When we sign up to join the Namaaz Pop-Up Gastronomic Evening at Arwana Restaurant, we never expected it to be fun. Well, of course a 17-course dinner is going to be fun, as in we’re going to try lots of exciting new menu. Plus, the wine pairing from Sababay Winery will surely make any night enjoyable. What we meant by fun is non-stop surprise, uncontrollable laughter and an explosive ending that results in us wearing a raincoat by the end of the night. That is what we call, Fun dining, indeed.
We start the night with a relaxing pre-dinner cocktail at the Arwana Bar by the beach. This is one of our favourite bar in the island, and that night the bartender served us a Pandan Coconut Martini, which is vodka, pandan syrup and coconut. It’s sweet and creamy and goes well with some light canapes to hold us up before the dinner starts. Then all guest were escorted to the beach area where our DJ and Saxophone player awaits. We are greeted by a glass of fine Moscato d’Bali from Sababay Winery. And with this, our 17 course adventure begins.
Our Chef for the night is Andrian Ishak. He is the conductor of the culinary orchestra that we will be experiencing that night. Self taught and driven by both passion and curiosity, Andrian Ishak, uses scientific techniques to produce both playful variations on traditional dishes and wacky new food pairing to create Namaaz Dining – the first Indonesian molecular gastronomy restaurant. This night, for one time only, he brought Namaaz Dining to Bali and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for us. All 17 course will be Balinese food, and some menu has not been served at Namaaz Dining. So we are excited.
Just like at Namaaz Dining, none of the guest knows the menu. You just have to experience it with all your senses. Chef Andrian warns us: What we see is not what we will be getting. We just have to trust our tastebud, and enjoy the food. The first five courses was served at the beach. The first one is “Ada Udang di Balik Batu” or hidden agenda. He literally served us with a bowl of grey limestones. If we look closely, some stones are actually food. As we eat it, we notice that it is actually potato and shrimp. Then, we got Bacon and Eggs served raw. He advised us to pick up the meat with our chopsticks and eat it, then eat the eggs like drinking a shot of drink. What do we get? It’s watermelon and mango. So fresh and sweet. Then came the Sate Lilit served on top of charcoal. As we eat the satay, there’s a pointy stick that we can use to eat the charcoal with. Turns out, the charcoal is cassava cooked so moist and yummy. After that came a plate of escargot that should be eaten like a shot. Then the chef told us it was his version of a Balinese delicacy: bulung, which is seaweed. The last one was a fine dish called “Cabe-cabean“. Inside the red chili shaped dish is his version of Betutu Duck. Amazing.
As the night is getting late, they escorted us to the restaurant where our names are already set up in a beautiful table. Normally, Namaaz Dining served 28 people max, but this night they have 40 people. Chef Andrian bring along three of his kitchen staff from Jakarta to help him out, and a great job they did.
A glass of Pink Blossom was served to keep us company while the chef prepared the next 12 course. Needless to say, each and every one of these dishes are spectacular. Some of our favourite are worth mentioning in this article. The first one is Nasi Campur served as a bowl of caviar. I still cannot understand how something in the shaped of caviar can taste exactly like nasi campur. Amazing. Then, comes the Serombotan, which is a famous Balinese food – mixed of boiled vegetables with a special soup from lime and chili. They served us a plate of beautiful vegetables with drops of water. It is so minimalist that they served us a squeegee so we can get every single drop of the soup. Genius. We are also impressed with his version of Kowoh, a Balinese dish that is basically meat stew cooked with blood. For this one, he uses beef and no blood. He served a tea pot, a donut, a cup and a teabag. So he cooked the donut inside the tea pot. When it is finished, he poured the meat juice on the cup and the tea bag melts, with condiments like fried garlic inside.
Some Indonesian favourite that amazes everyone was the Chicken Curry. For this dish, he served us a plate with a piece of paper, a wooden pencil, an old school pencil sharpener. So we put some of the shreaded spices on the paper, roll the pencil (which was a bread), with the paper (which was a crepe), and dip it in the sauce. Voila, chicken curry it is. After that came the fish pesmol, the mini chicken, the selorot in the shape of a lipstick and es buah served ala nitrogen ice cream. Another dessert, he gave us a beautiful version of rujak bebeg, served in ice shots, gel sauce, chopped fruits. It is so fresh and spicy at the same time. Then he served us a soap, foam and towel because the Indonesian word for dessert is pencuci mulut, and since you wash things with soap this is what he made. The soap is biscuit and white chocolate. Again, so impressed.
Just as everyone was ready to give the chef their compliments, the night is not over. The chef asks us to go outside to the beach again. There, everyone was given a raincoat to wear. This is part of his surprise. He said he’s going to give us the last course, which was es podeng. But instead what we get is chocolate and some nuts and bread in a space bowl. After, the chef add some smokey substance and break the chocolate ball, suddenly the food started to explode and pop those chocolate all over. Then to end the night, Chef Andrian Ishak throw the smokey substance around and the whole area was covered in cold smoke. Everyone was happy, and we gave the chef a standing ovation. That is how you end a great night.
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