Another venue for Bangkok’s chatty, extroverted genius
Every mad scientist needs his very own laboratory. And Bangkok’s resident madman of molecular cuisine has just gotten his. Gaggan Anand—he of the eponymous restaurant which has risen meteorically to Number One on San Pellegrino’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list—has recently opened his so-called “lab.” Yes, despite its gleaming checkerboard floors and loft-like feel, the place is duly outfitted with clean counters full of space-age gizmos. Are they chillers, blasters, smokers? No, they are mostly dehydrators from which assistants proudly hand out the latest dried fruit samples.
While the chef himself insists that he’ll be hard at work during daytimes, with a certified “food scientist” by his side conducting gustatory experiments to supplement his amazing array of Indo-nouvelle concoctions, it turns out this bright, glassed-in annex to the restaurant’s original whitewashed cottage is more a venue for the chatty, extroverted genius to climb out of his shell and ever more personalize the Gaggan experience.
From six onwards, the lucky few with advance reservations get seats around a shared, three-sided wooden ledge with immediate view of Gaggan and his eager international lab rats—on my visit, a young Cuban-American from Miami giving tips on salsa to one of the chef’s experienced Eastern European helpers—meticulously assembling and presenting, with virtually no sign of the bother of actual cooking, by fire or grill, a set and nearly fast food-paced cavalcade of eighteen edible wonders (one hesitates to term them mere “dishes”). The first eight are bite-sized, the last three desserts of a sort, while the remainder of main courses are drawn mainly from the Calcutta native’s obligatory nod to traditional North Indian cooking, the crispy Nan breads he does so well.
Highlights include the Chef’s El Bulli inspired quivering mock yogurt egg in a spoon, his mind-blowing edible packet of nuts, a mango-flavoured cone of top-grade Japanese uni, and his edible charcoal that reveals a deliciously mysterious center. The somewhat gloppily-filled log of mushrooms may not entirely work, but is followed by a virtuoso “tea ceremony” somehow combining coriander oil and several forms of tomato so that you’ll never view the commonplace red fruit-veg in an ordinary light again. Beyond this, comes the brilliantly done staples from the tandoor oven (not futuristic enough to be part of the lab, alas). Service, amplified by several hovering and gentlemanly wine pourers, is promptly impeccable. And all this cost a mere B4,000, a pittance by world haute cuisine standards.
In between, the gonzo chef plays DJ, controlling a playlist ranging from easy rock to heavy metal, and holds forth on every topic—from British colonialism and arcane Indian herbs, to his sixty-plus collection of flashy running shoes. At Gaggan Lab, the chef himself seems at times to be the most exciting experiment in progress. But given his prodigious imagination combined with deep sense of cultural roots, it’s a good bet that this needed expansion will indeed function to keep forcing Gaggan and his fans further and further into global cuisine’s brave new future.
68/1 Soi Langsuan
Tel: 02 652 1700
Open daily: 6pm-11pm