My friends and acquaintances know that if there is one thing I hate, it is eating Indian food abroad. I love trying out new cuisines and different types of food. And I truly believe the best Indian food is in India. In fact, I believe you get better North Indian food in Delhi and Punjab than in Mumbai. The only place outside India that I eat Indian food is London and that is mostly at Pakistani restaurants.
When the 2014 edition of the best restaurants in the World came out, there was an Indian restaurant there and it was in Bangkok, of all the places! Now the only restaurant which used to make this list regularly was the Bukhara and it has been slipping for a while and did not even make the last couple of lists (probably because the menu never changes and I suppose they have points for innovation and reinventing yourself). Gaggan was a new entry in the list and straight in at No. 3 in Asia (No. 17 in the world). Definitely had to be checked out. The chef Gaggan had worked with Ferran Adria and the restaurant was based on molecular gastronomy, giving a new twist to Indian food!
I was traveling with a bunch of other doctors in Bangkok on some work and convinced them (although their tastes ran to alcohol more than food), that we had to try this place out. We made a reservation a week before we left, making sure that we would get a meal there. It was just a short walk from our hotel in a leafy bylane close to the city centre.
The restaurant occupies a bungalow and has a nice garden with a small waiting area outside. We had a bit of a wait till our table got ready and had a choice of 3 set menus with progressively more courses. We went for the largest one, so as to sample as many different things as possible. They are very understanding about food preferences and willing to substitute dishes from the menus, if one is allergic or does not eat some particular food item. The menu described each item apart from one, described as a surprise. The very helpful steward kept telling us how to eat certain items to get the right texture and taste. You can see the menus here.
The first course was actually bite sized multiple courses, a Gaggan take on India’s street food. It was pretty unique and the few on our table who had opted for the shorter menus, changed to the full menu after eating this first course!
Burnt Mango Panna – Essentially a sorbet of panna (summertime raw mango drink in India), with some citrus flavoured caviar which exploded in your moth in a burst of flavour.
Yogurt explosion – Sphere of a white emulsion, tasting like lassi, on individual spoons to be gulped down as a mouthful
Edible plastic spiced nuts- eaten with the plastic! Definitely an instruction needed here, the nuts inside were standard Indian starters, almonds and pistachios, the plastic probably created from sugar (need to read Nathan Myhrvold‘s book for that!) It was fun eating that.
Chocolate pani-puri, spheres of white chocolate filled with spicy panipuri water. Huge hit with all at the table, but they don’t do seconds here.
Potato 2-some crispy and liquid – straw potatoes looking like a birds nest with and egg resting on a bed, a take on an Indian chaat with tamarind chutney and that sweet sour hit
Bengali mustard and noori pakoda – don’t really remember the taste of this one, one of the disadvantages of not writing a blog post immediately, I guess. Must have been good, were only disappointed with two things.
Papadam and Tomato chutney – disappointing, basically a white papad with some tomato sauce on top.
Keema Pao – straightforward Mince burger
Say Cheese – 4 cheese hot souffle with crispy rice cereals green chilli oil flavour. A subtle kick from the chillis and the texture from the cereal. Texture of thick dahi. Very nice.
Sandwich – Foiegras mousse, onion chutney in an onion water baguette. Not really bread, just looks like it. Thought I was eating air, with some excellent foiegras!
Down to Earth – a vegetable soup, cappuccino style, with a foam with truffle flavour, served in a heavy stone vessel with its own stone lid. Excellent soup.
Charcoal – the surprise dish. Was for both veg and non-veg, looked like a piece of coal. The non-veg one was like a fish cutlet with a black coating. All of it was very nice indeed
Treasure shells – Norwegian scallops in a coconut sauce with coriander gel to cut the sweetness of the scallops and coconut
Portuguese Connection – Now this is Vindaloo in style!. Iberico pork on a bed of sweet potato mash in an island of vindaloo sauce. I don’t think I can go back to eating the regular vindaloo now
Fusion called confusion – Veg but very nice. Tender asparagus in a chilli miso sauce with fake green peas (really need to go through that Myhrvold book once)
Best Memory -Lamb chops cooked to perfection sous-vide, medium rare and very very good
Land of Lungi – Large prawns (they were out of lobster) in a malabar coconut curry with micro idiappams (not in pic) with some foam. One of us got the chicken instead and that was better as I think the chicken suited the robust gravy rather well. A good ending to the mains before the four desserts.
Made in Japan – Matcha tea cake with mascarpone ice cream, vanilla salt and fresh wasabi. This was one of the best things we ate and definitely the best dessert
Poor man’s porridge – A firni-Jasmine rice icecream with pistachio crisps and rose flavouring. Average
Magnum – Tasted like a magnum lollipop and looked like one too. Pretty good
Masala Chai – iced sorbet jelly with saffron and cardamom flavouring. Did not really work for me, but then I am not much of a tea guy.
This was definitely one of the best restaurants I have eaten at and I would love to go again. I don’t think it was over priced for the quality of food and the care taken in presentation and serving. Worth traveling to eat at for sure, and after all, that was what the original definition of the Michelin stars was.