Anticipating that Asia’s best restaurant, an Indian fusion joint named Gaggan would be closing in the next few years, my boyfriend and I thought it would be a great opportunity to book a table during our trip to Bangkok. Even though we weren’t able to secure one, there was no reason to fret. Just opposite, is the nine month old chic and minimalist Gaa, which is said to echo the principles and flavours of its famous other half. The establishment appears intimate but actually stretches across three floors and opts for a sombre hygge vibe, using mid-century style furniture, simple ceramics and wild flowers. Except when it comes to the kitchen, Gaa is not so tame.
The restaurant ferments its own kombucha, but I went for their homemade lychee sake as an aperitif. Incredibly light, it felt a lot more like drinking juice than alcohol but nonetheless refreshing and easy. The basil mojito brings out the best of the pungent herb, marrying it with the zesty citrus of the classic cocktail. I’d recommend either one (or both, if thirsty).
Two tasting menus comprised of 10 or 14 courses, ranging from 2200-2800 baht (£50-63) are on offer. We chose the lighter option because food should be a delight not a burden.
Now, to get straight to the interesting part: the second course. A frozen, architecturally mesmerising, spicy foie gras dish resembling a pile of rubble. The slabs of concrete-coloured cold pate complemented by a touch of sweetness from the longan fruit is one of the most intriguing and inventive versions of the classic dish that I’ve ever tasted. And regrettable to my conscience, I’m a foie gras fan, I’ve had a fair share.
Also worth a notable mention is the baby corn. It’s the kind of thing that I’d like to see more restaurants experiment with – simple, interactive and well crafted without being cliche – for example, we all know about those DIY-for-DIY-sake kind of dishes. Snooze.
Gaa’s presentation is pared down, so that the ingredients take all the limelight. The dish that best represented this was the mustard leaf and packchi farang, two vegetables cooked two ways. At first, it looks like a sparse bowl of dehydrated leaves. Upon further inspection, they resemble a nest, sautéed to a light crispness with a texture similar to seaweed. Tiny salt grains and all. Hidden below is a soft, cold tofu made of milk and a vegetable sauce made from the same ingredients. Despite the playfulness, it was probably one of the least compelling dishes and not one of which to lap up every scrap.
Then came the crayfish on handmade Indian bread, perhaps a house spin on the lobster that features on every fine dining menu. Whilst the seared crustacean was beautifully done, the size and presentation made it look like a canape. I half expected the staff to bring another plate to the table, complete on a tray with napkins.
Then there was the bread. It’s not often that I talk about bread, mostly because I don’t like it. I also find the in-house baked sourdough trend really annoying but that’s another topic. However, Gaa’s carbs are totally worth the calories and unpredictable, because first of all, who ever heard of serving buns in between the starter and main course? Packed with that sensational, comforting sweet onion fragrance, the experience brings me back to summers travelling around Asia as a kid, where I would be forced to try the goods from local bakeries. But you know, in a good way.
And just as the excitement appeared to be teetering on a decrescendo, out came the lamb keema pao on a crispy, coconut scented ‘tortilla’. Spicy, powerful and slightly softened by little slithers of sweet coconut flesh, it was one of the highlights of the dinner. There’s something quite attractive about a restaurant that isn’t afraid to serve a plate of dry curried meat that really kicks you in the throat.
If you came here to taste the Indian fusion heritage, this was the dish you were waiting for.
Not all the dishes in the ten course menu were winners, which might have been expected but was also unfortunate. I’d put this down to the desserts which were missing a star player. Despite not having a sweet tooth, it would have been more enjoyable to finish on a strong note. Thankfully, Gaa doesn’t try to overcompensate with superfluous petit fours.
Gaa is unafraid to surprise and taunt its diners with a heavy dose of its eclecticism and restraint. Food displayed as organisms or natural forms, only to be found by foraging in the deep dark jungles of Thailand await you. Yet the taste is the sensation of something scratching at the backdoor of your memory, reminding you of something humble and delicious that you’ve had before. That something is squirming its way to the forefront of your mind as you savour it. This is food that tells stories.
Khet Pathum Wan,
Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand