A brief summary of how Tuck’s parents plan their winter vacation: Step 1: San Pellegrino updates their 50 Best Restaurant List. Tuck’s mom then reviews which of those restaurants have an episode on Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Last February she found one about was Chef Gaggan Anand and his progressive, avant-guard restaurant, Gaggan, in Bangkok. It was ranked 4th in the world by San Pellegrino. Step 2: Tuck’s mom requests a reservation at said restaurant for sometime during the baseball offseason and starts praying to the food gods that they get in. Step 3: Tuck’s mom and dad “coincidentally” watch the same episode on Chef’s Table. Step 4: Tuck’s dad really wants to go! “How amazing does that look?!” he usually says. Step 5: Tuck’s mom magically has a reservation and has already booked plane flights to eat at said restaurant.
The Story: The story above pretty much summarizes how we booked our trip to Thailand. It may seem absolutely absurd to most people to plan an entire trip around the world for one dinner, but food is our favorite hobby (hello, food blog). If said hobby happens to take us somewhere new and exciting, even better. Chef Gaggan has become famous for his “rebel” attitude when it comes to fine dining; he brings to the table a completely new approach to haute-cuisine. Eating a meal at Gaggan Anand gives you all of the taste, flavor, and surprise of the elite fine dining experience with absolutely none of the pretension that usually comes with. You are supposed to let loose and sing along while you enjoy a 25 course dinner. It was truly one of the most incredible dining experiences we have ever had.
The Reservation: This part of the experience is the only aspect that was a little stressful and less traditional than other dining experiences we have encountered. You can submit for a reservation via their website for any particular day- to our knowledge there is no length of time too far away. If you are dying to go here and traveling to Bangkok we would recommend submitting requests for each day that you are available to go. There is nowhere on the form to submit for multiple days, and if the one day you request is not available you aren’t given any alternatives. It can take between two or three weeks to get a response, so don’t bother refreshing your email every 30 seconds like we did in the days that follow your reservation request. There are two options for seating at Gaggan Anand and you have to request which of the seating options you want at the time of your submission: “Arena G” is the regular restaurant with 4 (ish) seating times. “The G Spot” is a community table with a single seating each night. The menu is the exact same as Arena G but the alcohol pairing is included with this seating and you have significantly more interaction with the chefs while you eat. At the time of our reservation, reservations for Arena G were about $300 per person (no alcohol) and $600 per person (with alcohol). We opted for Arena G and had a table for two at 9:30 pm. Here is where the reservation process gets a little tricky- once you receive an email that you have received a reservation, you have to pay the full price of the meal via Pay Pal and send them a copy of your receipt. You’re hit with a 5% Pay Pal fee which kind of stinks on a $600 tab, but otherwise it all worked out okay. They will email you once they have received your Pay Pal payment and you are all set to dine at Gaggan Anand – again this could take as long as a few weeks so don’t panic if you don’t hear right away!
The Experience (many spoilers ahead!): From the second we walked into the restaurant, we knew this was going to be unlike any other fine dining experience. Gaggan is a professed rebel and rock lover, and we were serenaded by the likes of Lizzo and The Foo Fighters throughout our three hour dinner. The decor in the restaurant is fun and contemporary with outer space vibes. The entire experience is relaxed; the waitstaff and chef crew clearly take their jobs very seriously but have a fun time doing it. Once we were seated we were presented with a teal box- the box contained pieces to a wooden puzzle and each piece had a picture of an emoji on it. Each dish of the dinner is presented and diners guess what emoji matches each course based on the explanation the waitstaff provides. Each table builds their puzzle throughout the dinner as opposed to receiving a menu of any sort.
As Gaggan says in the Chef’s Table documentary, his goal is to “assault” diners with food- 25 courses in all- and constantly surprise guests with what is coming next. Each course feels completely different from the one before- dishes are served piping hot and then ice cold, one is incredibly crunchy and the next is meant to be licked off the plate (literally). We did not receive a single eating utensil until the 14th course. The dish ware is exquisite and the entire meal truly feels like a giant surprise. We have never tasted many of these flavors, eaten these types of ingredients, or been as challenged to think outside the box of what Indian cuisine can be.
What we appreciated most about the experience was the balance of extravagance and simplicity in each dish. Every detail is thought out. The menu is a biography and reflection of Gaggan’s life and a collection of his experiences. The dish each plate is served on help reinforce those themes. For example, the dish pictured below was a cauliflower puree with raisin and chili jelly dots; it was represented by the rainbow emoji on our menu. The colors of the powders are all flavored with Indian spices and pays homage to the Hindu Holi Festival (the color festival that takes place in India every spring). In true Gaggan fashion, you are not given a fork to eat this dish- you are asked to lick it off the plate with your tongue.
Dinner at Gaggan Anand was one of the best dinner experiences we have ever had. It felt new, exciting, and was just plain fun! If it wasn’t so far away from home, Tuck’s mom would already be plotting how to return.