I’ve been meaning to get around to this for a while. my first restaurant review. I am no food critic, yet i thought it might be fun to criticize someone’s food besides my own for once, hehe.
A few months back, good ole’ Mom was in town, and as per tradition we set aside a night to sample some of the more gourmet (read pricey) food that Bangkok has to offer. Having recently acquired my copy of Modernist Cuisine, and becoming borderline fascinated with the world of molecular gastronomy, I suggested we go to Gaggan.
Gaggan is run by an Indian chef who staged in the laboratory (yes it is called a laboratory) of molecular gastronomy pioneer Ferran Adria, of El bulli fame. El Bulli was the epicentre of modern cooking, and received over 2 million reservation requests a year, of which they sat no more than 1,000. It recently closed, but the legacy it has had on cooking with so-called modernist techniques has changed the culinary world as we know it.
Gaggan is tucked away in a quiet sidestreet off of Langsuan road, an area filled with fancy eateries and high rise mega-condos. This makes the actual building housing the restaurant all the more impressive as it is a charming old wooden house.
Am I in Bangkok?
As you can see the atmosphere is quite nice, and you can already feel it tugging at your wallet before you even get in the door. Once in the door we were greeted by about 8 immaculate looking waiters all dressed in pure black. This was not like anything I had seen in Bangkok before, or really anywhere else for that matter. I must say the service was outstanding, if a bit forced.
Anyways onto the food, which I was extremely excited about. We chose to try the 12 course tasting menu (2,800 THB ++). The menu included a huge array of other dishes all seeming to have an Indian slant, but I had read that chef Gaggan used only the best available ingredients for the tasting menu, which changed weekly on the basis of ingredient availability.
First to arrive was the, I’m paraphrasing here, Yoghurt Orbs. These are spheres of yoghurt spiced with Indian spices, which are dropped into a solution which instantly encapsulates them in a spherical membrane of gel. Think egg yolks and you get the idea of the of how these looked, and reacted to touch.
When this thing entered my mouth, I was confused and then shocked as it literally exploded and coated my whole pallate with a cool and refreshing spice. At this point I was in full food nerd mode, and couldn’t wait for the next dish which promptly arrived.
This was WEIRD. Liguid nitrogen-frozen corn kernels, with citrus oil, in edible plastic….
This was like something you would make as your last meal on a dying interstellar space ship when you ran out of all but corn, orange peels, and biodegradable toilet bags. It wasn’t necessarily pleasant, but definitely something that could spark good conversation at the dinner table.
The next “dish” was a winner though. Vodka and Cointreau foam, with freeze dried berries.
This was a new experience for me. I had read all about foams in Modernist Cuisine. The effect it had on the alcohol was that of removing all the harshness of hard liquor, while still giving that pleasant burn. A very cool and well executed drink.
Next was a standard Foie Gras on toast. I am worried that I am calling Foie Gras standard now. I have eaten it about 4 times in the past week haha.
The next dish was probably my favorite of the night. Too bad there was about three bites on the plate! Paneer Ravioli with truffled peas, and frozen white truffle oil.
Next, was some fancy Fish and Chips, which was a lowlight as they were poorly fried, and pretty greasy.
The really cool thing about this dish was that vegetable on the top left of the plate. It is some sort of succulent, and tasted exactly like fresh oysters! Obviously it is very expensive, considering the portion we received. Either that or the chef was smoking his own stash.
Next was a cocktail of passionfruit with a packet of citrus oil in that edible plastic again. I have to say though, this time the oil worked so as to coat your mouth and give a really cool dimension to the acidity of the passionfruit.
So we finally inched closer to the entree portion of the meal, and while we weren’t full, we were definitely mentally overstimulated by everything that had just been put in front of us. here is where things get a little closer to “normal”. We were brought what looked like a bowl of curry with an ominous white orb in the center. We were informed by our very knowledgable waitress that this was an Indian curry with an egg that had been cooked at 58 Celsius for 90 minutes. As you can see the consistency of the curry itself is quite akin to a perfectly cooked egg yolk, and the two matched absolutely amazingly. The yolk cut through the pungent curry to offer a richness and spice that only an Indian grandma could muster.
Next was tandoori chicken with a lemon foam. Again, a fancy technique used to heighten an already outstanding Indian dish.
The final entree was an absolutely top-of-the-line prawn curry, with naan right out of the tandoor. Learning as much as I have about the subtleties of French cooking, I don’t believe I will ever be able to cook Indian food to a passable standard. The amount of spices and timing and overall intuition that is involved in Indian cuisine is, sadly it seems, reserved for it’s owners only.
And finally came dessert. A very cool (pun intended) white chocolate cream that had been dripped into liquid nitrogen. it literally smoked like dry-ice when you blew on it. It was accompanied by an odd rosewater gumdrop thing that was not really necessary, but not unwelcome either.
We walked out of the restaurant full, but not the overwhelming, stomach trembling “Oh god what will tomorrow bring?” sort of full that usually accompanies an Indian food overload. While the portions were small for the most part, aside from the curries, they were numerous and greatly varied in flavor. This was definitely a meal to be remembered.
Overall i found Gaggan to be an amazing experience. One that you would pay a whole lot more for in any other bustling metropolis. The food was thought-provoking, conversation enhancing, and delicious (except that stupid corn). A definite must go if you are interested in the new world of molecular gastronomy, and are willing to dish out a few Sheckels (6000 THB for 2 including drinks ~$200.)
Gaggan’s website can be found here: http://www.eatatgaggan.com/
I hope you enjoyed my first restaurant review. Please comment and let me know. It will give me an excuse to go eat more fancy food!