December 17, 2017

Days of burning tongue day 2: goo goo Gaa Gaa

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Our exploration of Bangkok restaurant continues, and we were checking another restaurant off our list.  In addition to running his namesake restaurant, our friend Gaggan Anand has also helped a few other chefs launch their own restaurants - where he and his partner retain a financial interest.  One of these is Gaa, which is located just opposite Gaggan and is run by Garima Arora - Gaggan's former sous chef.

While planning for our short trip, I had wanted to try out one fine dining venue that I hadn't been to.  Having run through the list of fine dining Thai restaurants on my last two trips, I focused on two venues of interest - both of which are ventures in which Gaggan had a hand in.  When I left the decision up to Hello Kitty, she chose Gaa without any hesitation.  We are always looking to support female chefs, and here in Asia there really aren't many of them helming kitchens at fine dining establishments.

We took a leisurely stroll from the St. Regis Bangkok, and arrived at the same time as The Great One.  Even though I booked the table under my own name, I hadn't told Gaggan that we were going there.  Having failed to pay for a single meal at Gaggan in the last two years - and even for my meal at Meatlicious - I was trying to stay under the radar in the hope of finally being able to pay for a meal.  I wasn't sure whether we had been made when we walked through the door, but we did get seated at a table by the window with good lighting...

This being our first time at the restaurant, we chose the larger of the two tasting menus - with 14 courses.  The Great One took the 5-glass juice pairing, while I chose the last 3 out of the 5.

Chilled soup of mango, pumpkin and pickles - with chunks of pickled mango, cape gooseberry, coriander, and Sichuan peppercorns, as well as kaffir lime leave oil.  Very refreshing, with a good balance of sweetness, acidity, as well as a slight kick.

Green apple and basil - fairly savory, with strong basil flavors, lots of licorice.

But here is where I think service fell short.  The Great One was still on her first glass of juice, but I was being served the third glass that she would be having later.  If this were a true pairing, shouldn't this glass of juice be served later - even for me?

Savoury betal leaf - the betel leaves were dehydrated, and seasoned to deliver pretty savory flavors as well as some smokiness.

The balls were actually takoyaki (タコ焼き) filled with duck vindaloo.  These were fantastic.

Homemade pickles - a range of 6 different types of pickles for us to use as condiment with the takoyaki as well as the mochi.

Grilled potato mochi - mochi (餅) made with glutinous rice, of course, with a sauce of potato stock and salted egg yolk, and garnished with mustard flowers and chive flowers.  The mochi was nice and chewy, without sticking to the teeth too much.

Chicken liver, longan - shaved frozen liver mousse on top of toast.  Now, where I have seen this before?  Perhaps Noma Tokyo?  No surprise that this one came with an Indian twist, tasting of turmeric and curry.  Some longans (龍眼) between the mousse and the toast provided a nice addition of sweetness.  Very tasty. 

Corn - I vaguely remember seeing this dish on Instagram.  The baby corn was grilled with black salt, and served with a "corn milk" dip where corn kernels were steamed with milk before being blended together.

The baby corn had already been separated from their husks, and of course this would be the perfect time for me to revert back to being a juvenile teenager...

FYI this was delicious.

Cow milk tofu, grilled leaves of mustard and coriander - there was a pile of blistered leaves on top, including sawtooth coriander.

Moving the leaves aside reveals a pile of very soft and jiggly tofu made with cow's milk (wouldn't it be more like panna cotta?), topped with finely chopped salted mustard leaves and coriander leaves.  Different and contrasting textures in one bite.  Not bad.

Coconut water with jasmine flower - my second glass of juice was also served with the wrong dish.

Crayfish, khakhra - on top of the crispy khakhra (ખાખરા) was a layer of crayfish cream, with a grilled crayfish topped with pomelo pulp and baby coriander.  I could certainly taste the turmeric in the khakhra.  A very tasty bite.

Crab, cauliflower, caramelized whey, Royal Project sturgeon caviar - we've got grilled cauliflower and a pile of crab meat sitting in a puddle of caramelized whey sauce.  The sauce was very rich, with a good balance between the strong salty flavors and acidity.

We chose to pay an additional THB 500 for the sturgeon caviar.  Not sure that it added much to the dish...

Khanom-la - the inspiration came from the Thai sweet khanom la (ขนมลา), except this is a savory version shaped like a taco.  Nicely crispy and toast shell, with a layer of milk skin whose sole purpose seemed to be to insulate the crispy shell from the juices of the succulent grilled garoupa inside.  The mustard sauce was a little spicy and acidic.  Pretty decent.

Pork rib - WOW!  This was some hunk of barbecued pork spare rib!  I had seen the "tricolor" garnish on social media before, and now I was staring at it - with pomegranate seeds, diced shallots, and diced coriander.  The ribs were seasoned with tamarind sauce and cooked sous vide for 24 hours before being put on the grill.  The result was a juicy, fatty, tender, and tasty slab of pork.  It was pretty big, and we definitely felt pretty full after this!  But damn!  Soooo good!

Keema pao, homemade butter - the keema pao was stuffed with mince lamb inside, and it was so, so, sooo tasty! Too bad we were already full from the pork rib, so each of us only took one little square of the bun and didn't even bother touching the butter.

Egg fruit ice cream, jack fruit, peanuts, Thai macadamia and gabok - I haven't had egg fruit (Pouteria campechiana) before, but judging by the familiar flavors, I could have sworn the ice cream was made with sapodilla (Manilkara zapota), sometimes known as sweet egg fruit (ละมุด).  Very sweet, and certainly very creamy.  With strips of jack fruit on top, and crunchy textures coming from a sprinkle of peanuts, macadamia and wild almond/Krabok (กระบก).

Chocolate betal leaf - half the betel leave was covered in chocolate and garnished with cardamom candy, and the other half covered with fennel powder and garnished with rose chutney.

Bhakarwadi, koji ganache - this was like a cinnamon bun but tasted of cumin and curry leaves, while the koji (麹) ganache was both savory and sweet, and made with coconut and sesame seeds.

This was a very good dinner.  No fails out of 14 courses, and there were quite a few hits that brought us pleasure.  Considering the cost of dinner was THB 2,600 without the caviar supplement, this meal at Gaa certainly delivered - in spades.

And the best part?  We asked for the bill and actually got one!  After 5 failed attempts to pay, I finally succeeded for a meal because Gaggan wasn't around this time... 

We stood outside the glass house at Gaggan and tried to peek inside, but it didn't look like the boss was in the house.  We knew he was up at Wonderfruit yesterday and would have been pretty tired today, so Hello Kitty and I took the leisurely stroll back to our hotel... with smiles on our faces.  We'll see the big guy soon enough, anyway.

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