Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ga Ga for Gaagan


If you have seen Chef's Table on Netflix, you will know Gaggan. He is a fairly young Indian chef, currently living in Bangkok.  I say "currently", because he has so many irons in the fire, he could up and move at any time and I would not be surprised.  The film focuses on his high-end name-sake restaurant, Gaggan, which is situated down a small quiet alley in a traditional Thai home, hidden amidst all of Bangkok's madness.  Since we were spending a few days of relaxation time in the city, it seemed like the perfect chance to give it a try.  After a few (well, ok 5) emails and a phone call we were finally scheduled in for an early dinner.  On arrival it turned out they didn't actually seem to remember one of the three times that we wrote that we would be bringing a bebe with us, so after another five minutes of flurried discussion amongst them, we were whisked off to a quiet corner in a little room on the upper floor.  We shared the quaint, yet airy room with another couple who actually seemed to be on a rather awkward date.  If Bebe decided to get annoyed, I figured it would probably just be a good distraction for them.

   Having studied up on the experience at Gaggan, I knew what to expect:  The menu is 25 different emoji and nothing else.  You don't get descriptions of the plates until the end of the meal.  If there is something you don't eat, tell them before, or otherwise forever hold your peace.  I decided to try the Vegetarian option, while B opted out of eating goat brains...which we only knew was on the menu due to our research.

    Without going through each and every of the 25 courses, I can tell you that it was really fun.  It is not the place to go for a filling meal, but instead for experimenting with food and experiencing new tastes.  Like an ideal cocktail party!  You don't have to make small talk with anyone, but a server keeps popping around with the next new appetizer....which will be one of the most interesting and innovative bites of food you have ever tried.  Course 5: Chili and white chocolate bombs.  They look like red and white swirled chocolate truffles but taste only like savory red chili. The white chocolate provides a smooth creaminess in your mouth, with zero sweetness.  Course 16: A small square of pulled pork (or plantain for the vegetarian) breaded and gently fried in the style of the Japanese Pork Tonkatsu.  Crispy, light, and had us planning a business venture to remake these back home.

Gaggan is not afraid to mix textures and tastes like the caramelized marshmallow and fois gras....yes, it works amazingly...or the rich eggplant biscuits, or the mini burger using bao burger buns. Bebe decided to wake up and want to join the party just in time for the flaming hot coals to arrive to the table.  Course 19: Seabass (or Paneer) cooked in banana leaf over a torched fire just a few feet from our table. There were three dessert courses each highlighting something special... a rose of beets...a mango tart... and chocolate cherries covered in white chocolate "snow".  All were delicious and very entertaining to eat.

    I can only imagine how much work goes into the creation of each of these dishes, but that is what we pay for, right?  But their effort is worth the price as the meal is an evening worth having....even if you are on an awkward date, and use every excuse to talk to the baby sitting next to you.  If you are a self- proclaimed "foodie" (because what other word is a better description?) I would recommend trying Gaggan at least once.  Chef has already announced that Gaggan will close in three years (2020), so better make plans soon.  If you can't get in, plan to try Gaa, just across the alley that was opened by a former Gaagan (and Noma) sous chef. It is still slightly under the radar but quickly becoming very popular, i.e the best time to go there is now.          












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