Serving modern Indian food in Thailand, Gaggan is one of those restaurants that you believe you’ve got to try at least once because San Pellegrino says it’s one of the top 50 restaurants. So you arrive at the mouth of a dark alley and when you approach the inner sanctum of this suspiciously dim place, you find yourself greeted by quite a beautiful black and white colonial building that houses Gaggan. The inside is simply and elegantly designed too – clean contrasts of black and white. Very contemporary, very tasteful. You open the menu and you think, since this is a special place let’s go for the best and you pick the Best of Gaggan option (16 courses).
The first thing arrives and it is oyster with marinated spiced apple, yuzu and lemon air. You use the forceps (very out of place, just like this parenthesis) they provide, clip the small wobbly flesh and put it in your mouth. It tastes refreshing, like a Sunday morning (but not a special Sunday morning. It tastes like any Sunday morning.) The spiciness not sufficient; varying accents of acidity.
The next, though looking like something you unwrap from a 20 cent plastic bag, is pretty interesting. Foie gras mousse sandwiched by an onion water baguette with onion chutney and hazelnut candy. The ‘baguette’ is light and crispy, much like a wafer. It’s certainly a unique textural combination with the smooth foie. But onion, onion and hazelnut (AND foie) – too dense; too rich.
This food-in-a-rock smothered by yet another airy cloud is a mix of asparagus, morels, mushrooms (aren’t morels mushrooms?), artichoke with a 62 degree egg yolk and truffle chilli air. Passable.
Spicy, tasty, rich lamb ragout served on cheap lettuce in ‘dehydrated tomato bread’ which is really just tomato flavoured bread. Can you make this at home? Sure.
One of the more promising looking ones. Red mullet in green chili herb marinade, freeze-dried snow flaky things, blibs and blobs of Bengali mustard and all spice gel. Should be nice. At least the mullet was tender, flavourful and redolent of, well, mullet. The rest felt orphaned – you didn’t know what to do with them; they didn’t know what to do with themselves. You eat them with the fish; doesn’t work. You eat them individually and a wave of sadness passes through you.
The scallop was perfectly cooked with a good sear on the surface. The sauce and the seaweed that came with it were stellar flavor uplifters. You sit and heave a sigh of relief – ok this makes it worth it somewhat. But pretty soon, you wonder, what are those white platelets doing at the side of the dish? Together with the scallop, they taste mismatched. The soft, succulent scallop destroyed by the crunchy radish.
Finally, something actually good in all respect. The strong green curry and milky coconut don’t overwhelm the tender lobster in any way. This is an exquisite dish worth the very last 1000 baht of my trip budget. Too bad it’s one out of sixteen. Will I suffer 15 mediocre, sometimes painfully trite, dishes for this? No.
The next one, you read, is called “Fusion called Confusion” (asparagus) and you wonder if the chef is more concerned with realizing the semantic truth of the dish’s name than its tastiness and presentation. It is simply confusing. This simplicity is confusing because there is no hidden depth of flavor or surprise. It looks and tastes just like two unknown appendages in a dubious cream.
None of the desserts stood out. They were all interestingly made but left no lasting impression.
Gaggan epitomizes overzealousness. The nomenclature, the presentation, the styles overpromise and rarely satisfy. Even the chef is no different. Big, steady man who swooped into the dining room, introduced himself to us and on realizing we’re Singaporeans used ‘la’ (incorrectly and inappropriately) in his sentence and looked mighty pleased despite our chagrin. Too eager to please.
On the menu, with names like Viagra and Bong Connection, you’d think you were in a sordid sex bar. That’s all right but I wasn’t aroused, not even gastronomically. Best Memory left no memory whatsoever of the dish except perhaps the faint residue of dryness on my tongue – the same dryness that characterizes the chef’s imagination. The foams and sponges and dehydrated bits indicate nothing but a school boy enthusiastically but awkwardly showing off his new begotten wares. The bewildering and incongruous myriad of plates, the colourful peripheral, albeit pointless, dots reveal nothing intrinsically spectacular about the centerpieces. They are mere prosthetics.
In a country abundant with affordable and awesome food, in a country that is not India, I find myself hard pressed to contrive a reason to come again to Gaggan.
To the credit of the chef, there is nothing awful about his food. You will find a reasonably nice meal here. His efforts are, I suppose, commendable. But I now wonder about the credibility of San Pellegrino’s restaurant rankings.
68/1 Soi Langsuan, Ploenchit Road, Lumpini, Bangkok 10330
T: +66 2 652 1700
Menu starts from 1800 baht (S$72) to 4000 (S$160)
Written by BFF Paul.