When Gaggan Anand opened his progressive Indian restaurant Gaggan in 2010 he told me his ambition was to have the best Indian restaurant on the planet. His top 20 spot in this year’s World’s Best Restaurant Awards shows he’s on course. “Now I just want to be the World’s Best Restaurant. In any category,” he says.
Standing in the tiny display kitchen, with a window overlooking the restaurant, the chef is showing me the process for Foie Gras with Onion Baguette, one the tiny plates that make up his famous tasting menus. He puts slices of foie gras into plastic bags with pinches of salt, pepper and sugar, and a splash of almond liqueur, and puts the bags into a vacuum machine. The alcohol bubbles almost immediately, because vacuuming lowers its boiling point.
“The air is sucked out of the pores in the meat, and the alcohol goes in,” Gaggan says. “It gives a buttery texture.” Then he sets it in a sous vide bath at 63 degrees for ten minutes, “to cook and tenderise”.
Meanwhile, he lays chopped hazelnuts into the base of a frying pan to roast, and in another pan 125 grams of sugar sprinkled with ground cardamom onto a low heat. The sugar bubbles, getting thicker and stickier and golden brown. Gaggan adds the hazelnut and stirs. “I’m making a praline, basically,” he says, putting the mix in a baking tray and flattening it out to cool.
Next, the chef mashes the now-cooked foie gras and feeds it into a blender with 150 grams of fresh cream. “It’s a thermal mixer,” he says, “which cooks and mixes at the same time. It doesn’t split as it blends in and it doesn’t burn”. He sets the time, spin speed and temperature, adds a touch of salt (“for the cream”) and later a pinch of cardamom. After four minutes Gaggan pours the mix through a strainer, and then into a siphon and charges it with gas, so it becomes like a whipping cream.
The baguette fingers are already made: of water, onion juice and a seaweed-based gel called metil. “We whip it until it has the strength to hold air, into a kind of meringue foam,” he explains. “Then we dehydrate it for two days.” The finished product – smooth and crumbly – shatters to dust with the tiniest squeeze of your hand.
To serve, Gaggan forms a kind of mini hot dog, piping the foie gras, with onion chutney and the praline – now crushed to a powder – between slices of onion bread.
Enjoyed in the summer house ambiance of the restaurant, the dish illustrates the complexity that goes into the tiniest details on these menus.
World renown has not changed Gaggan – he remains a gregarious and refreshingly down to earth guy for one so high on the ladder – but it will change the restaurant, for sure. Book now while you can still get a seat.
68/1 Soi Langsuan | 02-652-1700 | eatatgaggan.com | 6pm-11pm