Bangkok Memory at Gaggan, Q&A with Chef and Second Act

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Gaggan - The 9 out of 25 Menu Degustation

While so many have changed since my visit in July 2018, pre-Covid (restaurant unexpected early closure) and post-Covid related, Chef Gaggan thrives in this kind of environment where challenges unfold. Something I can relate to some extent, otherwise life is very complacent, stuck in a rut, that we stop taking risk. The new Gaggan restaurant emerged in November 2019 on a different premise, called Gaggan Anand. According to his Instagram post, it’s ‘2.0 series’ claimed to be ‘serving difference food than original Gaggan and can be called progressive Indian cooking’. In 2021, ala-carte and small tasting menu being established as restaurant pivoted to Covid situation with new interpretation of fine dining focussing on ‘fine food than pretentious fine dining’. It’s awesome to know despite the challenges, Gaggan Anand entered as 5th in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant and claimed the Highest New Entry Award.

The original Gaggan

I must’ve heard of Gaggan being few of Asia restaurant made it to The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list (4th in 2019). It’s voted for Asia’s Best 4 years in a row (2012 to 2018, 2nd in 2019). But it was his charismatic personality and life story as vividly told in Netflix’s Chef Table other than only food art. He transormed from poor upbringing into a star chef and known for ‘El-Bulli of Indian cuisine’. Especially with the restaurant closure –  announced years in advance but in the end, happened abruptly months earlier. Plus, I missed Indian street food that I’ve used to when living in Dubai (not referring to butter chicken or chicken tikka masala here!). Timely with my planned second visit to Bangkok, I secured booking within 7 weeks – thanks to an inside contact. It usually takes up to 6 months waiting for booking during peak season.

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Gaggan Restaurant at the old villa. Picture with the Chef – A Night to Remember.

Creative, Food Art and Molecular

Relying only on symbols, wordless 25 emoji course menu printed on translucent paper. Dishes inspired by Chef Gaggan’s Indian upbringing and his root (Kolkata born) using the freshest ingredient in Thailand. He and his team (25 – 30 chefs during service) created innovative dishes and orchestrated a fun dining experience. I had an enjoyable 4 hours dining on unusual plating and theatrical art of molecular gastronomy experience. Throughout dining it kept me guessing and inquisitive of ingredients, and what to come next. From Course 4 to 8, dishes were served on a jigsaw puzzle plate that when finished, all 5 plates formed India – after taking some assistance from the waiter. 

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Jigsaw plates representing map of India

🍑💥👅🧀🍆🍚⚫ 🥚🍄 🍦🌶🥘🍏🍤 🥥🥟🐏🍣🌽🔥⭐️🌹🌻☯️

Pictorial gallery of the 25 tasting menus from this 2 stars Michelin restaurant as below – hover over for more details. The highlights were figuring how to eat without cutlery as Lick It Up song played in the background (no.3), papdi-chaat-tasting yoghurt sphere that exploded in mouth (no.2), a dish named after Star Wars’ space station (no.21), tonka bean to fragrant the beautiful rose dish (no.22), a rainbow dish with colourful seasonal ingredients inspired from Pink Floyd’s album cover ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ (no.24), glowing embers of the banana leaf covering the fish fillet dish (no.21). Even our Coconut Lassi and Cucumber Ginger Ale mocktail came overflowing with smoke, an eye-catchy show. My favourite dishes from the taste point of view were the prawn and scallop meals (no.16 and 17 respectively).

Q&A with Gaggan

A set of questions being fired online to the Chef who’s been in Thailand for over 10 years. He was casual in T-shirt that said ‘Hug me I smell like curry’ when we met post-dinner. Answers below:

  1. Share your favourite places to see or do that are non-food related?Temples, and Spas. 
  2. What are your top 3 street vendors in Bangkok? Jay Fai, local food, noodle places.
  3. High tech kitchen equipment you can’t live without? Can without everything.
  4. What’s your greatest fear that you’ve overcome? Being Fearless is what got me here.
  5. Other than the music and food business – name one other thing you are good at? These are my lifelines.
  6. How do you think you’ve inspired others? Just keep going.
  7. What motivates you to wake up every morning? To just keep moving forward.

The night of my visit, the football World Cup was on. Post-dinner affair, the guests (on top floor Lab and private area) were invited to watch the live match with him. He’s a football fan (other than cricket of course). We didn’t stay on post-dinner (past midnight already showing my age) but surely a night to remember in Bangkok. 

Worth a trip and cost? Hype? This dining certainly opened my mind and challenged how I view Indian cuisine. Dreaming for my next Bangkok trip and you won’t be surprised where I will pop into. And no, he’s not opening in Dubai. 

For virtual experience, check SOTG Instagram post below. Visit Gaggan Anand here.

Been to any molecular gastronomy restaurant? Any chef that inspired you? How restaurants in your area pivot in this new world?

Live to thrive.