With countless Filipino restaurants in Manila, some of us cannot help but ask what sets one apart from the others? Amidst the stiff competition, how does one play the game and possess the staying power? Judging by the way Namnam Comfort Filipino Restaurant execute their well thought-out dishes, I deemed that these questions were kept in mind during its inception.
Play on comfort food with a twist is not really a new concept to us. Any foodies can name a handful of restaurants that leans on such trick. Truth be told, they are dime a dozen. What sets Namnam apart however was that although they took the ubiquitous road to play the proverbial twist on dishes, their strong hold to what was downright familiar to our taste buds were not thrown in the back seat. Hence, classics and twists share the spotlight on their menu.
Having said that, Namnam Comfort Filipino Restaurant's menu isn't just extensive, it is courageous. With the kind of food renditions that Namnam Restaurant offers, foodies whose austere loyalty for the classics remain unbending are welcome, same goes for those whose palates lean on the adventurous side. Namnam also believes that good food are meant to be shared, hence dishes on their menu features three serving portion sizes; small, medium, and large.
Dinner started with a parade of appetizers that served as a beautiful prelude to my first visit at Namnam. I have mentioned before that I am not big on chorizo but when it is incorporated to something I deem delightful to my palate, I couldn't complain. Namnam's Deep-Fried Chorizo and Kesong Puti Lumpia was a good example. The delicate taste of kesong puti lightly tempered the rather spunky flavor of the chorizo, a stroke in balance that worked well for me.
|Deep-Fried Chorizo and Kesong Puti Lumpia (Large Php360)|
There wasn't really something special about Street Balls of Fish, Crab and Lobster but it was reassuring to know that it does exist on the menu because these babies can be comfort food for some. This dish comes with what they called Trio of Sawsawans which I failed to try or even notice, so we have to give it to them that the dipping sauces could be the thing that make this dish special.
|Street Balls of Fish, Crab, and Lobster with Trio of Sawsawans (Medium Php225)|
A burst of garlic flavor with a backdrop of succulent meat was what made a perfect beef salpicao for me, and Namnam gave justice to their rendition of this classic. Simple yet divinely rich in its savory spectrum. Tidbits of garlic added to the texture as well as the flavor, but it was the measly sauce that pushed the right button.
|Salpicao (Medium Php285)|
Much like with bacon, most dishes tasted better with garlic, well at least in my opinion. There are countless of dishes that can be executed well with garlic and baby squid wasn't an exception. Namnam's Baby Squid in Olive Oil and Garlic was yet another classic dish devoured during our dinner. It was light in flavor save for the little kick brought about by the specks of chilis incorporated on the dish. Baby squids were tender and its proportion was decent enough to pop in to the mouth in succession humanly possible.
|Baby Squid in Olive Oil and Garlic (Medium Php265)|
To say that Namnam's Caramelized Patis Wings was a revelation would be an understatement. It was something downright hooking regardless if one delights in the distinct flavor of patis (fish sauce) or not. Yes, there was a shy glimpse of flavor from the fish sauce, just enough to tickle the palate and not too much to unnecessarily glorify the condiment. The caramelized foundation of the crisp skin helped a lot in striking the balance. It was noteworthy as it is worth coming back for.
|Caramelized Patis Wings (Medium Php285)|
Great expectations were bound to be thrown in a dish which namesake was the establishment that carried it. Ensaladang Namnam stared at that expectation right in the eye without flinching. It held an honor as brave as its flavor and as magnanimous as the history that lies behind the tested combination of manggo and bagoong. Tinapa flakes and tomatoes were an added bonus, while the pomelo fought rather effortlessly for its flavor to be counted, and rightfully so, it succeeded.
|Ensaladang Namnam (Medium Php195)|
Bangus belly was already good as it is especially when fried to perfect doneness. Yet, adding loads of toasted garlic to it was a form of dish elevation only a cook worth her salt could care to execute. Namnam's Overloaded Bangus Belly was a job well done.
|Overloaded Garlic Bangus Belly (Medium Php290)|
Overshadowed by other dishes that held more pronounced presence in the table, Namnam's Tortang Talong with Longganisa thrive in its simplicity. Not something that I would rave about from the get-go, nor after a couple of bites, but it was well worth its spot on the menu. The secret perhaps lies when you mixed the salted egg and tomatoes to the entire cake before digging in.
|Tortang Talong with Longganisa (Medium Php295)|
Couple of spoonful of Namnam's Sinigang na Beef Short Rib with Watermelon and already I was firing away text messages to friends who shares the same affinity for sinigang. Dinner wasn't through yet but I was already raving, albeit silently but with such fierceness that I got to convinced quite a handful of friends to join me when I revisit Namnam.
|Sinigang na Beef Short Rib and Watermelon (Medium Php390)|
Watermelon was not something that one would normally incorporate to savory dish, but Namnam's execution unapologetically created its own universe as vast as any great chef's imagination. To say that it was a hearty soup dish that was comforting and reassuring would just be getting there but not quite, because honestly, this dish surpassed adventurous expectation. The innate sweetness of watermelon lends a sweet and fruity note to the dish, enough for the sour component to shine through instead of tucking away without assaulting the senses.
Sinful dish like Namnam's Grilled Tiger Prawn topped with Home-made Aligue Butter was an example why there is an act of contrition disguised as going to the gym in this delightful world of foodies. It is delicious to sin at times especially if it was worth the sweat the day after. This dish reminded me of a bountiful sea appreciated because amidst the water there is the goodness of the earth that complements its existence. Not to be missed when you're at Namnam, unless medical condition is at stake.
|Grilled Tiger Prawns topped with Home-made Aligue Butter (Large Php765)|
Namnam can boast of the crisp foundation of its sisig but it was its savory flavor that made it winning in my book. House Crispy Sisig was a familiar dish one could find in any Filipino restaurant there is, but the flavor it held was distinctly Namnam's.
|House Crispy Sisig (Medium Php205)|
Trio of rice dish were served and each one held an esteem of its own. Tinapa Rice carried the distinct saltiness of tinapa without overbearingly so. I deemed that the pronounced flavor of fish in this dish could easily make it stand on it's own, viand not required.
|Tinapa Rice (Medium Php115)|
I could have hoped for more bacon and steak bits on the Breakfast Fried Rice, but the generosity of corned beef made up for the lack of the two, albeit not flavor-wise, but it was good enough. I didn't mind throwing in some pieces of beef salpicao into the mix but the flavors had the tendency to overshadow one another. It can go pretty well with other dishes devoid of soup or sauce, but with several things already going on in a bowl, one may just let go of the idea.
|Breakfast Fried Rice (Medium Php285)|
Reason why it was called University Fried Rice already escaped me, but what remained lingering in my memory was the goodness of this dish. Safe to say that it was my favorite among the three rice dishes for it carried the distinct flavor that reminded me of something familiar yet new. Reminiscent of the staple Tapsilog, perhaps such reminder rooted from the one I enjoyed in my childhood.
|University Fried Rice (Medium Php245)|
Ube Sago Sahke and Gabi Black Sago Shake were the drinks I got to try. The Ube reminded me of pedestrian ice cream we all loved as a kid, albeit with the assurance of cleaner execution. The Gabi I find rather weird as I perused the menu but once I got to try it, I found the flavor familiar but I just could not placed it. It essentially tasted like milkshake but way richer. Regardless the lost memory, I would say that I prefer the Gabi for its impressive and unexpected deliciousness.
|Ube Sago Shake (Php95) and Gabi Black Sago Shake (Php95)|
By the time we got to the dessert part of the meal, I was already full but rule of thumb remained defiant, there must be always room left for dessert. So while the Turon of Mango and Kesong Puti sounds rather enticing, I just settled for the Gata Leche Flan. No regrets since it provide the meal sealer of a sweet treat that I hoped to capped the dinner with. The dense texture of the flan was quite filling but the winning strike was on its taste that suggest a friendly tug of war between the sweetness of the caramel and the creaminess of the gata.
|Gata Leche Flan (Medium Php148)|
Namnam Comfort Filipino Restaurant at Greenbelt 2 was indeed a welcome addition to the restaurants nook of the area. Its spunky deal in terms of treating comfort food gave a different hue to what was familiar with its funky rendition of the twists. The place may get a bit crowded during dinner time, but one may find comfort that it was a good sign of a well-received restaurant. Undoubtedly so, with the kind of great tasting dishes at such an affordable price, Namnam deserves all the attention it can get.
Namnam Restaurant in Greenbelt 2
G/F Greenbelt 2,
Esperanza St. cor Greenbelt Dr.
Ayala Center, Makati
Contact Number: 625-0515