It was with a considerable amount of expectation that I went to Gaggan, the #1 restaurant in Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants for the third year in a row (and currently ranked #23 in the world). Let me first mention that the entire service team brought their A Game to the meal, no matter the 4 AM after party from the post-awards ceremony the night before (honestly, you wouldn’t know it — the property was put back to its regular standards with nary a spoon out of place). Warmly greeted, we were seated not upstairs in the lab (which I would go back to try), but in the front left room overlooking the kitchen (the closest appropriation of a chef’s table — complete with glass that can provide an instant screen).
And then we were presented with a menu. A menu lacking words of any kind. A menu unlike any other I’d seen in a fine dining capacity. For those who aren’t aware, Gaggan’s current menu is based on emojis. I know, I love the concept. I love the creativity, and it’s 2017, so why shouldn’t someone in fine dining do an emoji menu? Furthermore, while it might not work for everyone, I sincerely appreciated the ‘surprise’ element of the entire meal. Honestly, if you know you’re in talented hands, why not just accept you’re going to have a fantastic dinner?
Trust me to like something with fish. The Chu Toro was absolutely incredible. What separates from Gaggan’s dish from regular nigiri? Oh, that’s right — just a tiny bit of melt in your mouth meringue paired with fatty and delicious Toro (reminiscent of my experience at Sushi Bar Yasuda). Nom heaven.
Have you ever tried edible charcoal? I thought not. This interpretation of the ‘dark side of the moon’ emoji translated to Charcoal Prawn Amritsari. Although we do eat first with our eyes, and I was expecting something bitter or charred, the actual taste was anything but! Served piping hot, this dish was like eating one of the best, most moist and delicious prawn cakes you can imagine. I’d eat a plate of them and not plan on sharing.
Tomato Matcha Soup. Yup, I’m a gal who likes her soup! In this instance, the perfectly seasoned, melt in your mouth roasted tomatoes (prepared by hanging them and collecting the very essence of the fruit over a number of hours) served and prepared tableside in a traditional matcha ceremony were a welcome break from the rest of the meal. No photo here, but trust that it was one of the best dishes on the menu.
Not For Me
Let me preference this by saying that Zack (the most amazing FOH person I’ve ever had the pleasure of dining with) told us that in 25 courses, we wouldn’t like all of them. Well done for honesty, Zack. The thing about 25 separate bites is that of course you’re not going to like all of them. What’s funny about the course I chose, is that I usually love scallops. Of course, after my visit to Lima and now Gaggan, I now realize that my personal preference leans strongly to the cooked variety of this seafood. Thus, the Scallop Cold Curry (gorgeous as it was) was a complete miss with me. I didn’t like the texture, and didn’t think the curry taste was strong enough.
I also simply didn’t enjoy the too soft texture or taste of the Crab Curry Chettinad. Sorry, not sorry. At this point (course 22 of 25!), I was completely full, and this bowl ultimately didn’t rate for me. If courses were looking to be edited out, I would put this one forward. Ironically, at the Gaggan pop up in Dubai (which I had two weeks after this meal), I absolutely loved the Lobster Curry. Go figure.
While there were obviously other enjoyable courses (including the well known Yogurt Explosion), I’ll let you be surprised by the remainder of the menu (should you get the chance to dine at Gaggan, and I sincerely hope you do).
Also worth mentioning? I think the service at Gaggan is literally the best in the world — honestly, it’s been years since I’ve connected with a FOH manager in this way. Zack thoroughly read the room and tailored the experience to each customer. With a sense of humor and thoroughly professional approach, he should offer lessons. When it comes to fine dining, even though guests are usually paying quite a bit for the experience, in all honesty, they might just be at a restaurant to not only enjoy excellent food, but have a good time. Team Gaggan seems to get the memo on this better than anyone.
So, as I mentioned in the Sühring post, the big reason I ranked the Sühring meal ahead of our evening at Gaggan is that while Gaggan committed to the emojis, I don’t think it was as cohesive as an experience as Sühring (and truly, in the past year, the only experience that really compares is Bjorn Franzen’s meal at the Palazzo Versace in terms of delivering a fully realized concept). I’ve had some amazing meals in the past year, but to me, all cylinders have to fire to put the venue on the level of the truly elite. While I don’t deny Gaggan’s utter creativity and unique approach to food, my personal preference in Bangkok was towards Sühring. So, if you only had one fine dining meal to pick, I would choose Sühring, but would then encourage you to extend your stay to experience Gaggan (if that makes sense). 🙂
A to Za’atar was a guest of Gaggan. Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.