If you're a foodie visiting Bangkok, you've probably heard of Gaggan. It's been rated Asia's #1 restaurant for 3 years running by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, and is #7 in the world. That's a pretty tall order (pun intended).
So, as foodies who love visiting Bangkok, it's seemed a natural progression to find ourselves at Gaggan one December evening.
Let me preface by saying that if you like to look at a nicely proportioned plate of food and be fairly certain of what you're eating, Gaggan is not the dining venue for you.
Gaggan is "progressive Indian cuisine" which means you won't find any butter chicken here. Rather, it draws on India's inexhaustible stockpile of spices in unusual concoctions of everyday ingredients (yes, that's a granola bar below).
Gaggan is all about innovative and experimental ways of blending everyday ingredients into the unexpected - in both taste and appearance. Behold below - this "chilly" looking frozen gumball is more hot than cold!
There's also a fondness for pureeing items that you may not normally have eaten, or would even contemplate in their original state. The results however - delicious. (Dish #5 Flower Power, I'm looking at you. Our waiter gleefully announced its contents at the end of the meal).
25 courses long, dinner at Gaggan takes up to 3 hours. Though, remember, it's less about the "dinner" and more about the "experience". Which is all the rage in foodie and travel scenes these days.
You need to book well in advance to get a table at Gaggan, and they have set dinner times. We made our booking for 4 people about 3 months in advance and (was it luck?) scored ourselves one of the best tables. It was right by a big window that looks into the kitchen.
We could see all the chefs piping purees and tweezering slivers of garnishes onto miniature, foamed parcels of food. And pretending not to notice us diners gawking at them and snapping selfies. I imagine they're used to it.
Of course, you'll need a drink with all this progressive food. Happily, Gaggan's wine list is decidedly less experimental and what you see is what you get. There's a good international selection with reds, whites and sparklings well represented and mostly from smaller vineyards.
We chose a reliable French Pinot Noir that transcended most of the food groups before us, and it was delicious.
So the verdict... is Gaggan worth the hype?
It certainly seems so when you read the reviews and talk to your fellow diners. Across the table from ours was an American couple on their honeymoon. They loved every dish.
The food is to my mind a concoction of interesting, delicious, bizarre, curious, fun, insightful and adventurous flavours. It's certainly an experience, from the waiter piping puree at our table, to cranking up the 1983 Kiss song "Lick it up" while we did just that for (another) array of purees on our plates.
And at Gaggan, you have to be prepared to embrace that experience. You may not like some of the dishes but it's not about that. Gaggan is about challenging preconceived ideas.
If you applaud that spirit, go. Embrace the weird and wonderful. Book the table by the kitchen window. Bring your party shoes, open mind (and full wallet).
If not, remember you're in Bangkok, home to amazing Thai and Asian food. You won't go hungry.
Gaggan is in a lovely two-storey colonial house in Lumpini. It's open for 2 sittings at dinner - 6pm and 9pm. Email them through their website to book. Expect a 2-3 month lead time. The 25-course degustation (food only) is 5,000 baht plus tax per person.