Contemporary Indian restaurant Gaggan was bestowed the honourable title of Asia’s Best Restaurant in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Achieving such extraordinary results in three consecutive years is something many chefs can only dream of.
And that’s not it.
“Don’t judge Bangkok with French standard. Please. We are not Le Gaggan. We are not French. We are Asians.”
With such a phenomenal success, most restaurateurs would already be exploring the possibility of opening franchises overseas and whatnot. But chef Gaggan Anand surprised the world with a completely unexpected announcement:
Gaggan will be shutting its doors in 2020.
“Every restaurant has a 10-year life,” said Gaggan.
The award-winning chef has already made plans to wind up the Bangkok restaurant and venture into Japan next.
I have always wanted to dine at Gaggan, but my booking requests had been futile. Scoring a reservation is tough. No surprise there, since Gaggan reportedly receives 500 booking requests on a daily basis. I thought I was never going to get the opportunity to dine at Gaggan…
So how did I manage to book a table at Gaggan?
A good friend of mine managed to get a table for two at Gaggan, and she emailed them to enquire the possibility of adding another chair for me. Surprisingly, Gaggan said yes! Long story cut short, I shamelessly crashed my friend’s date night.
I heard that some guests managed to get a table at Gaggan by just walking in. So do consider a walk in as your last resort if all else fails.
How much does a meal at Gaggan cost?
Prices start from ฿5,000++ / US$160++ per pax for a 25-course dinner tasting menu. The three of us ordered a bottle of red wine too and ended up paying around US$230 nett each.
There are two seatings every day; the first seating is at 6pm and the second seating is at 9pm. We opted for the latter because we didn’t want to rush and “make space” for the next seating.
The experience at Gaggan
“I am here to give my guests an experience, a moment in life, where they have come to a famous, rated restaurant and we have to live up to the madness…”
We were like kids in a candy store from the very start to the very end of our epic degustation dinner. It’s safe to say that the experience was truly unpredictable. We were thoroughly impressed by Gaggan’s ingenuity. Who in their right mind would make their guests lick their plates and not tell them what they are eating?
We never knew that we wanted an element of surprise in our food, until Gaggan showed it to us. We never knew we actually enjoyed certain ingredients due to our preconceived notions, until Gaggan proved us wrong.
Keeping guests entertained from the start to the end of the meal is a skill. Like it or not, Gaggan has revolutionised not just Indian food, but the entire concept of fine dining.
Drop all dining etiquette rules at Gaggan, because you are going to use your hands, lick your plates clean literally and take pictures of your food with your phone. What table manners?
The food at Gaggan
First of all, there are zero words on Gagan’s menu. Instead, you will receive a rectangular menu with 25 emojis. Each emoji reveals one of the dish’s key ingredients or its texture. The remaining ingredients will only be revealed to you after dinner.
“I hate to be predictable” – Gaggan Anand
Gaggan’s menu changes every quarter, which means no two visits, would be identical. Seasonal items are rotated and signature dishes will experience minor modifications from time to time.
See the explosion symbol on the menu? That is the emoji to represent Gaggan’s signature Yogurt Explosion. Pop the entire yogurt sphere into your mouth or risk an unsightly mess! Unfortunately, I failed to listen to instructions and the explosion of mango chutney got into my hair. How embarrassing.
The servers remained tight-lipped when I enquired about the ingredients of Flower Power. Apparently, the ‘secret’ ingredient was… Goat’s brain. Oh my, never in my life did I think I would ever eat goat’s brain! The crisp flower was made with flour and coconut milk, while the spiced powder was ground with goat’s brain.
“I think it’s cheese,” said my friend.
“Nah! Isn’t it foie gras?”
We had absolutely no idea what we were eating half the time. But it was incredibly fun. In true Indian style, we used our hands for every dish.
The tiny crunchy carrot waffle’s smooth filling turned out to be foie gras infused with yuzu. It was divine – and definitely one of my favourite dishes from Gaggan’s degustation.
But I’ll be honest: I did not fancy every dish taste wise.
For instance, the white chocolate chilli bon bon and fish granola looked impressive, but they tasted… Strange. I would not eat these two dishes again, but to each his own. Taste is after all, a subjective matter.
Gaggan’s dishes are filled with theatrics, but let’s face it. This is the present and the future of fine dining. People no longer just eat with their sense of taste. Everyone has astoundingly short attention span these days, yet Gaggan successfully captured ours for three hours straight – and we didn’t even realise that!
You are meant to devour the entire Tom Yum Kung – yes, including its head and eyes! The shrimp’s head was wrapped with a crisp thin rice cracker and injected with cold tom yum lemongrass cream. Salty and crunchy, I love it. I don’t even like tom yum or lemongrass, so this amuse-bouche was seriously a game changer.
One particular dish required us to lick a plate of mushroom green peas, tomato chutney and truffle shavings, while the restaurant played an oldie song Lick It Up. My friends and I automatically partook in a friendly licking contest. It was hilarious. Dinner had never been so interactive!
I’m admittedly not very familiar with Indian cuisine, but it is said that the deconstructed Idly Sambar had hit the right spot.
Other innovative twists on Indian classics included Pork Vindaloo, Scallop with Uncooked Curry, Sheek Kebab, Lobster Dosa and Seabass with Bangali mustard wrapped in banana leaf. Indian food connoisseurs have marvelled at Gaggan’s ability to retain authentic Indian flavours in its outrageous-looking creations.
The amount of thought and effort went in to creating each dish is insane.
Do you know how much time it takes to make these eggplant cookies?
Four freaking days.
Fresh eggplant goes through an arduous process of charring, skinning, cooling, freeze-drying and grounding, before it is moulded with Indian spices and curry oil. A layer of chutney onion jam is sandwiched between the bite-sized eggplant cookies.
It’s a work of art, really.
Gaggan’s obsession with Japanese food is clearly reflected in his menu. The sweet creamy uni and chutoro were heavenly. I’m a huge fan of fatty tuna and the sashimi is of stellar quality. However, I would very much prefer authentic sushi rice instead of dashi meringue as the sushi base.
The Milk Mooncakes served with Reisling Ice-cream and Frozen Muscat Parfait blew our minds. From traditional lotus mooncakes to champagne snow skin mooncakes, I’ve had a fair share of lotus mooncakes throughout my life. But this light and refreshing rendition is hands down the best I ever had. I hope these milk cakes remain a main stay on the menu!
The remaining sweet treats were eye-catching and every bit whimsical in its presentation, but did not win us over. Think roses made of beetroot, tonka bean marshmallow and chocolate chip cookies served in a rustic wooden box, and lemon cheesecake ice-cream popsicles shaped like minions.
So is Gaggan worth a visit?
Yes. There were a few hits and misses, but dinner at Gaggan was overall a fantastic experience.
But in my humble opinion, Gaggan is not the kind of restaurant one can dine at daily. It is where you would want to go for a special occasion. And you better hurry, because Gaggan is closing down in two years’ time.
Address: 68/1 Soi Langsuan, Ploenchit Road Lumpini Khet Pathum Wan, 10330, Thailand
If you are specially flying into Bangkok just to dine at Gaggan, I do strongly recommend you to stay at Mayfair Bangkok Marriott Excutive Apartments – the hotel is located right beside the restaurant!