Dining at GAGGAN - Progressive Indian Cuisine

April 6, 2015 Ellyna Tjohnardi
When you have dined at one of the best restaurants in your continent (not country), how, do you reckon, will it change your perspective about food? Will it qualify you to be a food snob? A right to brag, or will it actually heighten your appreciation for food?
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Welcome to Gaggan

Well, I certainly do not wish to turn into a snob, but I believe my experience dining at the top of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list, lends me right to brag to the world. But that is not why I'm writing this post, in fact my intention is to share with you, the kind of otherworldly dishes that you can expect from Gaggan Anand and his team (or should I say, Sensational? Spectacular? Ok, I better stop bragging before you close this tab LOL!).

To be very honest, I've only heard of the name Gaggan after reading the news about the restaurants which made it to this year's Asia's 50 Best restaurants list. It is a prestigious list curated by an academy of seasoned gastronomes, sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna. Naturally, I can at most memorize the top 5 names by heart, but I do recognize the names of restaurants number 6 - 10. Wonder why? Actually I have been aware of and following the list since its inauguration in 2013. In fact, was present at the award ceremony, held at Marina Bay Sands Convention Halls, and watched the list unfolded with Narisawa from Japan nestled at the top of the 2013's list. Here was a blog post I made to recap the event.
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Back to the present, my most recent trip to Thailand was confirmed after the 2015 Asia's 50 Best list was announced and the name Gaggan from Thailand, topped the list. Naturally, I wouldn't waste my trip and made an effort to secure a table for myself during my short trip. As i checked the website, turns out that we're able to make a reservation online and each seating is for an hour. So I filled in my details, and received an email notifying that they've received my request but reservation wasn't confirmed. Quite nerve-wrecking for me, as my departure was drawing closer, but nothing was confirmed.

A day passed and I still didn't receive any news. Fretted that I might not get a table, I called the restaurant to inquire. It turns out, the whole weekend has been fully booked! But i implored the staff about my situation, that I'm coming to Bangkok just for the weekend and that I require just a table for one, if two is impossible. The lady helped me with the last spot: Friday evening's last seating at 9.30pm. Frankly, I don't normally go out that late, let alone have dinner. But it was my last shot, so i took the offer.
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The restaurant is located on a street filled with plenty of fancy cafes and restaurants, but it's not exactly on the main road. Once you find the sign, just turn right into a small cul de sac and go until the end, where you will find to your right, a quaint, fenceless restored white house, surrounded by a well manicured lawn. That's Gaggan.

Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
House's exterior
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Right: Never missed the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list since 2013
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Left: a glimpse of the interior
Right: The corner on the 2nd floor of the house where I was initially seated at, before I finally joined the table next to me, with 2 British gentlemen and a Thai lady
Gaggan Anand founded his eponymous restaurant, rather serendipitously, but he certainly didn't create the progressive Indian menu by mere luck nor accident. Gaggan's experience include his short stint in Ferran Adrià's world-famous, El Bulli (crowned 3 Michelin star, but closed in 2011 and today transforms into a lab, a foundation and soon, a museum that will attempt to answer creative inquiries about food). A great mentor hatches a great protégé, Signor Adrià should be one proud mentor. I wished I had the chance to interrogate Gaggan in-depth, but I didn't dare to tear him away from the busy kitchen. It was 10PM in Bangkok and the restaurant was full house! But if you're curious about him, I found a concise bio of him here

If you wonder what the menu is like here, there are only 3 set menus to choose from (no a la carte). The food menu is only 1 page long, but the drinks menu surprisingly came in a suede-bound hard-cover book, featuring an impressive list of beverage, wine, cocktail & liquor of all sorts.

Bites from Street Eats (all 3 set menus start with this)
Gaggan's personal recreation of some of his favourite childhood street food in India in small, single bite servings. I won't go into details about what each items tasted like, as I do not want to strip you of the excitement of dining here. So instead, I will just describe some of my favourite dishes. Bites from Street Eats

Burnt mango panna - Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Burnt Mango Panna - served with fish roe. Not exactly a combination one would think of. The fresh sorbet-like mango panna will clean your palate to prepare for a whimsical Gaggan journey
Yogurt Explosion - Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Yogurt Explosion - you have to eat this at one go, do not attempt to bite half, or you will yourself in a mess. Imagine sinking your teeth into boiled white egg-like membrane and liquid yogurt pops out, flooding your mouth with fresh tanginess  
Chocolate Pani puri - Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Chocolate Pani puri -  white chocolate sphere filled with spiced liquid and sealed with edible silver foil. Again, for this one you have to pop everything at one go.
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Potato 2-some-crispy & liquid
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Left: Edible plastic, Spiced nuts - now the presentation itself is perhaps Gaggan's playful mockery on our (human's) littering habit, a piece of plastic packet in a mini traditional bamboo rubbish tray (in Indonesia, we call it 'nyiru'). Now, eat your 'rubbish' clean! I won't spoil the surprise about what's inside the translucent packet, but it was tasty!
Right: Bengali mustard & Noori Pakoda - looks and tasted like herbed cheese
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Papadam & tomato chutney - unlike the traditional papadam, Gaggan creates his from crunchy tapioca pearls
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Keema Pao - mini bun (held it in my hand for size reference), with lamb curry 'patty' that melted in my mouth!
Somewhere between the Bites, one of the chefs (not Gaggan) came to my table and introduced himself. Turns out, the Head Chef, is an Indonesian name Rydo Anton. I was surprised and felt a surge of pride at the same time. Although we couldn't chat much as the next dishes started to come to my table...

Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Say Cheese - hot soufflé of 4 cheese on top of crispy rice cereals and green chili oil. The red base is a thick chili jam, it's not so hot, so don't worry 
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
'Sandwich' - foie gras mousse, onion water baguette, onion chutney and hazelnut candy
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Down to Earth - summer vegetables (asparagus, morels, mushrooms, artichokes) with 62°C egg yolk & truffle chili air
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Charcoal, a lump of black solid, came served in a dome of smoked air
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
What 'Charcoal' actually is: the black crispy crust is made with dehydrated vegetables, then stuffed with spiced sea bass paste and baked. Not quite pretty to look at, but certainly is intriguing and delish!
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Treasure Shells - sweet and juicy Norwegian diver scallops, coriander herb oil gel, young coconut curry
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Portuguese Connection - Joselito Iberian pork belly stir-fried with vindaloo curry and sweet potato
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
River King - Fresh water prawns grilled in tandoor with a curry leaf infusion & mango chutney, served underneath a green herbed foam and edible flowers
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Angry Bird
After all the unusually delightful encounters, this dish pales in comparison when it comes to presentation and level or 'molecular'-ness. But it was actually the highlight of my entire meal, a generous serving of unbelievably tender boneless free-range, native Thai chicken, slow-cooked in rich, creamy & spicy Chettinad style curry. This came served with fragrant Basmati rice. Simple, but unforgettable, and I would remember this as one of the few choices for my 'last meal'. I'm so pleased that the savoury dishes ended on a high note and hence I could move on to dessert in peace.
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Made in Japan - matcha tea cake, mascarpone cream, vanilla salt & fresh wasabi
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Poor Man's Porridge - Firni-jasmine rice ice cream, pistachio crisps, rose room freshener
Dessert at Gaggan, didn't miss out on the action either. The last number, Poor Man's Porridge came served with dry ice in the centre and when the staff poured rose water on it, a fragrant rose scent wafted in the air around the dessert plate, no wonder it's called rose room freshener! Oh, the pink cube is actually Turkish delight, the yellow one is sour lemon gel, and brown lump is crispy chocolate-coated rice balls.

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At Gaggan, they play no music to distract you from the food and drinks. It is an intimate moment for you to enjoy each and every single elements, to be intrigued by the appearance and the presentation. Gaggan does not see his restaurant as a fine dining place, so there's no need to be so tied up or obsessed about what cutleries to use for which dishes. You can be yourself, enjoy the company and definitely, the multi-sensory experience of the food.

I feel that this place is so much more than that. I had the chance to take a peek in the kitchen, where Gaggan actually prepared a surprise dessert for one of his colleagues, who was having her birthday on that day. All of the crews gathered in the kitchen and gave her the lovely surprise. I was in a rather awkward situation, being a stranger in the midst of this 'family', but they welcomed me nonetheless.
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Happy birthday Meena!
Gaggan Bangkok (www.culinarybonanza.com)
Say hello to the whimsical team!

Prices:
3 set menus are available, THB 1,800 (15 items) / THB 2,000 (16 items) / THB 4,000 (20 items)

*) Price is subject to 10% Service Charge & 7% VAT

Open Hours: Daily 6 PM - 11 PM (dinner only)
Reservations: Compulsory (if you want to secure your seat)
Attire: Smart casual.

GAGGAN Progressive Indian Cuisine
68/1 Soi Langsuan
Ploenchit Road - Lumpini
Bangkok, Thailand 10330
Ph: +66 26521700

Facebook: Gaggan
Instagram: @Gaggan
Twitter: @GagganBangkok


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stalk my Instagram: @ellynatjohnardi

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