Last month, tired of frequenting popular tourist hangouts during my past trips to Bangkok, I embarked on a unique culinary journey: to eat at three Michelin-starred restaurants over a single weekend.
Having lived in Singapore, my exposure to the deep food culture helped develop a taste for experimental dining. Inspired by the Netflix show Chef’s Table, a Michelin food trail had been on my mind for a couple of years. I researched the restaurants online before I decided on Bangkok (led primarily by the draw of Gaggan who is closing his restaurant in 2020).
According to the Michelin Guide, there are 217 Michelin restaurants in Bangkok and I wanted to experience first-hand, the culinary fantasy that the chefs had created at their tables and the aesthetic that led them to be handpicked as the best in the world. The hustle to get a seat was a big part of the adventure.
I sent emails to all restaurants for reservations and coordinated with guest services.
For Gaggan, you need to make a reservation six months in advance, but for the other two, Paste and Sühring, write to them about three weeks in advance.
Read on for my ambitious attempt to uncover the food under the fancy.
Gaggan: Explosive tastes of childhood
After a frustrating two-year wait, during which I incessantly emailed the restaurant for a reservation, I finally decided to hustle my way through another Michelin-starred chef from Singapore, whom I knew reasonably well. Voila! We had a table blessed by master chef Gaggan Anand himself, although he was in Argentina at the appointed date.
As we entered Gaggan, the credenza overflowing with awards that greeted us at the entrance of the colonial shophouse created an anticipation that was well rewarded over 25 inspiring courses of molecular gastronomy.
There is only one menu at Gaggan: the oft-praised emoji list that is presented right at the start, eliciting emotions depicted in normal text communication, but interpreted in the most creative ways to showcase regional Indian cuisine. Ingredients are only revealed at the end of the meal, with another sheer menu overlay explaining in two words the base element of the amuse-bouche (literally mouth-amuser) sized dish. Seating is either at the ground floor (fine dining) or a level up at the mezzanine – Chef’s Table – with live cooking counters that resemble a laboratory in its variety of gadgets and glassware. Fourteen diners are handpicked for this table at the start of every evening, encouraging community eating and conversations amongst strangers from across the world.
Somehow through a strange alchemy, this journey took us back to memories of meals eaten at our grandparents. Gajak. Mustard. Vindaloo. Ghewar. Idli. Puchka. Pav. Samosa. Channa. Can you imagine these as chief flavours concentrated into a bite of myriad textures and temperatures? The menu is an explosion of tastes that makes you marvel at the thought process and imagination of its creator. The tableware is quirky, to say the least. One item was served with a mini JBL speaker attached to an iPod shuffle that played a Foo Fighters track and depicted Gaggan’s love for the band, and another had the Star Wars theme on full blast accompanying a three-tier mini Death Star globe (it came apart to reveal a porcini and rice dish). Genius!
A crowd favourite was Lick It Up, where you were required to lick the plate clean from the bottom to the top, tasting overlapping swipes of a mushroom and pea concoction in a pre-decided order, each hitting the right spot on your tongue. The mosaic of oddly shaped platters served at consecutive courses formed a map of India at the end of the meal – a moment that immediately enchanted imagination and connected its regions in the mind’s eye.