Best in Asia: Dining at Gaggan Restaurant Bangkok, Thailand

Close,Up,Mayongchid,(marian,Plum),Cheese,Tart

Thailand has some of the best food in the world. I’m a foodie, and I know when it’s good, and trust me, Gaggan Anand is a great cook. He’s also lovely, funny, and creative, and he’s been the owner and head chef of the best restaurant in Asia for the last two years.  He’s trained with the world’s best, highly awarded and praised, and through it all, has remained pretty humble. I don’t know if I was in his shoes, whether I could make the same claim.

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Gaggan Restaurant 

Gaggan is an intimate restaurant. I could only see 4-5 tables from where we were seated. I’ve never had a tasting menu, so I didn’t know what to expect. What we got was 18 courses of small plates. Many of which were only a bite or two. And all of them unusual. Some dishes smoked, some had edible flowers, and others were unconventional in texture and combinations. And yet all of them had a story to tell.

Top Honors in Asia

I had to admit, I hadn’t heard of Gaggan until my husband pulled up a CNN interview with Gaggan on the Mac, His restaurant, aptly called Gaggan is located in Bangkok and we were heading there for the long weekend.

He sent off an email and booked for 6 pm on Saturday night.

I didn’t think anything else of it until we hailed a taxi and found ourselves standing in front of a pretty little colonial on a street that was little more than an alley. That in itself was nothing unusual.

When I met him, he looked like an average Joe, not one of the most celebrated chefs in the world. He actually seemed a little underwhelming if I’m honest. I asked to take his picture for the blog and he said, let’s just take a picture for us.

I liked him immediately.

That’s Gaggan front and center surrounded by his kitchen staff or as he calls it his cast of nations.

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Indian Food in Bangkok

I love Thailand for all street food. I don’t normally go there for high-end meals– not normally.

We could have walked. But we took a taxi instead because it was hot and humid and I hate to show up sweaty.

The taxi driver quizzed us on why we were eating at an Indian Restaurant instead of a Thai one.

It’s a reasonable question. We love Thai food and we were in Thailand. But we love Indian food too and that’s where Gaggan was.

A pretty lady in a pair of jodhpurs greeted us, telling us she couldn’t find our reservation.

They Lost our Reservation

After a little discussion (amongst themselves) we were seated smack dab in the middle of the restaurant. A minute later Vladimir Kocic, the sommelier from Serbia stopped by the table and started to describe the menu.

A minute later, another guy, everyone called lady Gaga stopped by to say hi too.

Reservations are required. You can’t walk off the street and into Gaggan and be seated. Well, you and I couldn’t… he might make room for President Obama and Michelle. But if they hadn’t found our reservation, we would have been SOL for two weeks until another seat became available.

Over the course of the lengthy meal, Vladimir, Lady Gaga, Molly (our waitress), and Gaggan would regularly stop by to talk about the food and entertain us with a few dance moves. The former was much, much… much better than the latter.

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The Menu

The menu is progressive, Gaggan’s interpretation of traditional Indian flavors reinvented with unique ingredients, gastronomy techniques, and textures. Eighteen courses took approximately 2 1/12 hours to consume. Most courses could be eaten in one bite, maybe two. And we were encouraged to eat most of them without utensils.

We chose a bottle of white Rioja that turned out to go perfectly with everything on the menu with one notable exception.

The first courses were a pickled plum with soda, curry yogurt explosion amuse-bouche on a spoon, and an edible plastic bag of something that tasted like nuts, but wasn’t.

We didn’t spit the pit out on the floor, as instructed, the yogurt did in fact explode in my mouth, and the plastic bag melted on my tongue. I’d seen all this stuff on TV, so it was kind of surreal to be eating something so special.

Three courses down–this is going to be fun!

potato-cake-2 Best in Asia: Dining at Gaggan Restaurant Bangkok, Thailand

Pork on an Indian Menu?

The one substitution to the menu because it was originally planned with pork which we don’t eat. A sweet potato cake topped with the most delicious vanilla, chives, and an edible flower. This little morsel of food still haunts me… it was THAT good.

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Eel Anyone?

An open-faced eel sandwich on a crispy cracker. Not being an eel connoisseur, I don’t want to say its the best eel in the world. Because frankly it’s the first eel I’ve ever (knowingly) tasted. And if it all looked and tasted like this, I might not have turned down the last eel I was offered.

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An Uni Sundae

An uni sundae. I didn’t know what it was either. Uni is sea urchin and this sundae was made with mango ice-cream. Yeah, I said the same thing– sea urchin and mango ice cream– you’re crazy. But it was actually delicious.

It’s a surprise… charcoal with smoke.

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Forest mushroom in the shape of a log on a bed of edible sand. OMG was this so good or what. It was the spiciest thing on the menu.

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lamb2-1 Best in Asia: Dining at Gaggan Restaurant Bangkok, Thailand

A juicy tandoori lamb chop served atop a very pretty Indian wrangle design made out of two different sauces. Lady Gaga explained that many people find the design so pretty they don’t even eat it. That’s crazy!!

tomato-soup Best in Asia: Dining at Gaggan Restaurant Bangkok, Thailand
grape-salad Best in Asia: Dining at Gaggan Restaurant Bangkok, Thailand
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The third of three desserts called sandalwood infusion.

Cost of the Meal

I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about how much these experiences cost. Let’s just say it’s not cheap. The menu starts at 4,000 Baht people or about $125. We bought a bottle of wine for 3,200 Baht, a glass of red each to eat with the lamb for 1,200 Baht. In the end, I think we spent approximately $450– one of the more expensive meals we’ve ever had.

In hindsight, we’d do it all over again.

Final Thoughts

The staff is just as playful as the food. Laughter filled the back of the house while we enjoyed course after course of yummy food. Gaggan knows his popularity has made it possible to charge double and still stay fully packed night after night, but he doesn’t want that kind of clientele which is cool. The food was delicious and we had a great time. We left there feeling satisfied, if not completely full.

Would we do it again?

Yes, we would for a special occasion. You know like we happen to be in Bangkok again. We left pretty happy, if not a little hungry. So we went out for Thai.

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Comments

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I wanna pinch myself sometimes. I can’t believe all the things I’ve seen that I thought I would only dream about seeing all my life. It has been an incredible experience so far and I look forward to continuing by exploring the American South and South and central America.

  1. Nancy L.

    I always enjoying trying ethnic and exotic foods, but, you really pushed the envelope! I would definitely try the mushroom dish. I had eel once, but couldn’t get over what I was eating.
    Loved the photos and presentation of the food!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I had to admit, I hadn’t heard of Gaggan until my husband pulled up a CNN interview with Gaggan on the Mac, I’m glad he did.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      That was the reason I started doing this, to let my family seecwhat we were doing abroad and it blew up to what it was… a labor of love.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I did say that. It was a fun experience and its only money, right? Remember spend money on experiences not things.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      It was too much fun, not too filling, since we went out to eat after eating dinner. But we enjoyed the rock star like treatment.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      This was one of the most interesting food experiences I’ve ever had. I have never done such a huge tasting menu that was so highly thought of. Yes, it was expensive, but it was something I’ll treasure for its uniqueness and fun.

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