August 1, 2016 / 1 Comment
Why are the good ones so hard to write about? That’s what I find myself asking as I finally put fingers to keyboard to finish my review of Gaggan, one of the restaurants I visited while in Bangkok after #50BestTalksAsia. Is it because it’s so hard to find words that do the food justice? I think that’s a big part of it. I’m also realising that it’s because I sadly took terrible photos! Let’s just say I’ve learned a thing or two about photography since this dinner, so you’ll just have to cut me some slack for photos that really don’t stand up to how good the food was. I suppose I’ll just have to head back for another visit to remedy this – no complaints there!
Anyway, back to Gaggan. If you’re one of the foodies out there who hasn’t yet heard about this legend and his eponymous restaurant, stop here and go watch his Netflix Chef’s Table episode (so good it was nominated for an Emmy). It’s directed by David Gelb, who you might know from directing epic foodie productions such as ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’, and it’s utterly fabulous. Just go watch it if you haven’t already, trust me you’ll love it.
To be honest, I had no idea what to expect from our Gaggan experience. Sure, it’s achieved the top spot in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants two years running and the rank of #10 on the 2015 World’s 50 Best List, but I really didn’t have any preconceived notions of what it would look like or taste like – I simply booked on these sterling accolades.
Arriving at the front door of a beautifully restored villa, resplendent in white on white, the setting was a delightful and refreshing surprise. I’m not sure what I thought it would look like, but given Gaggan’s bright blue logo on his website and my idea of Indian flavours, I expected, big, bold, bright. Instead, the intimate dining rooms are an oasis of calm, like a little piece of The Hamptons in Bangkok, the bursts of flavour and colour reserved for what’s on the plate.
This is the menu we feasted on. I know menus usually aren’t disclosed at Gaggan, but I’ve let enough time pass since this one now so you’ll probably see some classics still on the menu, but I would imagine a lot of dishes will have changed since our visit.
Edible Plastic Spiced Nuts
Chocolate Chilly Bomb
Uncooked Curry Cookie
Foie Gras Sundae
Story of Fish called Kin-Medai
I want my Curry!!!
Mithai ki maki
Roots of love
From the moment the dewdrop arrives, you know you’re in for a special experience at Gaggan. Each dish is a tiny mystery that unfolds on your plate and your palate. Gaggan has truly defined, and refined, molecular Indian cuisine. He’s the master of this domain – in fact you might even go so far as to call it his domain. Yes, I’ve tasted some great molecular Indian elsewhere (hello, Tresind and Tresind’s party animal little bro, Carnival by Tresind), but there’s something about the way Gaggan does it that is just so elegant. Each dish arrives with a flourish, in a cloud of wonder (and sometimes a cloud of real smoke). You can taste the passion that goes into this food.
From the dewdrop to the famous yoghurt explosion, it’s all about spheres to start and that’s fine by me. Gaggan has taken his El Bulli tutelage, fused it with his Indian heritage and created uniquely Indian molecular magic.
I have not yet tired of the joys of spherification, and my favourite dish of the night is one where Gaggan used this technique to perhaps the best effect I’ve experienced. It was the Salli Boti, a sphere of curry (representing boti, chunks of meat) atop a nest of crunchy potato being the salli (meaning sticks). When you bite into this molecular morsel, the sphere of curry explodes, viscous enough that you can feel it gently flowing through the potato salli creating a insane mouthfeel that is both creamy and crunchy at the same time. It was a memorable dish indeed.
Gaggan’s campaign of shock and awe continues. The Uncooked Curry Cookie, amazing. The Chocolate Chilly Bomb, thrilling. The Indian Tamago, luscious. The wholly edible Bag of Spiced Nuts, confronting. I love that Gaggan takes you on a journey of satisfying surprises, different textures, always changing – but still carrying that undercurrent of familiar Indian flavours, just reimagined.
The rapid fire succession of starters gives way to a slower yet steady parade of delicious dishes, but to be honest I could have just eaten the entire first progression again and left a happy diner! The small, intricate morsels were so delicious – they definitely had me craving.
Being a truffle addict, the Magic Mushroom course was a definite highlight of the meal for me. A beautifully constructed miniature forest floor scene packed with earthy truffle and mushroom flavours, it was as delicious to look at as it was to devour.
The elegant Red Matcha course pays its respects to the tradition of a Japanese green tea ceremony – but this one is opposite in colour, and actually featuring tomato, not matcha. The story of fish unfolds in front of you – a four-tiered pot of sorts that reveals more magic with every layer.
Curry lovers do not fear – there’s one of those on the menu for you too, and be prepared of one of the best you’ve ever tasted. Gaggan has often joked if he made the menu curry-less the diners would revolt, and I’m glad he’s kept it in there. One course of curry is more than enough when there’s so much other food on offer during the tasting journey.
Desserts were probably the only area of the menu that I didn’t love, but that’s just me and Indian flavours. Blame my uneducated palate when it comes to some flavours that are just uniquely Indian.
Pair this amazing food with fantastic service, an intimate atmosphere and a world class sommelier and you have the makings of an experience that will long live on in your memory. Multiple Kumeu River Chardonnay varietals on the menu? Oh HELL yes. And they decant them? It doesn’t get any better.
Just looking back at the pictures is making me crave round two at Gaggan. It’s safe to say come Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in Bangkok 2017 I’ll be back. Book me in, Gaggan.
Overall Rating: 9.6/10