Indonesian Fried Rice, Satay, Indonesian Grilled Chicken, Padang Rice, you named it, they have it. Indonesia, an archipelago spread across from east to west that consists of thousands island, cultures, and off course, wide varieties of food that might not documented yet.
Maybe, just maybe, Indonesia will never be like France with the most complicated, political, and luxurious food nor like Japan where they have the most Michelin stars in the world these days. Or maybe Singapore? Hong Kong? Where you don’t have to travel as far as United States or Europe to have the finest dining experience. Indonesia will always be Indonesia. They don’t give a damn about how they plate their food, about how it looks, perfect temperature, perfect texture, they don’t get obsessed with perfection, at least not yet at this time.
Heart, that’s what they have on the plate. Delicious food that’s what they have. Fold and keep your ego, and try to concentrate about the food and flavor, and I can guarantee you. It will stick in you memory.
In my opinion, Fine Dining in Indonesia doesn’t get enough appreciation like other country have. For the society, it’s only for the upper class people or socialite. In a way, I have to agree on this, they required big bucks to spend. In my opinion, only some of them know how to appreciate food. Most of them only interested about how the restaurant look a like instead of how fine the food is. They will feel happy by spending big bucks on creamed pasta or a piece of dead steak in a well-decorated place.
Alright, at least you have a picture about this country. In short, comfort food still rules the game.
Adrian Ishak, a culinary director from a restaurant called Namaaz, is like a nuclear bomb for the culinary scene in the country by delivering the most innovative and daring dish with his “Molecular Approach on Indonesian Cuisine.” Some of you might say “Ah, that’s boring,” “Cliché” “Too ambitious”, but for us, modernist cuisine is like something we never heard before, or maybe we never expect it to be applied on Indonesian cuisine. He’s a self taught in Molecular cuisine beside spending some time in hospitality school and working at his family restaurant that serves authentic Indonesian food.
The kitchen looks more like a home chemistry lab instead of a professional kitchen, and they only serve 8 diners a day. On the kitchen’s wall they have the picture of culinary maestros such as Heston Blumenthal, Grant Achatz, Ferran Adria, and Rene Rédzepi.
This is the display of my 17 courses menu. But, the excitement didn’t start later, it started as soon as the menu arrived on the table. This menu is edible. It’s made from pineapple meringue. I’ll bet the first bite will put a smile on your face.
Fruit Soda (Soda Buah)
Another excitement. Drop it to the glass, the tablet will release its magic my transforming the fruity water into a carbonated fruit drink.
This bite-sized lychee sphere will blast in your mouth. The outer layer is in jelly form, and helps to protect the lychee juice inside. Interesting.
Sautéed Oncom (Tumis Oncom)
Oncom is a traditional food that comes from West Java. It’s made from fermented soya bean. The flavor and texture of this dish didn’t manage to catch the excitement that comes from the idea and presentation. The sautéed oncom was accompanied by beancurd and sambel bajak (a traditional chili chutney from west java). The combination was far too dry and the chutney was too aggressive. They just don’t come together as a dish.
Asinan in Indonesia means preserved, usually vegetable or fruit, something like pickled vegetable or fruit. Asinan comes from a word Asin that literally means Salty in English. Some parts in Indonesia have different types of Asinan. This is Asinan that comes from Jakarta. It consists of Cabbage, Chinese Cabbage, Beansprout, Carrot, Cucumber, and dressed with peanut sauce (kind of peanut vinaigrette) with cracked yellow cracker on top. Sounds like Indonesian Salad doesn’t it? This is my favorite dish. I love this dish until I know how right this dish supposed to be. And this was amazing. The balance of flavor is there. Chef Adrian gave it a twist by putting Grapeseed Oil Candy instead of a normal yellow cracker. It has a Candy coating with grapeseed oil inside.
Aceh Noodle (Mi Aceh)
I haven’t tried Aceh Noodle before, so I don’t how is it supposed to taste. I don’t really like the texture of the noodle, it’s like undercooked pasta, but the combination of flavor was great.
Carbonated pure coconut water. I would like to have this under a coconut tree on the beach. Very refreshing.
Sayur Asem (Sour Vegetable Soup)
Sayur Asem is an iconic dish of Indonesia. You can ask every single person in this country, Sayur Asem is everyone’s dish. It’s a tamarind based soup with ingredients such as corn, melinjo, bilimbi, chayote, and long beans. Chef Adrian gives a twist by transforming a soup into a hot jelly and topped with corn puree. Delicious!
Telur Balado (Balado Egg)
Telur Balado is a dish from north part of Sumatra. It’s a combination of chili sauce and egg. Namaaz gives this dish modern interpretation by using sous-vide egg yolk served with spinach crisp and Balado purée. I think Namaaz did a great job. The Balado purée was really good, it wasn’t too aggressive but still manage to give the heat and flavor.
Semur Daging (Indonesian Braised Beef)
My personal preferences, I’m not really a big fan of sous-vide beef. I’m not saying that this is a poor dish. From the seasoning to the flavor and texture was good. But I prefer to have a little bit of searing on the meat.
Ikan Woku (Woku Fish)
Ikan Woku is a fish dish from Manado, North Sulawesi province. It has savory, spicy, and strong flavor. This is a clever dish. Since the Woku Style can be applied to both fish or chicken, the chef manage to combine the fish and the chicken into one plate. It looks like chicken, it has a chicken bone, but the main protein is fish. Flavor wise, I need more of this. Really good.
Kambing Guling is a spit roasted goat served with sweet soya sauce. This is a twist version of Kambing Guling served with charcoal cassava. Again, the chef only used sous-vide to cook the cook which was a let down for me because it didn’t balance the amazing flavor from the seasoning and the sauce. Speaking about Kambing Guling, I’ll expected the smoke flavor and aroma that comes trought the meat, at least, I need a crust, slight bite to prove that this meat is fit for a king, not a “boiled meat”. But overall, this is amazing.
Es Campur (Mixed Ice)
Es Campur is a traditional Indonesian dessert. The topping can be varied from shredded coconut meat, jackfruit, avocado, tapioca pearl, kolang-kaling, grass jelly, fermented cassava, or basil seeds, and topped with shaved ice with rose syrup and condensed milk. The twist here is the amazing crystal ball right there that filled with avocado, jackfruit, raspberry, blue kolang kaling, and shredded coconut meat. Break it, mix it with the granita and coconut milk, and the last one, enjoy it, you will.
Pencuci Mulut (can be translated as dessert or palate cleanser)
Amond syrup served with sweet foam. I still prefer the Es Campur, but this is great though in terms of the element of surprise and texture.
Carbonated Grape Fruit
Have a bite, and you’ll find a delicious chocolate truffle behind the fruit, and the magic didn’t stop there, your mouth will start to sparkle that comes from the popping candy inside it.
Es The Lemon Panas (Hot and Cold Lemon Tea)
Have you ever thought of drinking hot and cold liquid at the same glass? Try it here. It’s just too amusing.
Eating at Namaaz is all about the whole experience. I might not agree if some people say we only pay for the excitement. Namaaz is about the whole package. The food, the people, the excitement, the surprise, and the most important is the memory that you will left with.
Don’t expect three stars service or ambience, as I said before, fold your ego with your napkin and set aside, you don’t need them. The feeling of eating here is like you are invited to your best friend’s house for dinner. Just sit down, and let the magic speaks for itself.
Oh, by the way, the restaurant will update their menu regularly by season. In this season, which is the first season, the chef explained to me that they just use the very basic technique in molecular cuisine. But, they will not just stand there, the chef will push another limit on the next season with more elaborate dishes.
For those of you who might dine outside the continent might have a perception that the food here is outdated. For example some of you might notice that edible soap is inspired by Mugaritz, or lets say the hot and cold iced tea, straight ahead Heston’s name will pop out from your head, and off course El Bulli, the temple of Molecular Gastronomy. But in Indonesia, Modernist Cuisine is like a baby, or a freshly baked cake.
One thing that I really appreciate and respect about what the chef does is the courage to elevate authentic Indonesian cuisine to a completely different level. When people are praising French or western cuisine as the God of fine foods, Chef Adrian Ishak is like, “hey dude, let me show you how magical our cuisine can be.” Clearly, Namaaz has raised the bar of the food scene in Indonesia.
Is it worth to give a try? HELL YEAH, YOU SHOULD!
Jl Raya Fatmawati 26C, South Jakarta