Fun Molecular Dining

Andrian Ishak presents culture, art, technology, science and magic on a plate, and he called it Indonesian Progressive Cooking.

If you want a truly one-of-a-kind dining experience, go to Namaaz. It’s hard to describe the concept, but it’s like the combination of Indonesian food, fine dining concept, childhood memories, magic show, science lab and the application of molecular gastronomy, all wrapped up in a private place with over 15 courses. Passion interviews the man behind the unique concept of Namaaz, Andrian Ishak about his philosophy, approach, influences. Also find out why the man who was often referred as “the first molecular gastronomy chef in Indonesia” doesn’t really agree with the label “molecular gastronomy” for Namaaz.

Since our last meeting in your outlet in Jl. Fatmawati, what has changed from Namaaz?

Conceptually, we’re still the same Indonesian progressive cuisine as we were, however the difference is that we have different theme for each season. I used to call them season 1, season 2, now it’s season Street Food, Childhood, Supermarket. Now our team and capacity is bigger than ever, we have our own independent development team, apart from the operational team.

You don’t label yourself as fine dining, now it’s fun dining. Please explain the background.

Since the beginning I built Namaaz, the approach is always casual place, not something pretentious. Fortunately, our food’s concept support the idea, it’s more playful.

What sort of message do you want to convey from your cuisine?
That cooking is more than just the food laying on a plate. It has culture, art, technology, science and magic.

What do you consider as Namaaz’s biggest challenge? Because your concept is one of a kind in Indonesia.
The biggest one would be telling people that modern fun dining with molecular cooking is completely different than the classic fine dining, it’s a new concept and it might be different from some people’s expectations.

Please explain about the 3 menus that you shared.
Gudeg was inspired by the unique habit of Indonesians, we have the same menu with the same portion for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s different with people from other countries, they have menu for lunch, different one for dinner, that’s why we came up with the idea of gudeg tasted bread and jam.
Ayam Kodok (Frog Chicken) is a menu that is always presents in Indonesian weddings. Initially, we have no idea why people named it Ayam Kodok, so we make frog-sized chicken. We were also inspired by the classic question, “which one came first: chicken or egg?”, then we decided to create egg-sized chicken.
About Kue Celorot, we tried to convey the uniqueness of Indonesian cake, especially on the way we eat it. In order to eat Kue Celorot, you have to roll the bottom to make the cake pop out, and then we came up with the idea of lipstick.

After running the business for years, which period of Namaaz’s that you consider the most difficult?

In the formative years, when I introduced and educated people on this type of cooking. Molecular cooking is one thing, fun dining is another thing.

Some people complained about the declining buying power of the people. Does this issue affect Namaaz?
I think we’re on a position where our market is very niche. Our capacity is also small, so I guess it still has some effect on us, but not very significant.

Who’s your favorite chef?
Heston Blumenthal, he’s the only chef that meet my interest and he’s also self-taught, it inspires me to learn by myself.

You learn to cook by yourself. If you can go back to the past, would you take the formal cooking education?
If I can go back to the past, I will focus on learning in an institution called restaurant. Formal education is important in learning the basic, but it can’t inspire as much as the top restaurants do.

How do you define molecular gastronomy?
I think molecular gastronomy is not an accurate terminology to be identified with my restaurant, because we’re not scientists. The difference is apparent, for scientist, they do food for the sake of science, for us chef, we science for the sake of food, the priority is different. I prefer to call it molecular cooking, because historically, the term molecular gastronomy was used by scientists to raise fund for their scientific workshop.

Some people see molecular things as temporary trend. Yet you’re still here after years, what do you say?

Technology keeps developing, the methods we apply is very technology-based, there’s always something to say with this concept. In addition, Indonesian has very diverse the heritage culture and culinary which seems like endless.

Before cooking, you played music and painted. Are those two things affect your cooking? In what way?
Music and painting is very closely associated with art, they influenced me in my way of thinking, the way I get inspiration, where to get it from, how it should be delivered.

What’s your favorite cooking tool or equipment?
Liquid nitrogen, I consider it as tool because I actually use it as media for cooking, not as ingredient. To me it’s a very radical tool, but safe. It allows me to get results that are unattainable from any other tools.

In your spare time, where do you usually dine out? What’s your favorite food?

In Indonesia, I often eat in some modest restaurants, or in traditional markets. Abroad, I spare some time to eat in fancy restaurants to update myself on the trend, how far their exploration went, apart from the local traditional food, of course.

Namaaz Dining

Jalan Gunawarman No.42

RT.5/RW.2, Selong, Kebayoran Baru,

Kota Jakarta Selatan, 12110

Phone: 0811-1557-798