Progressive Indian restaurant continues to impress

The reputation of Gaggan has, quite rightly, skyrocketed ever since it was featured in Asia's 50 Best Restaurants

After three years of operating, the progressive Indian restaurant Gaggan, set in a lovely white wooden house along a small soi in Bangkok, is steadily gaining the reputation it so readily deserves.

Ever since Gaggan won the highly respectable 3rd place in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014 a few months ago, the restaurant owned by Kolkata-born chef Gaggan Anand has been packed seven days a week with those in search of fanciful Indian molecular fare coming from far and near. Walk-ins don’t get tables, even on Mondays, so reservations are always recommended.

It was at the same table, adjacent to the open kitchen, that I had my return dinner a few nights ago. Compared to the last visit, however, the atmosphere and ambience, both in the dining areas and the kitchen - now staffed by seven of numerous nationalities - had flourished. Smiles and laughter seem a permanent fixture at this warmly-hosted venue.

The restaurant recently stopped serving a la carte. Diners are now offered three options from the tasting menu; the 10-course Tastes of Gaggan (1,800 baht); the 11-course India Reinvented (2,800 baht); and the 16-course Best of Gaggan (4,000 baht).

All sets begin with a welcome drink. On that evening it was an icily refreshing mocktail made with passion fruit, pineapple, lemon and cucumber foam.

Our 16-course dinner started with a platter of four surprises that revealed the flavours of India’s most familiar street-side snacks. They included yoghurt chaat (in spherification form), spiced nuts (in edible plastic-like bags), pani puri (in a white chocolate shell) and an inside-out samosa.

The second course, freshly shucked oyster, treated diners to a wonderful display of differing temperatures, tastes and textures. The oyster was smothered with spicy marinade before being grilled in its shell and a garnishing touch of kokum (Indian mangosteen) ice-cream gave the piping hot oceanic fare a frosty sweet finale.

Gaggan’s whimsical interpretation of foie gras arrived next. The silky goose liver terrine was complemented by cold and crunchy raspberry-hazelnut praline and spiced red onion chutney.

The bewildering feast continued with the next course, when diners were presented with a large rock containing a fragrant morel mushroom soup with a 62C sous-vide yolk and truffle chilli air.

Chef Gaggan calls the next dish, “Alchemist’s cake”, for good reason. Gaggan’s take on the Indian classic dholka - a traditional cake made with lentil flour - is a natural sponge-like substance so amazingly lithe that apparently Gaggan’s mother has even asked him for the magic recipe. The cake was flavoured with curry leaves, mustard, chutney and coconut ice cream.

Next up was a dainty take of Mumbai’s popular keema pav (bun with minced mutton filling). Served hot in a bite-size portion, the scrumptious street treat was presented in a Chinese-style deep-fried salabao bun, stuffed with spicy curried lamb ragout.

The following seven courses were the mains. It started with three seafood dishes: the sous-vide sea bass with Bengali mustard, cumin, anise, sweet potato and date sugar; the Norwegian diver scallops cooked with young coconut, pepper and curry leaves; and the cold water Atlantic lobster meat in creamy sweet and spicy curry perfectly complemented by koppert cress, a coastal plant with podgy finger-like stems that just burst with salty juice.

As white asparagus is currently in season, Gaggan didn’t miss a chance to showcase some of the very best seasonal harvest. The lovely portion of soft white asparagus spear dressed with chilli miso and yuzu chutney was a palate-pleasing expression of his appreciation for the delicate flavour and discreetness of Japan’s culinary arts.

Favourite dishes voted by our party of four were Iberian pork sous-vided with pickling spices and served with a vindaloo curry reduction. The Spanish black pork was perfectly cooked for a wonderfully succulent mouthfeel - matsuzaka-like pork.

Grilled free-range lamb chop with green herb oil equally impressed our palates. The lamb, also sous-vided for hours, was then delicately grilled and had a certain addictive quality.

There is even a version of the British national dish, chicken tikka masala, at Gaggan’s that comes, of course, with a twist.

There are three courses of dessert: hot carrot mousse with saffron and edible 100% silver; a mango-cardamom ice cream with almond-saffron oil; and a playful "five-act" platter of chocolate.

The restaurant also has a good selection of wines and cocktails to complement the ultra-modern cuisine.

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About the author

columnist
Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: Senior writer and food columnist of Life