If the venue looks familiar, you might be remembering its former life as much-loved Japanese fusion restaurant Okra, which recently closed its doors. Taking up residence in the same location is DAM:A, a noodle bar inspired by both Korean and South African cuisines. The name literally translates to “to put in a bowl” in Korean and is the newest venture by Westside Hospitality, an F&B group that also operates ever-popular casual Korean diner OBP and Mexican eatery 11 Westside.
The two head chefs, Waheeb Abrahams and Kevin “Ching“ Lam, bring their different perspectives to the menu in an interesting mix of Korean and South African flavours. Chef Abrahams was most recently at Ho Lee Fook, while Chef Lam was part of the kitchen teams at Carbone, Jinjuu and Brass Spoon.
The narrow venue features counter seating overlooking the open kitchen, as well as small high tables lining the wall.
Since we were there for a lunchtime tasting, we went for the lunch set, which includes noodles and add-on snacks. The dubu kimchi ($48 as lunch set add-on or $88 for dinner) features crispy fried tofu topped with crunchy kimchi coleslaw. The lightly breaded fried tofu was served to us fresh from the fryer, with a crispy crust and silky centre. We liked the refreshing crunch of the red cabbage, which holds up well to the vibrantly spiced and garlicky kimchi dressing.
What’s Korean food without KFC? DAM:A’s KFC ($58 as lunch set add-on or $148 for dinner) consists of juicy dark meat fried to golden perfection, followed by a dusting of the eatery’s house-made furikake powder. Daikon cubes pickled in apple vinegar with a splash of yuzu, along with kimchi coleslaw, accompany the juicy KFC. Finger-lickin’ good, but without the mess!
Although we were there for lunch, we stared in wonderment at the large silver fish being prepped at the counter for dinner service. Upon further enquiry, we learned that this long, belt-like fish is called hairtail ($118) and is a popular item on Korean dining tables. The fish is smoked at 80°C for six hours before being blended with cream cheese and smoked abalone jus. Then the creamy mixture is dolloped onto house-made walnut-and-raisin sourdough and bejewelled with caviar and dill. A flavourful, bright starter with all the markings of fine dining.
While chatting with Chef Abrahams about his previous life as a rugby player, the popular rugby-game snack of biltong ($88) jumped into the conversation. DAM:A’s version is house-smoked, using South African M5 Wagyu. We were anticipating beef jerky, but the thin slices of biltong are incredibly tender and packed with flavour. The accompanying alfalfa salad dressed in an apple-onion sauce helps to undercut the richness of the meat.
The sam gae ($128), steeped in ginseng-flavoured chicken broth with noodles and topped with tender slices of chicken, fried garlic, green onion, wood fungus and half a soy egg, is comfort in a bowl. The broth is rich in collagen, and the noodles are always cooked to a chewy al dente. The numerous toppings make each bite interesting with all the contrasting flavours and textures.
The spicy chicken noodles ($118), topped with bonito dust, house-made furikake, peanuts, seaweed, green onion and a raw duck egg, are big and bold. The dry, tossed noodles are very well seasoned and are best shared; the robust flavours could be overwhelming for some.
Casual noodle bar by day, something more unique and experimental at night. We like the easy-going vibe at DAM:A and the flavours that are both familiar and comforting, but also with a slight edge that keeps it exciting. We’ll be back to try out dinner soon!
110 Queen’s Road West, Sai Ying Pun, firstname.lastname@example.org ( (no bookings)
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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