I was almost late to my 9:30 pm Gaggan dinner reservation. I had an exclusive seat at The Lab (Chef’s Table) and I hear they’ll only keep your reservation for 5 minutes before releasing it to someone else. Three Grab cars in a row cancelled on me. This was the highlight of my Bangkok trip, a 2 Michelin star progressive Indian feast that will set me back RM 1,600+ per person, and I didn’t want to miss it. Thankfully, the 4th driver came and sped me there with minutes to spare.
Gaggan is in a renovated mansion with two floors. I saw every single table was occupied. Mind you, reservations are made at least a month in advance so that’s impressive. I was greeted by an attractive young lady by name. She must have matched me to my email profile picture. She escorted me upstairs and held my seat for me. This is the type of restaurant that does that whenever you get up to pee but it doesn’t come across as intrusive or excessive, partly due to the friendly and approachable nature of the staff.
The Lab is a bar seating arrangement of 12 people curved in a U shape with the kitchen in the middle. All the chefs work inside so you can see them cooking and preparing your dishes. It’s also a super interactive session – the chefs all introduced themselves and explained every dish in detail. They also passed ingredients to us to touch and try. It’s like a Show and Tell session, but better! I was lucky to snag one of these coveted seats with just a month’s advance booking.
I also went for the wine pairing (4,500 baht/RM 580) for the ultimate experience. The sommelier was a nice Japanese guy. He’s knowledgeable and personable but at times I found his accented English difficult to understand. That said though, there’s something to be said about hearing Japanese accented English, it really ties the experience together coz the chefs are so multicultural! There are people from Norway to Africa!
The dinner started with the chefs getting everyone seated at The Lab to introduce themselves. I was first so I told them where I was from and what I was doing in Bangkok. The others came from a varied background – there was a newlywed couple from New York (a celebratory dessert was prepared for the entire table by Gaggan) and a female duo from Hong Kong (one of whom is a chef). I thought this was an excellent way to break the ice and get the guests seated at the Chef’s Table to talk amongst themselves.
The famous emoji menu of Gaggan was presented to us. Each dish was described with one emoji, nothing else. You get the general idea of what the dish is about but you’ll only know the full details when they present you with the transparent overlay with words to go with the emojis at the end of the experience.
Champagne was served with the first few courses. I won’t pretend to be knowledgeable about wine so I’ll just show the labels and when it was served so you’ll have an idea of the wines you’ll get with the wine pairing.
The first dish was 🍑 – peaches from Yamagata. This is a bigger portion that I expected. There are at least 26 courses in total so I expected each to be bite-sized but a lot of them were quite substantial. The chefs explained that these are peaches imported from Yamagata, which are known for their lovely pink skin and soft, white flesh. Perfect.
💥 – plain yoghurt with masala and black salt was next. This is a Gaggan signature. It was featured in the Netflix series Chef’s Table. There’s a strong boiled egg sulfur flavor. The yoghurt explodes when you bite into it. It literally bursts out with intense sulfur and masala overtones.
The third plate was ingenious – 👅. These are sauces and dusts on a plate and they blasted the rock song “Lick it up” when we were eating this course. A few people were apprehensive at first, but we all got over the self-consciousness and started bringing the plate up to our faces and tonguing the sauces off.
It’s a brilliant way to disinhibit the diners. This picture got a lot of traction on my Facebook too.
Very good! *thumbs up*
A white wine came for the next few courses.
This is 🧀. It’s batter of milk, milk fat, and milk solids fried with ghee to make a “cheese”. There’s no flour used and the base is crispy. It’s very interesting and the start of the series which uses oddly shaped white plates. You’ll find out what the plates are about soon.
🍆 is fresh eggplant cooked then put into the blast chiller and freeze dried for 6 days. So intensely flavored. It’s like a drop of eggplant essence. Very wow.
The chefs also handed over two eggplants for us to touch and smell. The first one is a regular eggplant and the second after it’s been through the six day freeze drying process.
Idly is 🍚 – a savory rice cake, except this is idly shrunk 200 times and topped with a dehydrated curry leaf! It’s also 200x more expensive. It’s so soft and subtle – love the spongy bottom.
I believe this is a natural wine. It’s paired with the upcoming courses.
The mysterious ⚫ turned out to be a fried snack. I thought it was dhall inside and said so when the chefs asked if anyone knew what that was. It turned out to be chickpea samosa! It’s very hot.
🥚 is a vegetarian egg filled with liquid on a crispy and sweet nest. The shell bursts the moment you put this in your mouth. The bright and acidic liquid goes very well with the nest. This ended the white plates series and we’re supposed to fit all the empty plates together.
There’s a reason the empty plates weren’t cleared – they combine to make (no surprises here) India! It’s the continent Gaggan is from and all the previous dishes on the white plates have heavy Indian influences.
Brioche and mushroom was the 🍄 dish. It gives off a smoky scent when you open it.
Only one of the mushrooms is edible and you’re supposed to forage for the right one. I tasted a few wooden ones before I realized the edible mushroom is the hot one. I like this interactive rummaging.
The wine pairing was very good. Although I’m not a wine geek and thus unable to describe the flavors in detail, I know that it went swimmingly with the food.
🍦 – ice cream presented as white asparagus. This is smoked and finished at your table.
The chefs told us we must eat this quickly before it melts.
Som tam with green mango ice cream was 🌶️, delivered in a wrap and nicely plated on mung beans. Som tam is the Thai salad made with young mango slices. The baby tomatoes are from Japan. I love this – it’s very cold and acidic. My table mates loved it too.
The chefs showed us a cold brew device normally used to make coffee. They’re using it to filter French quail through the machine and it slowly drips in the background to be served 3 courses from now, coz that’s how long it takes to condense.
Curry is represented by 🍲 inside a panipuri casing. The secret curry inside is super creamy and sticks intently to your throat. Excellent.
Sake from Japan broke up the wine pairing. It’s meant to go with the Japanese food in the upcoming dishes.
🍏 marks the start of the Japanese series and is the best grade of Japanese uni imported from Hokkaido paired with chutney ice cream and a green apple “seaweed”. It’s very delicious and the uni is remarkable. I liked the unusual pairing of ingredients too. Brilliant!
🍣 is not sushi. It’s meringue made out of dashi. The wasabi and otoro is from Nagasaki and it’s finished with yuzu that’s been freeze dried so it can be grated. Wow! I loved this too.
This is the yuzu fruit that’s been freeze dried.
They also have excellent quality real wasabi plant flown in from Japan. This is what you’re paying for, and also why a seat at The Lab is so fun. There’s the show and tell you wouldn’t get at a normal table.
The quail from before was the 🌽 course. It’s quail breast and the quail “tea” from the cold drip coffee device. The quail tea is hot and smells like charcoal. You’ll notice that Gaggan doesn’t offer any utensils – you’re supposed to eat everything with your hands and fingers! You drink the soup first, then fish out the quail breast. I love piece of charred micro corn at the bottom, which this dish is named for.
This is the next wine in the wine pairing.
Next up is 🍤 – fresh prawn from Thailand smoked in a tandoori with dehydrated curry on the side. It’s very salty for me but I like the thought that goes behind it. The curry is cooked, then painstakingly dehydrated for days so it turns into an intense tasting powder.
Shake off your conceptions about curry with 🥥. It’s cold and raw curry (two no-nos) with scallops that you’re supposed to swirl and mix before eating.
I hear this drawing is a portrait of the winemaker! It went with the next couple of dishes.
🥟 of pork vindaloo cooked for 12 hours. It’s a very acidic curry. The momo is made with wine sauce. The “dumpling” is made of black garlic cracker with 2 different chutneys and 2 different pickles. Not my favorite coz it’s super fatty.
A huge lamb chop for 🐑. This is the most normal looking dish of the Gaggan experience. It’s marinated in chilli and cooked in a tandoori. Very smoky flavors! Again, you use your fingers to pick this up by the bone and gnaw at it. I also realized it’s coz Gaggan is Indian and Indians eat with their hands.
There’s another wine pairing at this point. I don’t usually drink much and I was quite pleasantly buzzed at this point.
The lights were completely turned off after that course was cleared so the whole restaurant was dark. Music blared from the speakers with a rock singer shouting “Light it up” while the chefs brought out torches and flamed a whole tray of banana leaf covered items.
The scorched banana leaves were presented to us and we’re told to open it after a moment has passed to ensure we wouldn’t burn our fingertips.
The leaf peels back to reveal local Thai seabass. This 🔥 recipe is from Gaggan’s mother.
The theme song for Star Wars came on for the ⭐ course and a small, round blue Death Star was delivered to us. So fun! I love the quirky bits, coz it adds a lot of laughable moments to dinner.
The Death Star opens to reveal fluffy white rice.
There’s another compartment at the bottom which reveals curry. It’s curry and rice, delivered in a miniature Death Star! This is the only course in the 26-course dinner than came with a spoon or any other utensil. Haha.
This is the last of the wine pairing – a wine to go with the dessert courses.
The most beautiful and delicate dessert I’ve seen for 🌹. It takes 6 hours to make this rose and it’s presented inside a glass dome to preserve the scent.
The petals are made with beetroot and radish. The cookie base is made with chocolate chip. I like the unusual pairing of beetroot and radish with sweet chocolate. It’s a very mature dessert.
“Do you like pina coladas? And dancing it the rain?” This song came over the speakers for 🌻. It’s deep fried ice cream! This is my favorite dessert of the night. It tastes so good!!! I felt only three exclamation marks would do justice to how delicious this was.
This trippy looking dessert was paired with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for 🌈. The space ship is made with coffee and dark chocolate and you’re supposed to drag it through the citrus splashes before eating it. Unusual and progressive.
☯️ is saffron and black pepper ice cream with pistachio crumble. Wow. Just wow. The flavors remind me of a cheese cake but with two ingredients you don’t normally put into dessert (saffron and pepper). I have this tied for best dessert of the dinner experience. Exquisite. Such a beautiful medley in my mouth. I cannot say enough good things to do this breathtaking dish justice.
Remember I said there was a newlywed couple from New York at our table? The chefs presented a special celebratory “cake” for them and they provided one for each of us too.
It’s a sphere that’s totally not cake but tastes like cake. So interesting!
These are all the wines we had over dinner! Gaggan is #5 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants by S.Pellegrino and #1 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and they really deserve the accolades.
The bill for dinner came up to 12,653 baht (RM 1,615) inclusive of a bottle of water and the Gaggan wine pairing experience. That’s a lot of money for a single meal for 1 pax but I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is without a doubt the best dinner I’ve ever experienced. It’s not just about the food, but the theatre, the story, and the fellow diners you embark on the journey with. Everything was managed so well the 3+ hours will be something I remember forever. You’ll love Gaggan if you’re a food geek and I consider it money well spent. Gaggan will be closing for good in 2020 so you only have 2 years left to check out this beautifully crafted dinner experience. Go. Now.