuff – So.Pho is your lady.

So.pho Singapore Food Review Blog Pho

The Pho (featured picture) was served with a tasty broth – lighter than the one at Namnam but not compromising on flavour. It was more refreshing, and the beef slices were tender and there were meat balls in the mix as well. A hearty comfort dish.

I had the stir-fried vermicelli noodles with sliced beef, which was one of the restaurant’s recommended dishes. It was delicious – the noodles were well tossed in a fragrant sauce and the beef was tender as well. The serving of vegetables was pretty generous, and I think they could’ve afforded to do more of the same for the beef as well. All in all, a good dish and decently priced.

The appetiser dishes were all good and of a wide variety, and so it’s difficult to make a recommendation. The mango salad, I hear, is pretty good. If you do go by, let me know which you enjoyed as well!

So.pho Singapore Food Review Blog Pho Noodles