April 27, 2024

Scorching Bangkok day 4: no LV at LV

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Since my last trip to Bangkok, Indian Hairy Legs has launched a new project in collaboration with a major global fashion house. Gaggan at Louis Vuitton opened a few months ago within LV The Place Bangkok at the newly-renovated Gaysorn Amarin. The location - Amarin Plaza - holds memories for me from decades ago when the Parental Units lived in Bangkok. They used to entertain at the Heritage Club on the top floor of the building, and I had occasionally also dined at the McDonald's downstairs - which had been the first one in Thailand, where the prices were shockingly unaffordable by local standards back in the day.

These days Louis Vuitton has taken over a corner of the shopping mall, and in addition to a café on the ground floor, they've opened this restaurant inside the boutique. Now it's my turn to check this place out, and I invited a friend along. Neither of us came dressed in Vuitton like many of the other patrons. In fact, I don't think I don't own any item from them...

To no one's surprise, the iconic Louis Vuitton monogram is everywhere... including on the display plates which, like all the ceramics in the house, were custom made in Arita (有田). By the way, that leather Vivienne napkin ring? Not a souvenir you can keep from the meal. You can probably buy it from the boutique, though...

Vix has moved from the kitchen at Gaggan Anand to take over here, while Rydo was seconded here as reinforcements. Both boys were looking sharp in their custom uniforms.

Indian Hairy Legs has told me his exasperated response to a question about the difference between Gaggan Anand and Gaggan at Louis Vuitton, but while those words must remain private, I did come to dinner tonight with them in mind, and wondered which of the two restaurants I would prefer myself.

So here we go!

Yoghurt explosion - the classic dish from Gaggan has been redesigned as one of the floral motifs in the famous Louis Vuitton Monogram, with pink guava candy as the petals, and once the spiced yogurt spherification is placed on top of the petals, then one sees the completed pattern and, perhaps, Vivienne. Of course, nowadays the pop rocks reacting in the mouth makes it a much more playful dish than before.

Lick It Up - still no utensils on the table, because we now have the Monogram version of Lick It Up. In the elegant setting of the fashion boutique, there is no longer any musical accompaniment to the dish. The patterns are made with purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, and "Japanese satsumaimo (薩摩芋) potato" - which is a generic term for sweet potatoes in Japanese. Seasoned with yuzu (柚子) and Kashmiri red chilies mainly for their coloring, but these also added a little heat along with acidity. Kinda interesting twist to the classic French soup of vichysshoise!

Charcoal - this ticks the box on "SUSTAINABILITY", baby! The peels and skins of the potatoes, leeks, and onions used in Lick It Up were burnt until black, then the ground ashes were mixed into the batter of the deep-fried ball. The ball was topped with a dab of perilla chutney to add a little something. Now, this just gave me flashbacks of my first (and sadly only) visit to Narisawa all those years ago, where I witnessed the crazy chef turning leeks and peppers into blackened ash and covering bread, beef, and more with it.

This came fresh out of the fryer so it was very, very hot. Inside the ball was a mix of local shrimp, ginger, lime, and a perilla leaf wrapped around the filling. I really liked what the latter brought to the mix.

World map - Indian Hairy Legs is fond of these multi-level ceramics that form a sphere, but can be taken apart to serve up three items. Here the three bites were inspired by the chef's travels.

Thailand: tom yum crispy rice puffs - there was acidity, a little heat, so kinda like tom yum (ต้มยำ) but sweeter than usual.

Europe: foie gras, yuzu, and mango sandwich - the flavors from the mango were pretty nice. I guess the sponge cakes were kinda mango-shaped and came in the colors of the Indian flag.

Japan: Monogram negitoro tart - this had crunchy diced spring onions or shallots, and the flavors were pretty good with a little bit of spice. However, I felt this was a bit too salty even without the caviar on top.

Bites of India: Bombay cookie - it's been a few years since I last had one of these dehydrated cookies, and this was meant to be like bhel puri (भेलपूरी), made with sev (સેવ), chickpeas, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and tamarind. I liked the combination of savory and acidic flavors.

Bites of India: kachori (कचौड़ी) - with a pea filling and topped with onion and mint chutney.

Bites of India: royal Rajasthan - the ghewar (घेवर) was very crunchy as I would have expected, and filled with burnt butter ice cream which turned out pretty sweet. This worked well with the caviar on top as it just about neutralizes all the salt from the fish eggs. A rare case where the use of caviar has been well thought out, but for a guy with a sweet tooth... maybe I would have been happier with just the ice cream and the ghewar? Anyway, you can't do Indian dessert without a bit of gold, and it certainly looked more "royal" when shiny.

The above from below - the ball was a mix of roasted celeriac, black truffle, and black pepper mousse encased in a layer of celery gel, sitting on a meringue made of celery juice, along with apple chutney and pennywort flowers. I got the acidity from the chutney, and definitely tasted plenty of shroomy flavors thanks to the truffle.

Damier momo - the usual momo now bears the fashion brand's famous Damier pattern, although it's kinda hard to see... The filling was all shroom - black trumpet, ceps, and portobello, so it was definitely VERY strong in terms of mushroom flavor. But the interesting part was the texture of the filling, which was a lot more sticky and gooey than in the past... almost like a gel. Served with truffled beurre blanc and parsley oil. Yup, this tasted pretty much like what I would expect.

Tomato nectar - we start with a burrata ice cream decorated with zalloti flowers in the center of the ice bowl, sprinkled with a little chili salt. Once the tomato nectar is poured into the bowl, and all the ingredients come together in the same bite, you've got the savory tomato, flowers which have strong, basil-like flavors, and a cheese ice cream that, unfortunately, is a little too sweet and not cheesy and savory enough. In any case, the combination was meant to evoke the feeling of enjoying a bite of caprese.

The hand-carved ice block has little air bubbles at the bottom, and when they are filled with tomato nectar, visually they look like little red stalactites.

Fire: paturi - so... another classic Gaggan dish gets the Louis Vuitton Monogram treatment, as the thin Japanese cedar paper now comes "printed" with the pattern. The cedar gets torched to impart the smoky flavors, but the boss has clearly instructed Vix that he couldn't burn the entire piece of wood... as the Monogram must still be visible afterwards!

The sea bass was marinated with a pesto-like paste seasoned with Bengali mustard oil, chili, lime, coriander, and pine nuts while wrapped inside the leaf. The lime ensured there was good acidity here, and we've got a mild level of heat.

The lobster - the butter-poached lobster came with a glaze of nam jim seafood (น้ำจิ้มซีฟู้ด) and a sticky rice foam, with a garnish of chervil, carrots, garlic flowers, finger lime... etc. The "lobster" on the plate was made with carrot juice reduction, ginger, and "sour leaves". I felt the dish was well thought out, as the richness in the glutinous rice foam helps to temper the heat and the acidity.

Cold curry - I will alays remember the first time I tasted the original iteration of this dish seven years ago, as it was so stunning back then. The Hokkaido scallops still go through kobujime (昆布締め), it's then served alongside a coconut curry sauce, red chili, finger lime, ice plant, and deep-fried shallots.

Sometimes, you run into a situation where the chef tries to be generous but their generosity actually becomes counter-productive. This is sometimes the case with chefs giving out caviar, and while most people would be loving any extra caviar they get without paying more for, that is not the case with yours truly, the Arrogant Prick. This dish isn't normally served with caviar but Vix decided to treat us to some, which unfortunately threw the dish off-balance. The spices were already weaker than before, and the salt from the fish eggs diluted the flavors even further. This, then, was no longer the dish I fell in love with in 2017. Oh well.

Barbecue: pork - the classic grilled pork neck (คอหมูย่าง) comes seasoned with Indian spices and served with a vin jaune sauce, with a dab of hot sauce on the side. The two slices of pork come presented as a "V", but is it "Vuitton" or "Vix"? Anyway, the flavors from cardamom were quite strong here, and of course the pork was very well-marbled and tender.

Golden pumpkin abalone - so... my friend realized that Vix described this dish to us in a completely different way than how the service staff did to other Thai customers. He started by calling this "the rock of love"...

Once we see the inside, we were told that this was filled with a pumpkin hollandaise, and Vix brought up the fact that the word for pumpkin in Thai is ฟักทอง, pronounced "fakthong". Snigger, snigger... #IYKYK. One can see the green of spinach purée around the outside, and there was a garnish of a single sansho leaf (木の芽).

Digging in, one finds the abalone cooked with kombu and daikon. This is then completed with some Makhwan (มะแขว่น) pepper, curry leaves, coconut, and lime juice. I definitely got the acidity and the heat in the sauce, but I found the dish a little too salty for my taste... and wonder whether it was the extra caviar that Vix threw in for us that, once again, tipped the balance in the wrong direction. BTW, I had to do a bit more sniggering when I made the connection between the pumpkin and the abalone...

Rice and curry - I love how basmati rice is cooked in the Indian Hairy Legs' kitchens so that the top layer has grains standing up. Interesting how Vix specified that the rice was "cooked in 1.62 times its weight in water", apparently after years of experimentation.

A5 wagyu beef curry - the cattle was raised in Miyazaki Prefecture (宮崎県) and the shin and oxtail were braised, seasoned with dashi, and came with Kintoki carrots (金時にんじん) and ratte potatoes. An attempt to recreate the curry that the British first brought to Japan, and I did like the taste of it. And YES, an Indian chef served me beef curry! Oh, I'm referring to Indian Hairy Legs, not Vix... since Vix did remind us that he's British.

Crab curry - a dish from from Kerala and comes with a dose of coconut milk, lime, chili, and curry leaves. Always happy to eat crab curry from Indian Hairy Legs.

Palak paneer (पालक पनीर) - actually comes with jalapeños, coriander, mint as it gets influenced by Ms. Maria and Mr. Singh.

Ice and plants - the granita made with the leftover greens from other dishes comes with pink Himalayan salt, muscat grapes, fromage blanc, and diced ice plant, topped with a dill mojito jelly. We've got acidity, salt, and overall very green flavors. Very refreshing, and totally up my friend's alley. And mine, too!

Beneath the monogram - YASS! MORE MONOGRAM! We are, of course, required to break through the top to get to the goodies in the bowl.

At the bottom we have some small mochi balls together with some hazelnut crunch, Valencia orange, coconut flesh, and coriander leaves. A ball of black sesame ice cream topped with white sesame foam helps to keep it cool, but there's some heat in there thanks to a little chili.

Off-White - we didn't have the Off-White logo, but the presentation looked like Japanese kintsugi (金継ぎ) ceramics. Underneath the savory meringue we had marian plum (มะยงชิด), marian plum sorbet, bergamot zest, coffee powder, vin jaune and cinnamon syrup. The bergamot was certainly very strong and fragrant, and I loved the coffee powder here. 

Dream big - we started with Monogram and we should, therefore, end with the Monogram. The snow ball was actually strawberry cheesecake with jasmine, accompanied by strawberries, white chocolate snow, and citrus pop rocks.

With all due respect to Jake, we just didn't feel like wine pairing tonight. So I went through the wine list and picked out a bottle of red I thought should drink well tonight.

2009 Ogier Côte-Rôtie - very fragrant nose, with lots of eucalyptus and cedar. Tannins have softened up by now, and the wine was drinking beautifully after more than an hour, showing black cherries and cassis.

Quite a few winos were drooling over the Monogrammed Gabriel Glas I posted on social media at the start of dinner, but we ended up using Schott glasses for drinking our red instead - still with the Monogram, though.

We were the last table left so we were given a quick tour of the kitchen as well as the "Trunk Room" next to the kitchen. I'm sure there will be people who book for the privilege of entertaining there, but as I'm a nobody with not even a single item of Louis Vuitton in his closet or shoe cabinet, I'll leave that to the rich and famous.

Many thanks to Indian Hairy Legs, Vix, Rydo, and the team for having us. Be sure to get Mink to come out and introduce the desserts more.

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