More Pink Floyd than pink onions

tasty July 05, 2013 00:00

By Ramona Varma
The Nation

5,060 Viewed

The progressive Indian cuisine at Gaggan is turning Bangkok diners on to a new flavourscape

After serving up a meal of bright, flavourful foams and deconstructed, reconstructed curries, it’s difficult to understand why Gaggan Anand shrugs off the mantle of molecular wizard.
“No, no, it’s progressive … it keeps moving forward. The real thing only comes from the pope [of food],” he exclaims, referring to Ferran Adria – considered the godfather of molecular cuisine. Anand spent a few months interning with his mentor at the renowned El Bulli restaurant in Spain.
“Though my kitchen turns black into white and white into black, I stay true to tradition,” Anand promises. “Of course, you will never find pink onions and poppadums here. My food … It’s rock ’n’ roll, man.”
With such clear passion, it is easy to see why Gaggan, the Bangkok restaurant on Soi Langsuan, is rated among the top 10 in Asia and has been ranked 66th in the world. Of course, Anand is hoping to rise higher and, judging by the delights he conjured for us, that climb won’t take him too long.
The feast began with his signature “yoghurt egg”, which slides off the spoon to burst on your tongue – a firework of flavours reminiscent of the spicy yoghurt-based snacks for which his native Kolkata is famous. “I have to keep going home to refresh my childhood memories. Without your memories you’re nothing,” the 33-year-old says.
That delicious detonation was followed by a plate of amuse-bouche – one of which was chef Anand’s very own version of the ubiquitous Kolkata street-food, puchka aka pani puri aka golguppa. Traditionally, this delicacy comes in the form of hollow “crisp” balls stuffed with zingy potatoes and spicy mint water. Anand’s version uses a white-chocolate ball that somehow tricks the mouth into believing it is the real thing. 
“I was having Lindt chocolate – Lindt with chilly and Lindt with mint. I put both in my mouth and suddenly it hit me. What’s in goluppa pani [spicy water]? Mint and chilly ... So where’s the problem?”
The meal kicked off with “Viagra” – fresh oysters served with mustard ice cream and nectar of kokam (a fruit found in Maharashtra), topped with an “oyster leaf” from Holland and served in a traditional jewellery box from Rajasthan. Smooth seduction followed with “Egyptian Secret” – foie gras with red onion chutney and cold raspberry foie powder – then came the smile-inducing truffle potato mousse with egg and panchetta. Not content with smiling, my dining partner voiced fantasies of wallowing in a tubful of the stuff.
The next dish took us back to India, with tandoori prawn infused with traditional spices and a touch of smoky charcoal oil. 
No fan of game, I asked for an alternative to the following quail dish and was pleasingly surprised by spicy chicken doused in coriander foam. This delight was followed by something even better – scallops with a crust of coconut pepper and curry leaves.
Dozens of flavours were dancing on my tongue. Would he take it personally if a diner asked him to tone down his seasonings, I asked the chef. (More precious members of his profession usually do.) “Absolutely not! In fact, I’m even willing to make khao phad [fried rice]… except it will be the best khao phad ever. I believe the ‘diner is king’,” he grins, before leaving for a drumming session with friends.
Without naan and curry, no Indian meal is complete. Cue the chicken tikka masala, dubbed the “British National Dish” at Gaggan, where it is deconstructed and reconstructed to tease eye and tastebuds.
The meal is rounded off with two desserts – an out-of-this-world mango souffle and a white chocolate mousse. The chef says betel leaf ice-cream will make its way onto the dessert menu very soon, made from the meagre supply he managed to sneak in recently. But stocks will be limited, he warns.
Cocktails were mixed by the expert hand of Ignacio “Nacho” Ussia, who has only just taken over the bar at Gaggan and is still missing some of this “special ingredients”. He didn’t disappoint with his vodka-infused sugarcane sticks and Merlin – a magical concoction of vodka and ginger ale among other things.
If its a special occasion, you could pop a bottle of the house champagne, Decotte Auge Brut (Bt3,500), which is apparently exclusive to Gaggan. 
As the chef says, why just stock stuff other restaurants have? Alternatively, you could opt for one of the many other wines on offer. We went for Discovery Point Pinot Noir (Bt3,000), which complemented the meal perfectly.
Our gastronomic feast was the “So far so Good” tasting menu, which goes for Bt2,600++ per person.