A few blog posts ago, I shared about F’s and my wonderful dining experience at Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin while on our whirlwind of a trip to Bangkok. I also mentioned that I would share my meal at Gaggan, where I dined at about a year ago. Unlike Sra Bua where making a reservation was a breeze, I had to make a booking with Gaggan more than a month in advance to ensure that I would get a table.
Upon arrival at Gaggan, I was blown away by how pretty it was. It looked like a full-sized doll house from the outside and all around was quite a bit of hustle and bustle. We later found out that they were filming on site a documentary about Chef Gaggan, whom we had the privilege of meeting but not take a picture with as he was wanted everywhere by everyone.
I believe that Gaggan now only offers their 4000++ Baht menu but when I went, there was a smaller menu offered at 2500++ Baht which I opted for. This consisted of 7 different amuse bouches, 5 ‘mains’, and 3 kinds of desserts.
To start, we were asked to down this interpretation of Indian lemonade called Rose – Shinkanji. It was a sweet jelly-like concoction that melted into a liquid layered with fruity undertones and little bursts of rose jelly to bring in the taste of summer. There were tiny savoury inflections of dill I believe, that made this drink feel very much like a little garden in a test tube. Definitely a sweet beginning to the meal.
This orb had a membrane that taste a little eggy – something I didn’t quite enjoy. But once that thin skin bursts in your mouth, you get an explosion of thick, beautiful, smooth, Indian-spiced yoghurt that had hints of cumin and dried coriander. Hence, aptly name ‘Yoghurt Explosion‘.
This next one was one of my favourites of the array of amuse bouches for the evening. Within this edible rice packet were finely ground Spiced Mixed Nuts swimming in a mixture of sugar wasabi. There was still a crunch retained and it reminded me a lot of wasabi peas, only a tad sweeter to curb the heat. Noms!
The Chocolate Chilli Bomb I wasn’t quite so impressed with in terms of flavour and texture. Encased within the white chocolate shell was a slightly bitter, surprisingly fluid liquid of green chilli chutney. I would have preferred a filling with a creamier mouthfeel perhaps.
Birds Nest (Right) consisted of a crunchy vermicelli-like base which was fragrant and fresh, but somehow managed to overwhelm my tastebuds such that I was unable to taste its toppings properly. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention to the flavours, in which case, my bad! Lol.
Bengali Mustard and Noori Pakoda (Centre). The mustard-nori marriage made it taste much like wasabi, and the texture of this amuse bouche was akin to chocolate truffle only with more grit. Interestingly, I didn’t quite like this but I remember that as I was writing my notes on this meal later in the evening, I found myself hankering after it.
At the end of the amuse bouche line up was the Papadam with Tomato Chutney (Left). The papadam was more like Thai rice crackers – light, toasty, crunchy and with a small dollop of perfectly balanced chutney that tasted so good I could have had another one, two, three more of these babies!
We began our ‘mains’ with Magic Mushroom!
Truffle, Forest Mushrooms in the shape of a log, edible soil and the garden.
The truffle hit was pretty strong on this one. The thin, crisp mushroom log was very addictive and had a subtle sweetness about it. I didn’t start off loving this dish but the more I ate, the more I fell in love. This abstract piece of food art turned into a creamy, luxurious mushroom soup within my mouth. Magic Mushroom? For sure!
This was a mighty clever dish. I loved the surprised inside which tasted very strongly of a familiar Indian dish. It was slightly on the salty side but was still incredibly tasty and one of my favourites of the evening.
I won’t disclose the elements that make this dish since it’s supposed to be a surprise- just in case some of you are planning on visiting Gaggan. Don’t worry, their kind server will enlighten you after this dish is sitting pretty in your tummy.
Pig & Pickle.
72 Hours(!!) Slow-cooked Iberian Pork Loin. This was insanely soft and yielding to the bite. It was paired with the most exquisite sweet and sour Punjabi pickle mix, velvety mash, and pickled onions to add that dash of ‘zing!’.
Daab Chingri aka Coconut Prawn
Loved the little bubbles of coconut foam and shredded coconuts that were shaped like noodles. This was highly refreshing although the sticky mash beneath the prawns was not to my taste. The prawns though, were nice, big and bouncy (that doesn’t sound quite right does it? Haha), and were a delight to eat especially for a seafood fiend like me!
“I Want My Curry!”
A choice of Chicken Tikka Masala or South Indian Fish Curry. Accompanied with fresh breads of the day.
Obviously I chose the sea. No regrets although my dining companion’s chicken was also fantastic in its rich, hearty, aromatic gravy that went together with both plain and garlic butter naans beautifully.
The fish curry was lovely, with the freshest sea bass that tasted so clean. The curry was light and had a tinge of sour from the tamarind (assam), making it rather moreish.
This was our last ‘main’ and it made me feel as though we had landed right back on solid ground with these homey, more traditional Indian flavours – a world apart from the more extravagent playfulness of the previous dishes. It was like being on a little trip through textures and flavours, only to touch down back onto familiar home soil.
Black Carrot Ice Cream, Crispy Carrot Flower, Cardamom Oil
This was presented in a dramatic fashion with a shroud of dried ice billiowing out from the serving bowl. The crispy carrot flower cone was delightful and tasted exactly like halwa. The black carrot ice-cream had a stickier, creamier texture than the usual ice-cream – almost like our local red bean paste (tau sar). I love the taste of cardamom so the cardamom oil only sought to round off the entire one-bite dessert making it a party in the mouth. One mouthful of flavour bomb this was! I know I mentioned a few favourites earlier on, but this has to be my favouritest of my meal at Gaggan.
Machanahok mangoes. Coconut LNs Semi-sphere.
As with a real coconut where you have to work to get to the delectable fruit and water at its centre, the same goes for this dessert where you need to smash through the shell in order to get to the sweet mango mousse.
Anise Caramel Brittle – I really liked this
Tamarind Pâte de Fruit – A little too salty with a spicy finish
This should have been the end of our meal but celebrating my dining companion’s birthday meant that we had a 15th dish…
I believe this might be their interpretation of Magnum from their more comprehensive Degustation menu. Rich chocolate ice-cream encased within a thin shell of tempered chocolate, then rolled in cocoa powder. Surrounding it were light, crunchy, nutty bits of crumble providing a much welcomed textural contrast. Definitely something any chocolate addict would love!
The service here started off quite clinical but the staff warmed up to us as the meal went on. By the end, as they were serving this final dessert, they came singing “Happy Birthday” with such gusto it literally melted my heart. I generally prefer service to be on the side of warm so it was nice seeing the servers let loose a little.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Gaggan and cannot deny the creativity and work put into his dishes. There are a lot more theatrics involved, as well as the use of molecular gastronomy (as compared to Sra Bua), which can border on being gimmicky or pretentious depending on how you want to look at it.
The food on the whole, is definitely above average – presented with finesse and mostly well-balanced in flavour, but I find that most of them lack the heart and soul that I found very endearing in his naan and curry course. Still, I’d say that a visit to Gaggan is not necessary a must, but it’s an experience for sure, and a pretty good one at that!