What's the catch
Happy team, happy food, happy customers. For year-old Nude Seafood, what makes a good restaurant is good food, and more.
SINGAPORE – Fine dining quality, affordable prices and fast food efficiency – three characteristics that are typically hard for a restaurant to achieve all at once. Yet Nude Seafood, which specialises in fish, has managed to mix all three into a recipe for success.
Turning one in December, the cosy joint, which is strategically located at Marina Bay Financial Centre, has fast become a lunch and dinner staple for the time-stricken corporate crowd. At Nude Seafood, orders are served within five to ten minutes even during peak hour. According to co-founder Tan Whey Han, the secret to this lies in the design of the menu.
“We keep to a small menu and don’t do customising because it slows things down,” said Tan, “It all starts from the menu design.”
On top of efficiency, Nude Seafood also packs in great value for money by selecting quality produce and ingredients.
This is right up the alley of 27-year-old co-head chef Jerome Lim, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus. Despite the lack of fresh produce in Singapore and being confined by the constraints of time and efficiency, he continues to create delectable dishes with his team.
“Food isn’t just about expressing who I am, but about coaxing the best flavours out of the produce. Singapore might not be a produce-driven country, but adaptability for a chef is very important,” said Lim. Lim also experiments with the type, angle, cut and weight of each fish just so that each slice can be precisely cooked under three minutes.
The result? From as little as $15 for a main, customers can enjoy the finer side of cooking. Case in point: The barramundi is roasted with brown butter, which requires extra effort and skill – 10 seconds is all it takes to turn brown butter into burnt butter. Yet another dish, the Chilean bass is prepared with a special blend of two miso bases. Even better, each dish is a complete and balanced meal with portions of protein, carbs and vegetables. Just like this, Nude Seafood addresses a gap in the market for wholesome food that tastes good.
For Lim, Nude Seafood is the highest point in his culinary career. “When I was at CIA, I remember Chef Eve Felder saying, ‘Everyone wants to do fine dining. But fine dining caters to a very small niche market. Few people can afford it. But there’s so much potential in the rest. If you can just capture it.’ Watching Nude Seafood grow from an empty shell to where it is today – having many people walk in, enjoy the food, post pictures on Instagram. That’s my greatest success. Many dishes have quickly become signatures only because the customers tell us, ‘You cannot take it off the menu.’”
There’s no doubt diners love what they experience at Nude. A first-time customer walked in, had the hickory-smoked salmon, declared it was the best salmon he’d ever had and had the same dish for lunch three more times that week.
“A large part of me being able to be where I am today is because of CIA. I apply what I learned at CIA on the job every single day. It gives us a head start. We spend 13 to 14 hours in class, so when it came to work life, it became very normal,” said Lim.
“A CIA lecturer once said to me, ‘If you want to survive in this industry, you need to know what hardship is. You need to know how to do things on time. You need to know what being responsible is. You need to know what the love of cooking is.’” And these five ingredients make a good chef.