Bangkok. Here for a wedding. And a dinner. And what a magical dinner! Everything is a piece of art and a wonder of science. A genius play on creativity, ingenuity, art and technique.
Gaggan Anand. The Asian Czar of Gastronomy. I have always loved Indian cuisine but dining in your lab was truly an experience beyond just dining. We were all dripping with excitement walking into this lovely 2-storied white colonial-styled building with lovely glass windows. Upon seeing your “menu” of emojis, we were almost fidgeting with anticipation of the 22 bites of gastronomic delights. No fancy cameras for us. Our iPhone cams are fine. We won’t overdo it. Rather, we prepped ourselves for the 22 surprises. My only concern was putting all that stuff into my mouth in one go or one bite to experience the explosion of flavors. At least until the lamb, crab curry and sweets were served. And yes, they’re Thai crabs 👍
All senses heightened. Nothing tastes exactly as it looks. The tastes so subtle one is nearly embarrassed to guess what’s touching one’s palate, twirling in the mouth, tricking the tongue and taste buds. I could never have guessed the goat brain you fed us! Not even if you left some clues. But I did guess and savored the foie gras as well as the dhal (lentils) masquerading as a tiny drumstick. I nearly forced that Mango with Uni “sundae” cone into my mouth but no luck. As a consequence, the ginger at the bottom cone was divorced from the fruit & sea urchin medley 😭. Now I’m left wondering how that creative combination would have tasted when left a few seconds on my tongue.
And the customized plates! All part of the Gaggan experience, of course. I am NOT an expert nor would I pretend to know what goes into each culinary process. But as one of the younger chefs said, it’s really all about the ingredients and Gaggan’s creativity and genius. Nothing is ever as simple as it looks. The chunky crab meat in the curry. The edible plastic (potato starch?) wrapped around some nuts. The lovely design on the plate where the tender lamb was served (it’s beet!). The hint of dashi in the rice-looking merengue. And yuzu with foie gras? A yogurt explosion? Beyond imagination. I couldn’t sleep that night just thinking about the experience.
I failed to take really good photos but knowing many others before me did, I’d ask you to then google those images. I am a stranger in the kitchen but I spend lots of time around the dining table. I like food. I like surprises even more. I’ve tried some weird combinations before this experience. Some I liked, some I found completely overdone. But this. The subtleties and the artistry define the Gaggan experience. After all, why spend a wad of money (yup, it’s kinda pricey) if you’re eating what many others can cook for you? Or what you can easily copy and cook yourself at home? Ever tried making tomato soup looking like a bright, red wine? Or having a yogurt explosion of flavors? How about dining on golf balls?
The most “traditional” among the dishes was the crab curry. Served chunky on the finest curry soup paired with coconut rice. Happiness. I like how the crab curry was served in a stack of dinner pails. Unlike the previous one-bite “surprises”, the lamb and this curry dish were exactly what they looked like. But of truly fine quality. I still have a hangover now, just writing of this dreamy crab curry. Oh, Gaggan. You’re the best! And indeed he was for 2 consecutive years (2015 and 2016). And this Asian Czar of Gastronomy counts among the world’s best 50. So glad to have experienced this. My set of emojis sums up my dining experience.