If at first you don’t succeed, try then try again. We had heard so much about the legendary Gaggan, all his successes, awards, tv shows and documentaries. It had been a dream of mine to dine there after watching the Netflix documentary series Chef Table on his life, so we booked a trip specifically to visit his renowned restaurant in Bangkok pre-Covid, only to have him cancel on us at the last minute just before we left for our trip. Despite him being a four time winner of Asia’s best restaurant at the number one spot, he shut down in 2020. He apparently walked out of his last establishment because of disagreements with his backer and shareholders. He assured me he would try and get me a reservation if I ever returned to Bangkok. I held him to his word, and when I returned in 2022 and I couldn’t get a reservation at his new establishment, I wrote to him and he delivered on his promise and secured me two seats at his small, new, 14 seat restaurant.
I am happy to say it lived up to all the hype, accolades and more. We pulled up to a nondescript building and were asked to sit in a small outdoor area where we are served a cocktail. They wait till the majority of the diners arrive and are escorted inside, one couple at a time. We are seated at an L shaped theater, around an open kitchen, in the dark. We can see some chefs busily at work, and are given no menus, only a passport booklet of Gaggan, welcoming us to his home, and telling us we can anticipate a 25 course dinner. Inside the passport is a sheet of food stickers, hinting of what is to come. Finally, the maestro arrives, sends me a peace sign and takes all of his chefs into a lit lab where he gives his chefs a pep talk with rock music blaring. I see a sign lit up in the dark that says “Be A Rebel”, and I realize this must be his mantra.
They finally come out, the lights are dimmed up and Gaggan comes out to give us our pep talk about what is to follow. He is funny, charming and energetic and has us all in the palm of his hand. His secret degustation menu spotlights Anand’s progressive Indian cuisine, where traditional dishes and popular street food snacks are presented in the most innovative ways. Even if you think you don’t like Indian food, you will be converted.
We start the meal with a ‘Yoghurt Explosion’, a signature creation that has been on the menu since 2010. The quintessential Indian ingredient is presented as a blob of chaat masala and black salt, which was layered on top of a green lotus pad made from green curry chutney. He tells you to savor it in one bite.
The menu features some of the chef’s favorite bites. The first 11 came out in rapid fire. You are warned not to have a washroom break during these first 40 minutes. He dazzled us with a flavorsome medley of the most tantalizing tastes and textures, and creative presentations. Every dish was a work of art, and every single bite was delicious. There were 9 accompanying wines that were paired with the various courses. For those who don’t imbibe, there were 9 non-alcoholic pairings.
This was a 3-4 hour immersive, interactive and intimate experience. This is unlike your typical fine dining establishment. There is no haughtiness or pretentious attitude here. No crisp white table linens, or soft generic music. Here you will hear Pearl Jam, Kiss, and Queen blasting from the speakers, which is quickly turned off when each course is being explained to you. You get a ring side seat watching the chefs stir things, poke things and shape things. It is a marathon meal, but the evening flew by. It was a culinary adventure, and Anand’s act of love and rebellion. Our senses were taken on a rollercoaster ride of tastes, emotions and memories. I can’t even pinpoint one signature dish as they were all outstanding. But his ‘Lick it Up’ dessert was truly memorable. A map of the world that we are instructed to lick up, while playing music by Kiss, of the song Lick it Up. Everyone cooperated.
Coming from a poor family in India and ending up as one of the greatest chefs in the world is no easy feat. This meal, although not inexpensive, was a once in a lifetime culinary experience, and I left with no regrets. If you find yourself in Bangkok, don’t pass up the opportunity to make a trip to Gaggan Anand.
Highly and enthusiastically recommend!