Digest Aug Food

one great meal

Auckland has a sizeable Filipino population but until recently has lacked a corresponding food scene. There were a few places, but nothing that would really entice people unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine, one richly shaped by history and a melting pot of south-east Asian, Chinese, American and Spanish influences.

Nanam, opened by chefs Jess Granada and Andrew Soriano in the Auckland suburb of Royal Oak in March this year, offers both a delicious crash course in Filipino cuisine and a casual but considered dining experience on a par with the best places of this ilk in town.

Like so many eateries these days, Nanam’s dishes are designed to share, and arrive at the table as they’re cooked. However, unlike so many other places, there is space enough on the table, or at least the plateware is not comically large, to avoid that awkward juggle.

I’d heard some complain that Filipino food can be overly sweet and oily, but this isn’t the case here, with a balance struck in each dish. Our large group ordered almost the entire menu, and the continual arrival of dishes elicited approving noises round the table. A few dishes stood out as favourites. Sisig – chicken hearts cooked in a rich paté gravy – came with a water chestnut salsa and iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap everything up in. I didn’t inherit the offal-loving gene, much to my parents’ dismay, but I saw the light with the sisig: the hearts were tender, the spices warming, and the crunchy salsa and lettuce a cooling contrast.

The TacoPao are a total pop hit: beetroot-stained bao buns which you assemble yourself with sweet pulled pork, pickled vegetables, chicharons (pork crackling, a Filipino favourite) and peanuts. The payalan, as its name suggests, is a Filipino riff on paella: tender grains of rice cosseting shellfish and squid, laced with the distinctly south-east Asian flavours of kaffir lime and lemongrass. The beautiful beef bistek gives wagyu the Filipino treatment: skirt, tenderised with calamansi lime, grilled to rare and served with charred shallots and sorrel butter.

I can’t comment on dessert because we left, entirely stuffed, before it was served, but anyone familiar with Filipino cuisine will stress that you must try the halo halo, which varies from place to place but is always an OTT kind of affair. At Nanam it consists of caramel flan, pandan granita, purple yam pudding, sweet beans, melon and coconut jasmine foam – an Intsagrammer’s delight. Anna King-Shahab

Nanam Eatery is at 26 Symonds Street, Royal Oak, Auckland. Ph (09) 625-6558.