Every few years we see a new trend that takes the Pakistani food industry by storm. Be it the breakfast/brunch trend, the afternoon/hi-tea or the recent trend of spinning different cuisines into comfort food. I think build your own (Asian cuisine) bowl is the best thing that has happened to Pakistan’s food industry. It’s delicious, quick and healthy and gives us great flexibility of choice. Let’s face it, 90 per cent of the time we eat out is simply for convenience; eating out is quick and time is money. And we all get to enjoy our favorite food.
The only downfall of this trend - like every trend - is that when something works, it spreads like wildfire. Cafes and restaurants start catching up with the same trend all around the city and most of them are mediocre at best, which makes it very hard to pick a place that won’t disappoint. Nom Nom Wok, the recently opened Asian restaurant in Kohsar Market, Islamabad, is one place that won’t. While they came to the market when it was almost saturated, they knew they had to offer quality that wasn’t offered before. And they did.
The first impression!
Regardless of how good the reviews are or how amazing the food is, the interior of a restaurant always sets its first impression. Nom Nom Wok looks like a typical Asian restaurant from the inside and, while it’s nothing revolutionary, it ticks all the right boxes. Wall mural - check. Dim lighting - check. Cages with lights hanging from the roof - check. Chinese scribes on the wall - check. The ambiance sets the mood for a quick great meal and defines comfort food at its best.
What’s on the menu?
The menu is not extravagant like a fine dining Asian cuisine but that’s what makes it special. It has the basics that can cure your Asian food cravings and give you a meal to remember within 40 minutes. The three soups on the menu (Hot n Sour, Nom Nom special soup and Tom Yum in chicken or prawn) range between PKR 250 - 350. For salads and appetizers they offer Prawn Tempura, Kung Pao Lollipops, Golden Silk Prawns, Chicken Satay, Thai Chicken Salad and Yum Nua Beef Salad (all under PKR 695). The dumpling section is no fuss too, offering the best of both worlds - Chicken and Prawn.
On the main course menu, they have Hot Pot, Thai Green/Red Curry, Chicken Cashew Nuts, Mongolian Beef, Beef with String Beans, Prawn with Thick Chilli Sauce, Thai Beef/Chicken Chili Dry, Chicken in Oyster Sauce and Tamarind Fish, among other classics like Pad Thai, Nasi Goreng, Spicy Noodles, Chow Mein and Chop Suey.
What’s most interesting is the build your own bowl section that offers you flexibility to make the most unique bowl you have ever tried. The bowls are offered in six different styles - Mongolian, Cantonese, Thai, Kung Pao, Pan Asian and Szechuan. Their protein options include chicken, beef, fish, prawn and tofu and the base has brown/egg-fried rice, egg noodles, chow mein, stir fried vegetables and the option to half and half any of the two bases.
What to eat?
For starters, we tried the Golden Silk Prawns, which were highly recommended and lived up to the expectation. Not sure what sauce they used but whatever made them golden was delicious.
What I loved most about Nom Nom Wok is that I could enjoy Asian cuisine without consuming carbs. That’s not to say that I did that but I had the option. I could pick my favorite style, add protein and just enjoy stir-fried vegetables as a side, curbing my Chinese food cravings without any rice or noodles.
It’s a different story altogether that I went for a half and half choosing Egg Fried Rice and Chow Mein with Kung Pao Chicken, which was a treat. The sweet and sour flavor and starchy texture of the chicken was on point. My friend tried the Mongolian Beef and was all praises. The tender beef with crispy seared edges coated in a bold sticky sauce was the perfect treat for beef lovers.
Even though we were recommended the Szechuan, we tried chicken in the Pan Asian style, which had the delicious chicken cooked in a sweet and salty teriyaki style sauce.
The Pad Thai and Nasi Goreng both tasted authentic. I’ve heard praises of the hot pot but that’s for another round altogether. For this time, we were too full with our savory servings and decided to look at the dessert menu.
We tried the Molten Lava cake and the Lotus Cheesecake, both of which were great, but the Lotus Cheesecake gets a special mention. Fluffy and just the level of sweet, the cheesecake slice had lotus biscuit crushed and spread all over it, which added a textured crunchy taste to the cake.
Nom Nom Wok is great value for money. It’s not a fine dining Asian restaurant for a family dinner but it’s the perfect place to head to when you want to be done within 45 minutes to an hour.
I left the place om-nom-noming!