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