Quick question. Which is Asia’s no. 1 restaurant?
The answer is Gaggan in Bangkok. A ‘progressive Indian cuisine’ restaurant, by an Indian – Gaggan Anand. It topped the new list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S Pellegrino and Acqua Panna. The awards ceremony was at Capella, Singapore.
Incidentally Anand is the first Indian chef to undergo an internship at the famed El Bulli, the influences really shows up in his cooking style.
Along with this influence, Chef Gaggan also draws on his memories of the street food of India and the diversity of its cuisine, marries it with science and technology to create modern reinterpretations of traditional recipes and viola! Asia’s number 1 restaurant is born!
I was in Bangkok last month with my team, and needless to say, ek meal Gaggan mein toh banta hi tha. So off we went, with great expectations and here’s an account of our time there.
The first impression of Gaggan is etched with the décor. Set in a beautiful, white colonial style wooden house, it exudes warmth and we find plenty of it inside too. Gaggan Anand is at the entrance to welcome us.
We chose to sit on the upper level, the crowd was a motley mix of Indians and westerners. I was touched and amused to hear Gaggan Anand talk about how he has followed my journey since he was a child, he actually quoted stories which I had shared on my Khana Khazana shows, way back!
And now for the meal. We opted for the Best of Gaggan menu. A staggering 21 dishes in all.
On the menu wherever there was a non-vegetarian dish, the vegetarians were adequately compensated with an equally good vegetarian dish. Here’s what impressed me the most.
What came first was the Amuse Bouche (Complimentary, bite-sized food portions, served before a meal or in between courses). It was burnt aam panna sorbet with cucumber caviar. Served in a branded wooden box with a wooden spatula on which the caviar rested. Food first impression…rocking!
This was followed by assortment of molecular chaat- Yogurt explosion, edible plastic spiced nuts, white chocolate pani puri, jhal muri cake…In between each course Anand would walk in and explain how and what made him come up with such creations. That’s when we got to know of his connection with Kolkata, the influence of Bengali cuisine is evident in the menu.
What came next like a piece of rock, it was a casing for a soup! The Down to Earth soup as it was called. A simple, yet delicious veg soup with an egg yolk floating in it, it was runny as they claimed it was cooked at 62 degrees. It exploded in our mouth in runny awesomeness!
The next dish on the menu called Charcoal was phenomenal. When it came to our table we couldn’t really see it because it was covered with a cloche which had trapped in all the smoke. The hostess didn’t reveal any details and left it to us to guess what it was, of course she assured us of an explanation later. When I cut into the charcoal it was soft, ate it, it was smoky and it was delicious fish which had all the wonderful flavours of Bengal. We also had a deconstructed samosa, called the Potato 2-some-crispy and liquid, it doesn’t look like a samosa, doesn’t taste like a samosa but has all the elements of one, the chutney, the potatoes and everything else. Delicious!
We decided to take a break, to ease our full bellies, to go have a look at the kitchen. Meanwhile I presented my book The Yellow Chilli to Chef Anand, after a photograph and autograph session we started our tour. Impressed once again! The molecular section was phenomenal. Everything modern and latest. I observed the precision with which each food plating was done, it was identical, hats off to the team, it takes a lot to be that accurate! I saw a drilling machine, it was to make holes in the golgappa. That kind of perfectionism floored me! Applause worthy indeed!
His refrigerator did not have much storage space, which means he gets his produce fresh, everyday. Another plus.
We got back to our food, and it was Land of Lungis for us now, it was one of the dishes mentioned on the menu and had caught my attention right at the beginning. I was looking forward to the drama on the plate. Land of Lungis was a gorgeous lobster claw cooked in Malabari curry and was served with rice. Vegetarian version was called Comfort Food, where instead of lobster, Chana Masala was served with rice. The chana masala was not the best you could get, but then one doesn’t go to a place like Gaggan and expect familiar stuff.
The desserts were grand. Made in Japan was a hit, because it had matcha, a green tea powder as the main ingredient and I like matcha. So it was matcha ice cream and matcha tea cake with mascarpone cream, vanilla salt and fresh wasabi. Unusual yet palate tickling!
Gaggan cuisine is high on impact, yet doesn’t compromise on taste. If you go there looking for the usual butter chicken and choley, you will be disappointed. But if you go looking for a new experience, for the food top restaurants are doing today or for modernity and variety, you are at the right place.