It was Chris’s birthday last Wednesday, and so I thought it only appropriate to take him to Asia’s best restaurant. Literally. Gaggan in Bangkok was voted No.1 in ‘Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants’ list for the second year running in 2016. So it was with great expectations that we arrived at their doors at 6.30pm ready to settle in to the ‘Progressive Indian’ 18 course tasting menu.
To save me writing an essay and boring anyone reading this senseless, I will refrain from listing out each of those 18 dishes and mention just a selection of them as I continue with this review.
The restaurant is housed in a beautiful whitewashed restored old bungalow down a side street in bustling Bangkok. The interior is light and airy, comfortable and if you are lucky enough to bag a particular table, as we were, features a huge window looking in on the kitchen to see the multiple chefs hard at work.
A quick glance at the menu and we immediately saw that this was no standard curry house, corroborated by the charming waiter who assured us we were in for a taste of the unexpected. The first 10 ‘courses’ were snacks, to be enjoyed as finger food, and they swiftly started arriving at our table. They were a bombardment of textures and flavours, tricks on the mind and the palate. For example, the little plastic packet of spiced nuts, where the plastic dissolved on the tongue and left your mouth full of crunchy Indian spiced nuts akin to Bombay mix. The ‘curry cookie’ which melted in the mouth into dusty cookie crumbs and yet tasted exactly like a creamy curry. And the pork vindaloo, which was in fact a crispy crunchy potato rosti topped with tender slow cooked deeply spiced pork. And to round off the snacks was the ‘sundae’ consisting of a mini mango ice cream cone, filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with Uni (sea urchin). I didn’t love it, but once you had your head around it, somehow it was a not altogether unpleasant combination of cold sweet ice cream and salty topping.
Next came what i think was the highlight of the meal. A course entitled ‘Charcoal’with no other clues as to what it would be. A black plate arrived, with what looked like a black lump of coal, and ash sprinkled all over it. As you cut into the crispy exterior, it gave way to a soft centre *spoiler alert* of soft potato a sea bass. It was slightly salty, a hint of acidity and such a light crisp outside, the taste and texture was like a really, really posh fish and chips.
3 more courses which whilst good, didn’t blow us away, before we got to the next highlight, and let’s be honest, what you expect from an Indian restaurant, a couple of curries. With rice, and naan bread. Now, these were good, really good. The naan possibly one of the best I’ve eaten, but it was well, a curry! As good as any seriously good Indian takeaway I’ve had, but not much more than that. It was the most substantial part of the menu, certainly delicious, but not the most interesting.
Up to this point we had enjoyed a lovely evening, and been wowed by some ridiculously clever techniques and cooking trickery, but there had also been a few misses, and put frankly, not everything was that tasty. Then, the restaurant’s eponymous head chef Gaggan Anand appeared in the kitchen (we spotted him through the window) and we literally saw the chefs start laughing, animated and gesticulating. Then the lights went
out, I mean almost pitch dark, and the dessert of the giant peach snowball came in with a candle flickering as the waiting staff sang happy birthday to Chris. The wonderfully camp and charming waiter then proceeded to hand-feed Chris some of the snowball, apparently Thai tradition (or maybe he just took a shine to my husband) and to be honest, the food from that point on pretty much took second place as Gaggan himself then came to say hello at our table-side ,before inviting us into the kitchen for a mini tour and a chat.
From there ensued much jovial banter, section chefs being pointed out by name and told to show us what they were plating up, and another chorus of happy birthday with Gaggan acting as the animated and vocal conductor.
The camp waiter escorted us back to our seats, and proceeded to orchestrate a mini photo shoot as we waited for our mango duet lollipops (which were delicious, soft and creamy and coated in fruity flavoured white chocolate), and then gave us bar recommendations as we finished off with another glass of champagne and final mini desserts (I can’t really remember too much about these other than they looked stunning on a bed of cacao nibs).
With a final wave from Gaggan through the kitchen window, we were off, with our new best friend the waiter escorting us cosily arm in arm (he was in the middle of course) to point out the rooftop bar where we were to enjoy a nightcap. An absolutely fabulous end to a fun-filled evening, and even if the experimental food wasn’t always a 100% hit, the crazy chef with his amazing imagination and wonderful waiting staff certainly meant that we would highly recommend this place, for a different and very enjoyable experience. The Gaggan Experience.
Gaggan, 68/1 Soi Langsuan, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, 10330, Thailand