Japanese rooftop farm restaurant NOKA at Funan Mall offers respite and a host of rustic dishes to chew on.

Fresh from its overhaul, Funan Mall has a whole new buzzy vibe. Not only is it home to theatre company Wild Rice’s spanking new theatre, it now houses a lively mix of F&B concepts such as Afuri Ramen from Japan, local gelateria Butterknife Folk, and modern Peranakan restaurant Godmama. And if the human bustle ever gets a little overwhelming, there’s a rooftop garden on the 7th floor to escape to.

Light wood furnishings at NOKA - Noka at Funan Mall

Farm-to-table dining at NOKA

But this is not just a regular garden; it’s Edible Garden City (EGC)’s latest 5,000sqft rooftop urban farm. There’d be gems to spot such as pink oyster and golden oyster mushrooms, an array of microgreens, and flowers such as butterfly pea, orange cosmos, Mexican terragon, marigold and ulam rajah. Along the way, EGC staff will be happy to explain features such as their outdoor R&D bed, currently nurturing dragon fruit. From the blazing heat of the outdoors, segue to the cool indoors of NOKA (meaning ‘farmhouse’ in Japanese), a sister restaurant to Spa Esprit’s Open Farm Community at Dempsey. Japanese chef Seki Takuma, a native of Niigata, helms the kitchen.

Dine here and you feel you are part of a movement, whether it goes by locavore, sustainability, urban farming or another name. When that happens, the process seems more important than the result. As Spa Esprit entrepreneur Cynthia Chua puts it, their aim is to showcase what can be grown locally and sustainably sourced. Dishes in tandem, on their a la carte, three-course lunch set ($45) and six-course omakase ($150) menus, are rustic plates that feature local farm-fresh ingredients and regional produce from Niigata and elsewhere.

Sushi chef at work - - Noka at Funan Mall

Sashimi garnished with herbs and flowers from the garden

One example is White Prawn, which combines the natural flavours of sweet, delicate white prawns from Singapore’s Apollo farm, koshihikari sushi rice from Niigata, briny sea grapes, earthy microgreens and flowers, and to top it off, a spritz of Koshijino Kobai junmai ginjo from Niigata. Uni daikon, comes in a tidy package of bafun uni from Japan, kampung daikon radish from Malaysia and a wisp of red leaf hibiscus from the garden for an added hit of citrus. The snow-aged wagyu nigiri topped with herbs and flowers is another highlight, featuring melt-in-your-mouth wagyu that has been aged in yukimuro or snow rooms in Niigata for at least 30 days to impart a deeper flavour to the meat.

The sake list includes quite a number of labels from Niigata, such as Manotsuru Wakimizu junmai from the Obata brewery and Kubota junmai daiginjo from Asahi brewery, along with selections from other regions too. But this is just a start. The restaurant has plans to delve deeper into showcasing sakes from different regions of Japan, beginning with a six-course Yamagata sake pairing dinner ($108) on 21 August, featuring Gasanryu and Benten sake from Yamagata Prefecture.

sakes from Niigata and elsewhere - Noka at Funan Mall

Sakes from Niigata and elsewhere

Desserts in the main are light and daintily presented. The Niigata rice ice cream topped with puffed rice and marigold flowers, for instance, refreshes the palate for one thing, and for another, lets you leave the restaurant with a light step, ready to face the droves again.

#07-38 Funan Mall 109 North Bridge Road (Lift, Lobby A). Tel: 6877 4878

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