March 26, 2023

Not the 50 Best tour day 2: Gogaden

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The whole point of me flying myself down to Singapore for a few days was to come to lunch today. It has been almost exactly 5 years since the last time I saw Fukuyama Goh, Gaggan Anand, and Hasegawa Zaiyu together at the GohGanDen pop-up in Macau. The fact that borders are now once again open and chefs can once again come together for collaboration dinners is, of course, very good news. I was so excited that this was happening that I immediately messaged Gaggan to get myself booked.

I'm flying solo this trip since Foursheets stayed home to catch up on work, so I invited my friend L to come join me. She loves going to DEN, and also enjoys Goh-san's cuisine, so she was only too happy to come along.

The event was held at Ms. Maria and Mr. Singh, and this branch was opened when the team left Bangkok during the pandemic. I strolled in and greeted Vlad, Goh-san, Zaiyu, and Rydo. I also ran into a couple of friends, and noted the presence of one Academy Chair.

Papdi chaat (पापड़ी चाट) 💥 - an evolution of Gaggan's iconic "yogurt explosion", the yogurt spherification sat on top of a papdi (पापड़ी) with some tamarind chutney, pomegranate seed, and a sprinkling of sev (सेव). Cumin was very obvious here and this was a little spicy, but the yogurt helped to temper the heat. This... is a dish that's normally on the menu here at Ms. Maria and Mr. Singh. Not what I was expecting.

Olivier Horiot Métisse - flinty with mineral notes.

Monaka (最中) 🟨 - well, besides the fact that the sticker says DEN (傳), this is instantly recognizable due to the packaging.

Despite the fact that I have yet to visit DEN, I thought the foie gras monaka didn't taste like a special version, as there was the usual iburigakko (いぶりがっこ) delivering its smoky flavors reminiscent of Chinese smoked preserved pork belly (臘肉). There was also dried persimmon (干し柿) here. Tasty, for sure, but not special.

🌊 - we have white asparagus (dusted with some gold flakes) sitting on top of some white asparagus purée.

Underneath we had caviar, sea urchin, and little cubes of potato and white asparagus. Almost exactly the same dish that I had just tasted at Goh 2 weeks ago.

Akishika 888 Junmai Muroka Nama (秋鹿  八八八. 純米無濾過  生原酒) - seimaibuai of 80%. Very oxidized nose with lots of fermented notes, and very savory on the palate.

Red seabream 🐟 - the carpaccio of red seabream (鯛) came with some watercress and watercress purée, along with a gel made of Hyuganatsu (日向夏) which provided good citrus notes to balance out the bitterness of the watercress. Again, there was a very similar dish at Goh 2 weeks ago

DENtucky fried chicken 🐔 - SO OF COURSE we were expecting this dish.

Once the box is open, inside one would find a fried chicken wing sitting on a bed of straw.

So this was the first dish that seems to have been adapted for this event, as the stuffing has changed to chicken rice (on account of being in Singapore), leek sauce, and peanuts. I was honestly not aware that peanuts are served at some places selling chicken rice, even though I've been eating Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore since almost 50 years ago, but apparently it does happen.

Fried chicken is always good, but I'm not sure how much this tasted like chicken rice. Didn't taste much of the leek sauce, either...

2019 Alexandre Bain L. d'Ange - very fresh with lots of tropical fruits, and flinty notes.

Carrot rasam 🥕 - the rasam (రసం) also came with some tamarind, and there was good acidity here with lots of heat. I don't suppose they used the kintoki carrots (金時にんじん) like they've done before at a previous GohGan...

Scallop katsu 🥥 - a collaborative effort from Goh-san and Zaiyu-san, the battered and deep-fried Hokkaido scallops were stuffed with porcini that had been wrapped in perilla (?) leaves and deep-fried. On the side we had a coconut salsa along with a garlic mustard dressing. The mustard sauce was kinda interesting, delivering good acidity along with the pickles in the salsa.

Paturi 🔥 - wrapped inside the banana leaf was a piece of barramundi marinated with Bengali mustard oil (I wonder if Gaggan still uses the Engine brand?), then covered in paturi masala. Definitely a good amount of heat here.

Beef tongue 🐮 - the cubes of beef tongue came with Kashmiri sour plum curry, made with dried plums and some jalapeños. Similar to a jardaloo ma gosht.

This came with scallop basmati rice.

The combination was pretty good.

I guess this is the first time that we don't get a GohGan crab curry...

2018 La Ferme des Sept Lunes Saint-Joseph Chemin Faisant - nice and minty with good black fruits.

🍓 - salted pistachio ice cream, rose jelly, pistachio sponge at the bottom. Rose milk on the side together with some strawberries.

Daigo no Shizuku Bodaimoto Shikomi (醍醐のしずく  菩提もと仕込み) - very sweet on the nose. Good fermented richness but not savory, with good acidity balance. Pretty nice.

🥛 - churros, sake ice cream, white chocolate snow.

While the dishes were undoubtedly tasty, I can't help but feel a certain level of disappointment. Collaborations among Goh, Gaggan, and DEN have been the only collaboration meals I fight to attend because they're not your average 4/6/8-hands. They are not simply meals where one just taste signature dishes alternately presented by each chef, which can get a little boring if one is already familiar with a chef's repertoire. No, each GohGan event I attended in the past featured dishes where all the chefs present participated in the creation of the dish - and that was true for almost every single dish at the event.

So, yeah... not the case today.

Nevertheless, it was a happy occasion for me as I got to catch up with friends. It's been a few years since I last saw some of them, and I always cherish our moments together. I also did finally get the chance to bring Gaggan the present I had been keeping for him for a couple of years.

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