The Gamble – Nagomi Restaurant

I haven’t been able to take good food picture lately. Perhaps I ran into photographer’s block. My new lens seemed uncooperative and is put away on the shelf – it would serve me during the day only. I had gone out with Naomi to a very nice dinner where we had squid ink pasta with marinara sauce but the pictures turned out horrendous! There was no way I could salvage them. Disappointment clouded the last few nights… Every picture I took was grainy, but I was wrong when I decided to stinge on my ISO. Turned out grainy was better than noisy in photography! At least grainy adds texture but noise, that’s a different animal altogether 😦

Squid Ink Pasta with Marinara Sauce at CM-PB. The pasta was cooked till al dente and served with marinara seafood.

Squid Ink Pasta with Marinara Sauce at CM-PB.
The pasta was cooked till al dente and served with marinara seafood.

The photo above was shot without flash and it turned out grainy and noisy. This one was with flash after I gave in to frustration but I really really do not like using flash.

The photo above was shot without flash and it turned out grainy and noisy.
This one was with flash after I gave in to frustration but I really really do not like using flash.

I did not have any dinner plans but I met him at a pub for a drink.
“Are you hungry?”
“Not really, but my camera is! Pub food?”
“Nah, let’s go downstairs for a bite.”
“Not again. But I know I’m dying for Hashida Sushi… If you want…”
“Omakase?”
“Yup, omakase if you please. It’s like playing Russian roulette. Didn’t you say you like living on the edge?”
“Very funny, girl!”

I was not dressed for Hashida in Mandarin Gallery, though. I was in slippers, shorts and a knit top but I’ve got my camera with me – never leave home without it. A phone call was made and off we went, where to exactly I did not know at that time but it would be in Orchard Road, Cuppage area – that’s where our little Japan is.

The fun thing about an Omakase meal is that the menu changes all the time, based on the availabilty of the most fresh seasonal items the chef can procure from Japan. You don’t know what to expect, both in terms of food and pricing. But in recent years, the trend of omakase meal has been catching on in Singapore and they took half the fun out by putting a price or price options to the dining experience. Oh well, that’s not too bad actually. At least you’ll know the damage upfront. The gamble is now narrowed to what’s going to be on your plate and if the food is worth what you’ve paid for.

In an omakase restaurant, the server or chef would ask if there’s anything you dislike or allergic to and he’ll omit that from your plate. Basically, you entrust or gamble on him to surprise you with tasty nuggets. I knew the chef would not be serving me spicy coconut based food so I told him I could stomach anything, erhm, perhaps not everything… No live gold fish, horse meat sashimi and no whale or salmon sperm for me, thank you.

After being seated at the counter, where I could stretch my legs (I fear sitting on tatami floor, my crossed legs would cramp from lack of blood circulation), I contemplated my surrounding and was beginning to be disappointed. Not again… I realised how dark the place was. It’s got a really nice ambience but very bad for my food photography! My camera was going to go hungry again.

The stubborn streak or positive thinking in me arose… I thought I was smart when I “cleverly” lowered the ISO  and aperture, and increased the shutter speed. Since I was seated at the counter, I would be able to anchor my elbows on the table. “Have no fear…” I convinced myself it’s going to work. All the pictures turned out dark and dull, full of noise as Vanessa later educated me. My photography friends argued I should have brought my LED light or using flash but I would not and will not. It’s very intrusive for both the restaurants and diners. I will somehow find a way to take my pictures in this type of conditions. Low light lenses or light painting photography perhaps, there must be a way I’ve yet to discover. And so I must trudge on. Follow my elusive dreams. Take the gamble. And hopefully, out of the hundreds of shots in the dark, a few would turn out pretty. Meanwhile, join me in my omakase meal in the actual dining room condition.

All the photos taken below were shot with the existing lighting. I took the gamble 😉

Orchard Road, Singapore.

Orchard Road, Singapore.

Nagomi Japanese Omakase Restaurant by Chef Sato.

Nagomi Japanese Omakase Restaurant by Chef Sato.

Japanese Sake.

Japanese Sake.

When I first step into the restaurant, it was so dark my eyes took a while to adjust to my new environment.

It was so dark when I first step into the restaurant my eyes took a while to adjust to my new environment.

After a couple of minutes, I start to see better.

After a couple of minutes, I started to see better.

And then there was light :)

And then there was light 🙂

Nagomi's pottery servers and cups heighten the aroma of alcoholic beverages. You get to choose one of these to be your personal sake cup for the night.

Nagomi’s pottery servers and cups heighten the aroma of alcoholic beverages.
You get to choose one of these to be your personal sake cup for the night.

Dasai 39 -  S$150 per bottle. Semi dry and fruity which I like.

Dasai 39 – S$150 per bottle.
Semi dry and fruity which I like.

Kanpai!

Kanpai!

Nagomi uses authentic Japanese earthenware to make dining pleasurable and with these two appetisers, my omakase meal has begun!

Nagomi uses authentic Japanese earthenware to make dining pleasurable and with these two appetisers, my omakase meal has begun!

 Japanese Tomatoes. They looked like luscious, don't they?

Japanese Tomatoes served with salt and mayonnaise.
They looked luscious, don’t they?

My friend said that when these are in season, each can cost about S$7 in a supermarket or S$15 a piece in a restaurant. Needs verification :D

My friend said that when these are in season, each can cost about S$7 in a supermarket or S$15 a piece in a restaurant. Needs verification 😀

Work of art on a plate! Luscious, sweet with complex flavours on the palate.

Work of art on a plate!
Luscious, meaty and sweet with complex flavours on the palate.

Sashimi Platter. Fish changes with season and what's freshest during time of order. Nagomi imports their fresh foods 4 times per week.

Sashimi Platter.
Types of Fish change with season and what’s freshest during time of order.
Nagomi imports their fresh foods 4 times per week.
Chef Sato named the white flesh fish to me but I was not paying attention. My eyes were on that orange mound in the bowl far from me.

Uni the Sea Urchin. If cold enough taste like some exotic ice cream to me, lol... Uni is unique in flavour. You either like it or hate it, just like durians.

Uni the Sea Urchin.
The orangey creamy roe is the infamous sea hedgehogs with spiky tests. If they are chilled cold enough, they do taste like some exotic ice cream to me, lol…
Uni is unique in flavour. You either love it or hate it, just like durians.

While I was forcing the shutter to focus and give me a click, my friend kindly made me a seaweed roll of scallop and uni. Doesn't it look like a glow in the dark food?

While I was forcing the shutter to focus and give me a click, my friend kindly made me a seaweed roll of scallop and uni. Doesn’t it look like a glow in the dark food?

Japanese aubergine, brinjal or eggplant. Baked till al dente, if I may borrow the word.

Japanese aubergine, brinjal or eggplant.
Baked till al dente, if I may borrow the word.

Topped with Miso paste and grilled till golden and charred.

Topped with Miso paste and grilled till golden and charred.

The salty miso and bland flesh was a marriage made in culinary heaven.

The salty miso and bland flesh was a marriage made in culinary heaven.

I do not know the name of these fish but they reminded me of my grandmama's cooking.

I do not know the name of these fish but they reminded me of my grandmama’s cooking.

I cannot believed I shot this freehand in the dim restaurant with a shutter speed of 0.1s. It's a big and frustrating challenge for me!

I cannot believed I shot this freehand in the dim restaurant with a shutter speed of 0.1s. It’s a big and frustrating challenge for me!

Gallery of the bony fish which can be eaten without much trouble. Not recommended for old folks and young children though.

Belt Fish.

Belt Fish.

With just a squirt of fresh lemon juice, I ate it without any shoyu. Yummy! The natural sweetness of the fish came through.

With just a squirt of fresh lemon juice, I ate it without any shoyu. Yummy! The natural sweetness of the fish came through.

A few thin bones which one has to be careful. Chef Sato took the trouble to score the fillet before grilling them. The crunchy shreds of vegetables, not ginger, I'm suspecting banana flowers, goes very well with the fish.

A few thin bones which one has to be careful. Chef Sato took the trouble to score the fillet before grilling them. The crunchy shreds of vegetables, not ginger, I’m suspecting banana flowers, goes very well with the fish.

Japanese Sho Chu, Plum Wine and more Sake. The fish presented today weren't too oily. But if they were, some sake would do the job nicely.

Japanese Sho Chu, Plum Wine, even Premium Malts and more Sake.
The fish presented today weren’t too oily. But if they were, some sake would do the job nicely.

Moist juicy and tender thin slices of Beef to be eaten with the teriyaki dip and butter lettuce.

Moist, juicy and tender thin slices of Beef. I think it’s wagyu.

To be eaten with the teriyaki dip and butter lettuce.

To be eaten with the teriyaki dip and butter lettuce.

At one point, I thought the beef was spongey. Can it taste this way? Light yet chewy, not tough and stringy.

At one point, I thought the beef was spongey. Can it taste this way? Light yet chewy, not tough and stringy.

The next time I have a bigger dinner group, we'll have one jar of these babies!

The next time I have a bigger dinner group, we’ll have one jar of these babies!

Meanwhile, I'll just make do with my small bottle. Kanpai Chef Sato. Dinner was oishi!

Meanwhile, I’ll just make do with my small bottle. Kanpai Chef Sato. Dinner was oishi!

Bottoms up!

Bottoms up!

After cheering with Chef Sato, he knew to give me more uni ;-)

After clinking sake cups with Chef Sato, he knew to give me more uni 😉

The 7th item of my Omakase meal consisted of seaweed gruel broth and tuna chirashi. At first, in the dim condition, I thought I was served mojito in a bowl, lol... The seaweed was without the usual "pungent" laver taste. It was very clean tasting. The broth was not as clear, but resembling light rice porridge water in viscosity.

The 7th item of my Omakase meal consisted of seaweed gruel-like broth and tuna chirashi.
At first, in the dim condition, I thought I was served mojito in a bowl, lol…
The seaweed was without the usual “pungent” laver taste. It was very clean tasting. The broth was not as clear, but resembling light rice porridge water in viscosity.

Hand-minced tuna on a bed of warm Japanese short grains. Drizzle in some shoyu for extra sweet soya taste.

Hand-minced tuna on a bed of warm Japanese short grains. Drizzle in some shoyu for extra sweet soya taste.

The seaweed broth was tongue cleansing in a way. The cool uni was now warm in my tummy. At this point, Chef Sato came and asked if the food was satisfying and if we needed more. I had to decline his offer because there's a rich chocolate cake waiting for me at home. But I am ready for my meal's dessert now.

The seaweed broth was tongue cleansing in a way. The cool uni was now warm in my tummy. At this point, Chef Sato came and asked if the food was satisfying and if we needed more. I had to decline his offer because there’s a rich chocolate cake waiting for me at home. But I am ready for my meal’s dessert now.

Oh but wait, I have to eat my minced Tuna rice first. Shoyu, mix well and nom nom nom...

Oh but wait, I have to eat my minced tuna rice first. Add shoyu, mix well and nom nom nom…

Japanese Peach. I thought it was cantaloupe until my first bite. My friend said apricot, I said peach. We argued, betted and I won. Not a big deal but I did not have to pay for my dinner, phew!

Japanese Peach. I thought it was cantaloupe until my first bite. My friend said apricot, I said peach. We argued, we betted and I won. Not a big deal but I did not have to pay for my dinner, phew!

Nagomi seats about 25 persons. Goodbye fellow diners. Enjoy your meal!

Nagomi seats about 25 persons.
Goodbye fellow diners. Enjoy your meal!

Chef Sato and I.

Chef Sato and I.

Chef Sato's message to Nagomi customers.

Chef Sato’s message to Nagomi customers.

7 item Omakase Dinner S$125 per pax. Sake S$150.

7 item Omakase Dinner S$125 per pax. Sake S$150.

Nagomi Restaurant
Address: 5 Koek Road,
#02-22 Cuppage Plaza,
Singapore 228796.
Tel: (65) 6732 4300.

Operating Hours: 6pm – 2am
Closed on Sundays.

By the way, here’s the rich chocolate cake by Awfully Chocolate I said was waiting for me at home. It’s Ryan’s birthday!

It said: "Ajjossi! Hengbok Chuka Hammida!!!!!" Yea, I added all the punctuations, lol...

It said: “Ajjossi! Hengbok Chuka Hamnida!!!!!”
Yea, I added all the punctuations, lol…

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Comments
10 Responses to “The Gamble – Nagomi Restaurant”
  1. Lignum Draco says:

    Dark but atmospheric photos. You captured the colours of the food nicely.

    • Sam Han says:

      Thank you Draco, for such kind and comforting words. I was lucky to be able to brighten up at least some pics of the 7 item course for this post. Maybe I should start taking pics in RAW. I’ve signed up for Photoshop course 😀

  2. sgfoodonfoot says:

    Do you shoot in Manual?

  3. Janet Rörschåch says:

    Sam–I am sorry to hear you are feeling frustrated with your new lens. My favorite photo above is the one of Naomi’s sake cups. Instead of looking at this as a block, but as your Picasso-esque dark and moody period. 😀 You’ll tunnel through this and find you are happy with your photos again.

    You know this could be your opportunity to get your Fuji back….

    • Sam Han says:

      Thanks Janet for your kind understanding. I’m going to find out more about light painting photography course. That is not be as intrusive and may work out. If it does, it will be ideal. I’ve given it some thought and I think shooting in the dark is like trying to capture fireworks theory. I may be wrong but my brain is at least in drive mode now, lol… 😀

      • Janet Rörschåch says:

        You are obviously using your brain, Sam, because you are trying to figure it out. Good for you!

      • Sam Han says:

        I’ll be going for the fireworks again this weekend. The last rehearsal before our National Day on 9th August. I’m going to pick some tips from this type of photography and try to incorporate it into my food photography in dim conditions. Otherwise, I’ll be doom to eat in daylight only, and me being a nocturnal creature, that’s sad! Hahaha… Juz kidding 😉

  4. Laura Lynn says:

    I really liked the atmosphere of the photos. Wonderful job, but I don’t know anything about photography so I don’t count. I listened and listened and didn’t hear ANY noise! (HA ha haha..oh well, I tried)
    Looks like a wonderful meal but very expensive. It’s like art to me. Each dish is so lovely.

    • Sam Han says:

      You just cracked me up, hahaha…Thank you! I needed that 😀 It’s always wonderful to hear from you, Laura. The last post I did on Teppei – The Waiting Game – was really a steal (S$60 for 21 item omakase meal). Food was very good there too 😀

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