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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.