Tess' first book “Leap: Leaving A Job With No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want” was published in August 2015 by Random House Harmony. For more information on the book, go here.

Tess Untethered | My Dinner With Gaggan
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Sep 22 2017

My Dinner With Gaggan

Every once in a while, life is worth a splurge.

For the most part, here in Southeast Asia, I’ve contented myself with eating street food or cooking at home, with exceptions made for dates and dinners out with friends. It’s easy to eat cheap here. The markets overflow with exotic fruits and verdant veggies, and you can indulge in a som tum green papaya salad or grilled chicken on a stick just by walking down almost any street, or soi.

But I’d been hearing about Bangkok’s Gaggan restaurant practically since I’d arrived in the city. One New York friend asked several times over the last year or so if I’d gone yet. No, I’d answer, adding that I wasn’t really into foams and gels and scienc-ey cuisine.

But then I watched a Chef’s Table episode featuring Gaggan Anand — the genius behind and proprietor of this now-legendary Bangkok institution. It’s not Thai food, though… it’s Indian. Well, Indian-influenced. Indian-influenced food, in the middle of Bangkok, at an establishment that’s been named the best restaurant in the entirety of Asia. I’ve been wanting to go ever since. So when the opportunity presented itself, thanks to a friend who was in from out of town, I jumped. And it was worth every cent — or baht, as the case may be.

I try not to paparazzi-fy my food on a regular basis, though when I travel to a new country, I will no doubt pull out the camera when tasting something new. I didn’t plan to bring my camera to Gaggan, but a friend reminded me that this was a place where you are almost expected to Instagram your meal. So I brought it along and here is a sampling of the dinner.

There is a joy and whimsy to a meal at Gaggan that is hard to compare to anything or anywhere else I’ve eaten. So I’ll just quote Gaggan himself. Yes, he came to our table. He appeared in an instant, immediately to my right, and I looked up and gasped. He welcomed us and said “People say our food is pretentious. It is not. I’m an arrogant f***, but you will have fun!” And when he returned a few minutes later to chat between courses: “Everybody does pretty plates. We want you to taste and have fun.”

25 courses of possibly the most beautiful, delicious, fun, funny, surprising, delightful, baffling, mouth-watering, divine meal I’ve ever had. What a storyteller Gaggan is both on and off the plate. I don’t imagine I’ll ever see or taste anything like it again.

The Gaggan menu: all in emojis. At the end of the meal you receive the same paper with short descriptions of what was in that course.

Watermelon and black salt “oysters” presented on a block of Himalayan salt

Gaggan’s most famous dish — and rightfully so — called “Yogurt Explosion.” It’s molecular gastronomy at work on your psyche. You think it’s egg. But it’s a taste bomb of mango chutney and yogurt. Art on a palate.

These next two photos go together. A waiter places this speaker on the table, fires up the attached iPod Shuffle (hadn’t seen one of those in years), and we’re blasted with the Kiss song “Lick It Up” from 1983. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gcj34XixuYg)

And then, while the music’s playing, we grab our plates with both hands, hold them up to our mouths, and lick from the bottom up. It’s a mushroom and pea concoction with shaved truffles and some kind of hot sauce on top. You have to lick it from the bottom up or the flavor profile doesn’t hit the right spots on your tongue.

This was a carrot and foie gras combination inside tiny crispy waffles. The plating is spectacular.

They called this one “Flower Power” and the power, apparently, came from goat brains. With a slight hint of wasabi.

Looks like ice cream bon bons, yes? But nope. It’s a chill version of chilies.

I can’t remember what was in this one! Eggplant, I think.

A revelation of curried banana atop chicken liver.

I only recently learned to appreciate uni, and I’m glad I learned because here it is in a seaweed “cone” and tiny pearls that somehow taste of gin and tonic

The menu calls this “chutoro sushi.” Unlike any sushi I’ve ever had. That’s a crunchy meringue underneath.

A forest of lamb meatballs.

This was the presentation for the fish in the next photo. It’s wrapped in banana leaf, then in thin slats of wood and burned just a few feet away from the table. The smoky flavor does make its way through the banana leaf to the fish.

Seabass with Bangali mustard, wrapped in banana leaf and smoked wood.

Dessert doesn’t get more whimsical than minion ice cream bars

Dessert course #4 — in a box

Peach — like you’ve never seen it before (I didn’t eat this because I was so full and don’t enjoy sweets)

25 courses of simple art on a plate. Or perhaps… not so simple.

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  • donna mauerhan

    We ate at GRACE in Chicago & if I remember correctly we had about 18 “very small” courses. Unlike you, we did eat the dessert & still left the restaurant hungry!! 🙁 Each plate was beautifully presented & all 8 of us had identical plates, but with very little food on them. I’m glad I had that experience but would not return. I wish I had taken photos like you did….it definitely is a meal one will always remember!

    October 1, 2017 at 7:29 pm
  • Rick Richards

    Wow, that’s just amazing Tess! You’re killing the photography too! You could always start a new career as a food photographer.
    Make the LEAP, it’s fun to do!
    FYI, I no longer live in California. I relocated to the Fayetteville, Arkansas area with my employer. I made the LEAP myself (Thanks for the book!) sans my wife. I am off the road and bought a house and am a Safety Coordinator now.

    October 1, 2017 at 9:31 pm
  • Pris Robichaud

    Watched the Chef Table Gaggan. The food sounds exceptional and looks so beautiful. What a combination.

    October 1, 2017 at 9:48 pm
  • Just bloody AWESOME!

    October 2, 2017 at 1:30 pm

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