Better late than never. Peering over, I spotted young men and women sporting ‘Hug me I smell like curry’ t-shirts. Lots of busy bodies for a small kitchen. They seemed to be assembling plates with tweezers in one hand and a sauce-squeezer in another. A couple next to me had flown down from Britain to eat at this vaunted table. They booked four months in advance. I snuck in weeks ago with a kind favour. The show was about to begin.
Vibhi, previously with Nobu, kept us genuinely entertained with puns and smart slapstick. The enthusiasm and wit lit up my dinner. If I had a nationalistic bone to pick, some of the front-of-house services could not tell a Maacher Jhol from Meen Moilee. Most of the diners probably would not have either.
25 Emojis (courses). About 150 minutes. 5000 THB + Taxes. Taste your imagination through my highlights, in ten emoticons:
(*_*; Fish Cake
Maacher Jhol (Bengali Fish Curry) refashioned into a Cheesecake. Remarkably authentic aroma. Tidbits of fried fish-skin as the base. Rice or Bhat-like cheesecake. Jhol in the form of red coulis on top. I could imagine rummaging through Chef Gaggan Anand’s Kolkata memories.
(＾ｖ＾) Scallops Uncooked Curry
Bright herbal flavours of a coconut-milk curry. The nose drew me in right away. An assemblage that surfboards exceptional ingredients like Hokkaido Scallops.
(￣ー￣) Eggplant Cookie
Clever, clever, clever. Savoury Baigan Bharta dehydrated into cookies sandwiching a blob of onion jam. Texture like a Khari biscuit.
(●＾o＾●) Curry Mango Chocolate
A Kulfi-like roundel of yellow curry, mango and white chocolate. Displays masterful maturity with blending flavour and texture.
(°_°>) Cedar wood Paturi
Gorgeous after-flow of flaming the paturi on a Cedar wood ply. Delicious Paturi. Couldn’t smell the Cedar wood at all.
(=_=) Quail Chettinad
Tandoori Quai in a wooden Pinjra. Grilled Quail is commonplace in Chennai. I’ve had a few dozen last year. Imminently archivable.
I know it is of the classics. Mysterious. Black with grey dehydrated onion-dust. Oily. Stuck to my molars. Smooth asparagus puree. Wonder if I ought to be impressed.
(－‸ლ) Lobster Dosai
First-rate Lobster. A nice Kal Dosa. I would not fly down from Southern India for it.
(~_~) Kebab Burger
Lamb kabab. Bao-burger in a dim sum basket. Cocktail-sized. That is it?
(*￣m￣) Pork Vindaloo
Pork Vindaloo crumb fried cutlet. Greasy. I might have liked it inebriated.
I tend to carp at expensive meals, and destination dinners. About 85% of the 25 courses were somewhere between great and fantastic. My favourite bits of Gaggan lay in its mastery over Indian flavours. Japanese and Thai influenced plates like a Tom Yum Goong emulsion piped into a Prawn Cracker, Chutoro on Dashi Meringue and a cone of Uni and Mango were delicious, but I missed the ‘Progressive Indian’ USP. Most guests, on the night I dined, were not Indian. My perspective derives from what I grew up eating.
Tip: There are two seating options available – the dining room and the Lab, where plates are assembled by Chefs on a communal wooden table. The surprise is a key element of the meal, I would suggest synchronised co-diners. 25 courses in 150 minutes, means a new plate every 5 minutes or so – perhaps not the dinner to mull over.
A self proclaimed food geek and coffee nerd, Amit Patnaik enjoys his time in the kitchen as much as he loves dining out. He runs the food blog Pursuit of Yummyness and contributes to The Hindu in Chennai.