Gaggan: What It's Like to Eat at the World's #4 Restaurant

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
I got to book a seat at Gaggan on my second attempt. I would always remember this: I requested for a slot through their website for my exact birthday. Two seats, in case someone wants to come with me (although I was already quite sure that I would be dining here alone, considering that a meal at the world’s number 4 restaurant, one with two Michelin stars, was not really cheap). But I was going to eat here no matter what—even if I were going solo.

And then, like a dream, I got an email confirmation on Christmas Day. It felt like two sweet presents—a Christmas gift and an early birthday one.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
As it turns out, deciding to go here solo was the best thing that I’ve ever done—this landed me a seat at the chef’s table. Yes, right there in front of the chefs, where I could see all the action. Unfortunately on the day of my dinner, Chef Gaggan Anand himself was in the US, but who cares? I was there, at one of the most prestigious restaurants in the world, the sun roof affording me a glimpse of the beautiful Bangkok sky. It was a perfect day. The perfect birthday meal.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
I heard about Gaggan and the infamous 25-course emoji menu first not from Netflix, but from my friend JB of Will Fly for Food. He and his wife had dined there the previous year and he said it was one of the best meals he has ever had. At that time, Gaggan was ranked fifth in the world by the World’s 50 Best (they’re now #4). I would say that it was JB’s recommendation that prompted me to take action—to hit that reserve button—but the Netflix episode about Gaggan made me more excited, especially after hearing his life story.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
A meal at Gaggan, priced at THB8,000, is not something people would usually spend for—but it is a meal you would not typically experience either. Even if you went to the fanciest hotels. Even if you shell out thousands for prime meat cuts in some steakhouse somewhere. After dining here, I thought that every peso was worth it. (And when you think about the caliber of the food, and the fact that I don’t have to fly to Europe for a "life-changing" meal, the price isn’t even that bad.)

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
gaggan bangkok world's 50 best

I’m not going to describe to you each of the 25 dishes I ate at Gaggan. That might be downright boring, plus it ruins the element of surprise (you know, just in case you still have plans to dine there—they’re closing this year). But I would try my best to relay the complete experience in such a way that you would (hopefully) feel that you were there right beside me, having this ultimate meal.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
First of all, how do you present Indian cuisine in molecular gastronomy format? Indian food, like a lot of Asian cooking styles, is not usually presented as delicate, small, beautiful bites—it is usually in huge, tin plates, in clay pots, or in platters. But Chef Gaggan has somehow applied what he learned from working at El Bulli and managed to pack the intricacy and boldness of Indian food into bite-sized pieces. This was, for me, truly incredible as I love Indian food and I usually consume huge quantities of it—platters of Hyderabad-style biryani, bowls of butter chicken, rogan josh, all the naan I want, all for me—but now I am enjoying this cuisine as tiny, pretty pieces of art.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
And you can’t accuse the chef of committing a blasphemy—his food is still truly Indian, rooted in his culture, and in fact, inspired from some of his favorite childhood food. It’s just presented in a totally new way that rocked the restaurant world—progressive Indian as he calls it.  

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
Dining at Gaggan is like witnessing a full spectacle in a theater, and no I’m not just talking about the flame shows, which every teppanyaki place can do. Every element of the dining experience has been carefully thought of—from the oddly-shaped plates holding the dishes that apparently forms the map of India once assembled; the fine details of each dish; the comedic music that accompanies each dish; and, of course, to the explosion of flavors in each bite.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
And the flavor is not the only aspect you would praise in each dish. Yes, it’s amazing how one small bite unleashes a smorgasbord of flavors—coriander, curry, tomato, crab, a lot of things you wouldn’t expect—but what further heightens each bite are the textures and the temperatures. Hot and cold take turns with each course; random things pop and something unbelievably delicious oozes out; something that looks hard becomes gooey—every bite is, simply, a surprise! Every dish deceives you and fucks your brain.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best

The chefs play with all your senses—not just with your eyes and tongue. There’s one dish with yuzu in it that almost got me squealing off my seat; as the chefs were setting the plates in front us, that distinct yuzu smell wafted to my nose and I knew I was going to have a heavenly bite. In another course, they asked us to put on blindfolds and this, apparently, heightens the sense of taste. You have no choice but to feel what’s in your mouth—the temperatures, the textures, the flavors—without any idea what it looks like.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
And it doesn't end with that. Most of the dishes are eaten by hand. In some courses, you will be asked to lick the plate, or to drink from a baby's feeding bottle. I love it!

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
It is also worthy to note that the music plays a huge role in the dining experience. Being the rock star that he is, Gaggan uses a playlist composed of 90s rock music—there’s a song for every dish. In almost all of the courses, you will just laugh out loud when you realize why that song was specifically chosen. The music sets a really casual, chill, and fun mood amidst an otherwise snooty restaurant. Everyone in our table was laughing, shyly at first, but soon, all together—you know what I mean? It somehow turned our table into a convivial, communal dining space.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best
There are several Japanese dishes from the 25-course menu, and I’ve heard that Gaggan is planning to move to Japan. The chefs there explained to us that these dishes were born out of Gaggan’s repeat visits to Japan—it looks to me like he got obsessed with Japanese cuisine (I don’t blame him, LOL). OMG, is he going to put up a new restaurant serving a fusion of Indian and Japanese?!? THAT WOULD BE WIIIIIIIIIILLLLD.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best

Gaggan is not just a chef—he’s an artist. He has completely brought himself into this food, poured out his heart and soul into it. He has an amazing, talented, and fun team that is just as inspired—no wonder they are able to put out incredible stuff. He is closing his masterpiece of a restaurant soon, but I’m glad that I was able to experience dining in it before he finally does.

Best birthday meal ever. Meal of a lifetime indeed.

gaggan bangkok world's 50 best

~*~
Gaggan
68/1 ถนน เพลินจิต Khwaeng Lumphini, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand
+66 2 652 1700

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