So when I told J that I was going to Bangkok, she told that I had to eat at Gaggan and my first reaction was, “Indian food? But I’m going to Thailand!” Nevertheless, she was convinced that I should try and get a reservation and if successful, I would not regret the experience. I was skeptical, and even more so since I already had a reservation at Le Du. So when I actually managed to get a late 9pm reservation at Gaggan, my immediate thought was “crap, how am I going to eat 25 courses at 9pm at night?”. J was nonplussed and just told me to “go for it.”
So Gaggan itself is not an easy find. Crazy me decided to walk from the nearest train station, which was a good 20 minute walk, according to google maps, and walking along Bangkok streets at night (alone) was somewhat disconcerting at times! So when I finally found the small alleyway with the small “Gaggan” sign pointing the way, I was like “thank god!” And luckily I recognised the front of the restaurant from previous reviews because there was actually another restaurant on the opposite side of the road which looked very posh as well.
So I was seated in between two couples (which made for some awkward glances at times) but very close to the Chef’s table, so occasionally, we were able to hear Gaggan introducing the dishes to the VIPs. In any case, be prepared for at least 25 photos of “what you see is not what you eat” food.
Before I went to Gaggan, I did read up on what the other food bloggers had to say about it. Reviews were rather mixed, so I could tell that his interpretation of (fusion) Indian food was not necessary everyone’s cup of tea. However, after having watched his episode on Chef’s table and learning more about his motivations and inspiration for opening Gaggan (part of which was to show that it is possible to create Indian fine dining), I was ready to see what Gaggan had to offer. It also meant that I kind of knew what to expect when I sat down for my dining experience that night.
The Gaggan experience starts with an emoji menu where you are then invited to guess the food that is placed in front of you per the emojis as clues. Waiters will give you a brief description of the course, but where there is a “secret ingredient”, information is more often withheld than given.
1st course: We started with a betel nut leaf, topped with drops of chilli jam. It was like a crunchy chip, with a tad bitter aftertaste (from the betel nut).
2nd course: if you watch Chef’s table, you will know that this is what Gaggan considers to be his specialty dish, inspired after his El Bulli experience. Basically, it is yoghurt encapsulated in a soy milk skin which immediately bursts once you pop it into your mouth.
3rd course: Tom yum cracker. This is meant to recreate a tom yum experience for the guest (presumably a nod to Thailand and the place where Gaggan is located at). First, we were given a prawn head cracker, where the chef’s assistant provided to pipe a tom yum mixture into the wrapper. We were then invited to eat the prawn head in one bite (or two). Really interesting way of having prawn’s head, and it really felt like an explosion of tom yum once we ate the prawn head.
4th / 5th course: Eggplant cookie and chilli bon bon. The eggplant cookie was quite a straightforward dish, though visually, it looked like one of those chinese new year cookies one finds at their grandma’s place. I found it a bit salty and the cookie had a tinge of spiciness to it as well. The chilli bon bon was quite interesting. The waiter assured me that I would not find it spicy, but I found the concept more interesting than the purported spice level. White chocolate + chilli sauce? Who knew?
6th course: pea spring roll with Indian spices and chilli soil. This tasted like a vegetarian dish, but who knew that when the final menu came around, this would turn out to be goat’s brain? Whatever he did, he was able to disguise the offal taste pretty well.
7th course: So one thing about the commentary from the waiters was that it was not always consistent from table to table. I found that sometimes, the waiter would provide a bit more details to the other tables, and often I found myself writing down notes based on what was being said to the couple on either side of me, rather than what was said to me. So for this dish, there was an indian couple sitting next to me, so the waiter took the time to point out that this dish was inspired by a southern indian breakfast ( but this was not pointed out to me). Hence, the emoji for this dish was a rice bowl, though in this case, it appeared in the form of a rice flour bun.
8th course: the emoji for this was a coconut tree, and we were invited to try this with a “secret ingredient”. Visually, it looked like an onde onde, but of course, once I bit into it, I knew, it was chicken liver pate coated with coconut flakes. So “secret ingredient” fail?
9th course: A burger for those western guests who want something “normal”. Gaggan’s interpretation of the burger, of course, served indian style, indian spiced patty and in a dim sum basket.
10th course: more western / Japanese courses: this is where the Indian influence starts to become a bit blurred and you seek Gaggan’s other interest, Japanese cuisine, starting to seep in. This was a mini taco with tuna, which was a nice refreshing bite after the Indian burger course.
11th course: Foie gras yuzu marshmallow. I was a bit distracted taking pictures when this course came by, so I did not really hear the full explanation for this dish. What I heard was “yuzu marshmallow” which I was thought was a great combination, but unfortunately, I missed the foie gras part, neither was I able to taste it… and only found out when the full menu was presented to me later on…. sometimes I wish that I could have a second bite after I knew what was actually in the food served, so that I could better taste the ingredients but oh well…
12th course: this looked like a strawberry cheesecake, but no, it was a “fish cake”. This was where you start to see the “crazy combinations” that Gaggan and his team come up with, which… actually work… The fish had a really strong taste to it, and at first I thought it was prawn belachan or anchovies, but when I spoke to the chef assistant later on, he assured me that it was just sea bass. Interesting.
13th course: uni ice cream (gin tonic). Feel like you can never go wrong with fresh uni.
14th course: Chutoro sushi. Again, looks like a sushi, but is actually a slice of chutoro with dashi merringue, jokingly called “indian style sushi”
15th course: Again you see more and more of the Japanese influence with this “summer matcha” course. The waiter brings a tray of Japanese tea items and proceeds to pour the “tea” and swish it around as they do at tea ceremonies, but what you’re actually drinking is a vegetable broth.
16th course: The first curry dish that we would receive of the night – tonkotsu served with vindaloo sauce.
17th course: second curry course was a cured hokkaido scallop served with coconut ice cream. Gaggan’s interpretation of uncooked curry. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of this!
18th course: Quail. Another whimsical presentation, whereby the quail was served in a cage… (the bird has flown its cage…)
19th course: sea bass served smoked in cedar wood. One of the more “normal” courses of the night.
20th course: If there was any one dish that I was most apprehensive about, it was this “charcoal” dish. It had quite the “jellyfish” texture to it that I was convince that I was eating innards of some kind. As it turns out, it was just asparagus. Dang!
21st course: Lobster dosai pancakes – or rather, as I like to call it – lobster prata. I think most Singaporeans would find this quite normal, maybe just an elevation of our normal chicken curry prata to lobster curry prata instead.
22nd course: Finally, we’re on to dessert! First off, dehydrated beetroot served in the form of a rose
23rd course: curry mango chocolate “macaron”. This was my favourite dessert of the night, really liked the combination, including the hint of tumeric (?) that I tasted.
24th course: Gaggan’s interpretation of black forest crumble
25th course: Mango tart, inspired by a traditional Indian dessert. We were fortunate that mangoes were in season when I was in Bangkok, so the mangoes were extremely sweet and juicy.
So there you have it, the entire 25 course Gaggan experience. After you’re done, one of the chef’s assistants will come by to chat and answer any of your foodie questions. I was also able to take a picture with Gaggan himself! He’s such a burst of energy. The moment he found out I was Singaporean, his first reaction was to say “OK LAH!”
So J was right. A very expensive meal (for Bangkok standards), but definitely a one of a kind experience. This is not Asia’s top restaurant for nothing. So glad that I was able to have this experience before he closes for good in 2020!
Address: 68/1 Soi Langsuan, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Bangkok 10330, Thailand