- When: February 2017
- Male DINK Rating: 14/15
- Female DINK Rating: 14/15
- Total Cost: $328; Food Cost: $267
We’ll start by saying that Gaggan greatly exceeded our expectations. Since the cuisine is dubbed as “progressive Indian” – and we haven’t eaten much Indian food – we honestly didn’t know what to expect or if we would even like it.
The restaurant is located in a freestanding two-story house down a small, dead-end street in the Pathum Wan district of Bangkok. There is a decent-sized sign for the restaurant on the main street, but it would be very helpful to have the address written down for your taxi driver (or, do what we did and take an Uber for about the same price). The house is pretty and landscaped on the outside, and that continues into the well-appointed interior. As we walked into the reception hallway, Chef Gaggan, wearing a t-shirt with the saying “Hug Me I Smell Like Curry,” was actually there talking to some other patrons. Behind the hostess station, his “50 Best Restaurants” awards were proudly on display (we’ll get to that in a second). After giving our reservation name, we were quickly seated upstairs.
Speaking of the 50 Best Restaurants awards, Gaggan has held the number one spot atop the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants for two consecutive years – 2015 and 2016. Two nights after we dined at Gaggan, the award ceremony for the 2017 list was announced in no other than Bangkok, and Gaggan retained its number one ranking – now for three years in a row! Having dined at number 3, Amber, and number 5, Nahm (and about to dine at number 2, Restaurant Andre, and number 10, Burnt Ends, on this trip), and several Michelin-starred restaurants in Asia, Gaggan is our favorite so far. Let’s get into why…
First, the menu is unique – it’s playful, fun, and interesting. Other than being creative with the theme of the menu (emojis), Gaggan had to actually create 25 courses, which seems like quite a feat. The first 16 courses were bite-sized and were served in quick succession (on purpose). The remaining courses were only slightly larger and were served at a slower pace. While many chefs are pulling away from the “marathon” tasting menus of 20+ courses, this menu and experience never felt like a marathon. It kept your interest, wasn’t too much food, and it didn’t take forever (our meal lasted about 2.5 hours). We enjoyed the long menu, as it afforded us an opportunity to sample an array of the chef’s offerings.
As there were 25 courses, in the interest of brevity and since everyone loves pictures anyway, we’ll try to keep the food descriptions and comments short and sweet.
A (Spice) B (Citrus) = C (Cola): Served with liquid nitrogen steaming from beneath the small cups. This (we would call an) aperitif had smooth and calming lemon taste, with a spice we couldn’t put our finger on. Good start.
Yogurt Explosion: This is one of Gaggan’s signature dishes, and it is his (Indian) take on El Bulli’s liquified olive. It was served chilled, with a very thin membrane outer shell. The inside tasted like yogurt. Good taster, but nothing extraordinary.
Bombay Bhel: Pretty presentation, with strong (but not overpowering) tamarind dots. The rice crisps inside were accompanied by a few dried herbs. A bit difficult to eat, but very good.
Eggplant Cookie: Neither of us are big fans of eggplant, but this course was great – the eggplant almost tasted like barbecue. The “cookie” dough was almost like a macaron, and it melted in your mouth like a powder. We could have each eaten at least one more of these.
Chili Bonbon: These, too! The white chocolate shell gave way to a spicy and delicious red chili water. The spice was tamed by the white chocolate. Perfect balance.
Green Peas Mushroom Roll: Truffle mousse – need we say more? Arguably the best presented course, all the ingredients went together very well. Again, we could have eaten at least one more of these.
Idly Sambar: We can’t recall the full description of this course, and neither one of us had strong feelings on it.
Coriander Nest Green Apple: This course was good, if not a bit random. It was a bit difficult to eat, but the green apple taste shone through.
Charcoal Prawn Amritsari: Looking like a lump of charcoal, this course was set to deceive, for inside the crispy ball was an incredibly flavorful Indian paella, for lack of a better term. Very good and very rich.
Aloo Gobi Caviar: We’re partial to anything with caviar, but this course was a bit disappointing. The potato was too dry (maybe it was supposed to be?), and all traces of the caviar were lost. We could taste the dill, though.
Citrus Waffle Goat Brain: We thought it was pate. It’s actually brain, a sort of “Indian foie gras,” according to Gaggan himself. In his Netflix Chef’s Table episode, he doesn’t like to tell people what it is (the goat brain) until they’ve already had it. The waffle had a good citrus flavor, almost like a scone. Very good dish. Glad we tried some goat brain.
Amazake Liver: The crisps were good, but admittedly got stuck in our teeth a bit. The liver was similarly good; however, not extraordinarily so. A solid course, but no wow factor.
Uni Ice Cream: Absolutely awesome. Who doesn’t want a tiny ice cream cone with wasabi ice cream at the bottom, mango puree, topped with uni? The flavors were great separately and also paired perfectly. The best course on the menu, in our opinion.
Chu Toro: Great toro. Male DINK thought it tasted a bit salty, but it was overall great. The puff at the bottom (the “rice”) melted in your mouth. Are we in Japan?
Akami Tartar: This tasted like a tiny ceviche taco. Are we in Mexico? The tuna was tasty. Great melding of flavors, and a little spice. Excellent.
Tomato Matcha: The last of the “quick” courses was served table side. A chef explained the tomato matcha while placing a small portion in the cup, pouring in the tomato and beetroot tea, and stirring it. This tasted like a delicious, light tomato juice, without the acidity. Great calming intermezzo.
Pork Vindaloo Cutlet: The first of the “main” courses was served in a breaded shell, with the pork inside. The pork itself had a deep flavor profile, as if it had been cooking for days. No idea what the odd crisp on the top was.
Scallop Curry Cold: Thinly-sliced scallops were served with fried shallots and red chili oil. The dollop in the middle tasted like a sweet yogurt, but was fairly firm. The shallots were a nice touch, and the dish worked well.
Quail Chettinad: The quail was presented under a wooden “cage” – a fun but kind of silly distraction. The quail itself was tender and well-seasoned. Again, a bit of spice. Only complaint is that the quail was served too hot to enjoy immediately.
Cedar Wood Paturi: The sea bass was wrapped inside charred cedar wood, which was still smoldering when it was served (intentionally – the waiter put it out). The fish seemed to be well-cooked; however, the paste of mustard and green masala greatly overpowered the fish. Male DINK did not enjoy this course.
Lamb Kebab Hot Dog: Fun presentation that was a bit difficult to eat. The “hot dog” (lamb) had a great flavor.
Crab Curry Chawanmushi: The crab was very well-prepared. Maybe we missed it during the explanation, but we learned as we progressed through the course that you needed to mix it up. For being toward the end of the meal, we thought the portion size was too large (and it was much larger than any other course).
Beetroot Blue Cheese: Delicious – apparently frozen cheese tastes better. The frozen cheese was grated onto the dish table side, and slowly stuck to the beetroot crostini. The sweet and salty of this course was great.
Basil Chocolate Butterfly: Great presentation, but not our favorite course. Neither of us remember the course or ingredients having much flavor or tasting like anything.
Strawberry Ghewar: This tasted just like strawberry shortcake. The course was fairly light and not too sweet.
Overall, we enjoyed the meal very much. Every course (with the exception of the Basil Chocolate Butterfly) had a lot of flavor and showcased Gaggan’s creativity and ability to combine ingredients. Some of the courses did not seem Indian, but that may be due to our lack of knowledge of such cuisine. Generally, the service and pace was good; however, one small demerit would be the lack of a full and articulate explanation of each course. Nevertheless, Gaggan ranks high on our list of restaurants, and if you find yourself in Bangkok, we strongly suggest you go. Compared to restaurants of similar acclaim, Gaggan provides great value for money.
Additionally, if you watch Gaggan’s episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix (which we recommend you do), you’ll have a great appreciation of his long and difficult journey to be where he is today. Three consecutive years as number one on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list is no small feat.
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