We have to admit it: Netflix has become a real addiction for us. And when it comes to TV series like Chef’s Table, well, we have plenty of reasons to visit places like South Korea (agaaaain!) just to experience the cultural side of food and try those lotus dishes from chef Jeong Kwan, or Los Angeles to feel some Italian vibes (what a paradox, isn’t it? :D) from chef Nancy Silverton and her obsession for bread and pastry. But above all, we were tempted to go to Bangkok again just to try Gagan Anand‘s restaurant, a famous chef with an impressive life story. But hey, when we have friends that share the same passion for travelling, we get to know more about an experience at Gaggan 🙂 Corina has a gorgeous Instagram account (check it here) and a blog (Tales of Joy) where she shares her interest in healthy food and delicious smoothies – who knows when we’ll see a Chef’s Table episode dedicated to her 🙂
Eating at Asia’s number 1 restaurant is something that I would have never imagined little than one year ago. Yet it only took a few minutes of Gaggan’s episode from a Chef’s Table series on Netflix that we were already checking the website to see if we can book a table. We had a whole trip to South East Asia already planned and Bangkok was our first stop.
We quickly received a confirmation email so only a few months later (OK, five months later) we were in Bangkok dining at Gaggan. The restaurant is in the Eastern part of the city. The area is not necessarily fancy, you would actually never expect to pass by a fine dining place there. We took an Uber from the hotel as we didn’t want to sweat off our (only) fine dining outfits.
The restaurant is a place of great beauty, a subtle colonial style combined with modern inserts, wearing classy white walls. Unfortunately, it was already past sunset and dim lighting was not so camera friendly. As soon as we got there we were shortly escorted to our table and handed a 25 dinner course menu. The one piece of paper had no words on it, only emojis. 25 emojis, each representing a course. Some were quite obvious (at least apparently), but from most you really didn’t know what to expect. Gaggan was travelling so we unfortunately did not get to meet him, but he normally leaves the kitchen to meet his guests and hear impressions.
Gaggan decided to open up his own place after doing an internship at El Bulli, no 1 restaurant in the world at that time. He came back to Bangkok completely inspired and he wanted to be the “El Bulli” of India. The spherified olive was El Bulli’s signature dish. “Olive, for a Spanish, is very equivalent to what yogurt is to an Indian”, Gaggan says. So he created the “Yogurt Explosion”, the restaurant’s signature amuse-bouche, mango chutney flavours in a spherified yogurt bomb. This became the symbol of progressive Indian cuisine and is served at the beginning (second course), preparing guests for what is yet to follow.
The restaurant invests most of their resources in ingredients and their preparation. We found out the menu changes frequently, except for a few signature courses (as for example the Charcoal). Gaggan enjoys to travel the world and get inspiration from other cultures. His regular visits to Japan influenced him to be more experimental in the kitchen and even introduce Japanese ingredients, such as toro (bluefin tuna), amazake (fermented rice drink) and matcha.
I am normally a fan of stand alone ingredients and healthy uncomplicated dishes. I don’t even think I have that many tastebuds to remember such a large array of tastes. Nevertheless, there are 5 courses that I will most definitely remember my whole life:
- Pink Elderflower & Watermelon: because it was the first and the most beautiful.
- Flower Power: where you’d never guessed there’d be goat brain…
- Chutoro Sushi – a nigiri that I expected to taste somewhat familiar, yet rice was replaced with meringue.
- Chilli Bon Bons: a soft white chocolate explosion combined with a spicy chilli taste.
- Lemon Cheesecake Minion Magnums: not only because I love lemon taste, but it was incredibly refreshing.
All courses had something of extraordinary. Be it the combination of tastes, the plating, the unexpected ingredients or the presentation behind. Dining at Gaggan was a truly impressive culinary show. More than you would see on TV, more than you would imagine when reading about it. I have never experienced so many antonymous tastes in one single bite. And the beauty of it was that they all somehow matched well together.
Anand, 40, was born in India, Kolkata. His first cooked meal was a pack of instant noodles which ended up generating frustration as the finished product looked nothing like the picture on pack. I can definitely confirm his plating skills have meanwhile vastly improved 🙂 At some point during the evening, I was not sure whether I was attending a dinner or an art exhibition. It turned out I was actually attending both.
Truth be told, Gaggan is not just an extraordinary chef, but also a very courageous business man. In 2016, after his restaurant had already gained worthy popularity both in Thailand and overseas (holding the top spot on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants), he announced he will close Gaggan in 2020. Voluntarily or not, this turned out to be a great marketing trick, generating a tremendous word of mouth. Bookings at Gaggan have exploded and now it can even take up to 6 months to get a table.
Gaggan’s overarching goal was to change the perception of Indian cuisine. He didn’t just do that, he also managed to put Indian food in the fine dining spotlight. Visited by Michelin in December (a month after we were there), Gaggan was rated 2 Michelin stars.
Anand will not stop cooking after Gaggan closes. He plans to open a restaurant in Fukuoka, Japan, together with chef Takeshi Fukuyama. Gaggan says they will change the history of gastronomy. GohGan will open in 2021. Hopefully we will meet Gaggan there.
Gaggan serves dinner from Mon to Sat, with sittings from 6pm and 9:30pm. They only serve the Gaggan Experience, a 25 course menu. Vegetarian and special dietary menus are also available. They are children friendly.