Local produce and responsible gastronomy is the key focus for this young chef at Nimitr
Talk about taking on a challenge. Chef Nanang Prasetya Aditama is still under 30 years of age and yet, even with high-end, luxury resort experience in Bali and the Maldives, arrived in Bangkok to head perhaps one of the most ambitious and beautiful restaurants in the city. A big responsibility on young shoulders.
Joining Nimitr Restaurant at 137 Pillars Suites & Residencies Bangkok in November 2016, Chef Nanang set about creating a menu of “Oriental appreciation” that plays to the advantages of local and sustainable produce. Leaning on his experience and the techniques acquired from hotel institutions such as the Grand Hyatt Bali, Villa Balquisse, Bintan Lagoon Resort, Niyama Resort, Maldives, and The Sanchaya Resort, he is creating a cuisine with a strong focus on responsible gastronomy.
Playing with concepts of Thai molecular cuisine, it soon became evident that a more conventional, honed approach would benefit the restaurant, and Chef Nanang and his team moved towards “cutting edge Oriental” which incorporated numerous countries and cuisines. Regional staples were inescapable but new and exciting Pan-Asian creations materialised too: Chilli Crab, Lamb Rendang, Szechuan Rock Lobster, Beef Massaman, Scallops and Abalone Sashimi.
“Looking to Asia opened the possibilities,” says Chef Nanang. “We could incorporate more ingredients and play with techniques, creating a menu with focus. It opened up our creativity, allowing us to update the menu every 3-4 months, introducing around 80 per cent of new dishes.”
Nimitr opened in February 2017, atop 137 Pillars, with a warm and intimate, boutique-feel restaurant, and outdoor terrace and bar area that remains one of the most stylishly crafted and beautifully-lit spaces I’ve seen in Bangkok; an impressive achievement, given this city’s infatuation for ritzy rooftop dining.
“Where possible, we only use Thai produce. That is important to me and for the 137 Pillars philosophy,” says Chef Nanang. “We like to keep a few signature dishes because we think they’re strong enough and our regulars like to see them on the menu.”
After graduating from STIPAR Triatma Jaya—studying in the day and working in a local Balinese restaurant at night—Chef Nanang started his career as a Commis Chef at Grand Hyatt Bali. He left to join Pica Tapas Restaurant and then Villa Balquisse, where he worked as a private cook. “That was a very enjoyable time for me. I could be creative because the menu was up to me. I would visit the local market every morning and see what was available and then make meals based around the daily produce. It forces you to be creative. But I knew that if I stayed in Bali working like this, then I wouldn’t be able to grow.”
In 2012, he joined Bintan Lagoon Resort, cooking mostly Italian cuisine, followed by a move to Niyama Resort Maldives, where he worked as Chef De Partie in the Tribal Restaurant. “I worked there for a year and a half, without a vacation. That was interesting because, by the time I arrived, the chef who had hired me had left. I didn’t know anyone.”
It was in the Maldives where Chef Nanang met Chef Ken, a Thai chef at the Anantara Maldives. “He trained us how to cook Thai food, real and genuine Thai food; from the basics up. Not just the tourist staples,” remembers Chef Nanang. “Thai food was a sort of revelation, like a memory of home. I’m always going to lean towards more of the Asian and Balinese way. I had been handling unusual produce like ostrich eggs, making salsas with Mexican spices, and trying to use sea urchin in sorbet, all for international clientele—quite a mix.”
With local ingredients an ever-present part of the Nimitr menu, relationships with suppliers is always at the forefront of Chef Nanang’s mind, and even on his off days, he’s out and about exploring, visiting the markets, keen to further his knowledge. “I like to explore local ingredients and meet the suppliers,” he says. “My face might look a little Thai so the people in the markets will speak to me when they see how interested I am in the produce, and I’ll nod my head and say okay, okay. Sometimes I’ll be with someone from my team so that they can help. Right now I’m looking for a ginger flower. In Singapore, its used very often in Michelin restaurants, and it’s easy to find it, but here’s it more difficult. It’s used for decoration here and not for cooking. I plan to use it in salsa. I’ll try to find it and am planning to visit the flower market in the next few weeks.”
Responsible gastronomy is the direction of Nimitr and 137 Pillars. In Chef Nanang they have found a young chef with similar principles. “We work together in supporting the community. Food always tastes better this way, and it gives the maximum benefits to the customer. It’s also much better nutritionally. That’s what I love about Thailand; they have the land to grow. Farmers are producing high-quality products, and my goal is to seek them out and apply their ingredients to new, creative, and exciting menus.”
Interview by David J. Constable