Food travel, is the ultimate in self-indulgence, choosing culinary experiences over the other attractions on offer. One such trip, I recently undertook, was a spur of the moment dash to Bangkok, Thailand. Don't get me wrong, Thailand has much more to offer like adventure, island hopping, jungle discoveries, culture, partying, etc. But for this quick visit, our focus was on making the most of its cuisine. The Charming Prince (my social media shy partner) was my accomplice on this food journey and our top three experiences were had at the following restaurants: Gaggan, Sirocco Restaurant and Supranniga Eating Room.
GAGGAN: We had heard and read great things about this Bangkok establishment. A lab, science, experiments involving flavours and textures - are words used to describe Chef Gaggan 's style of cooking, with descriptions like that we were intrigued.
Gaggan - Progressive Indian Cuisine - the name says it all, here Chef Gaggan Anand puts a modern spin on the traditional. And what a modern spin it is! But how does one get into a place, at short notice, which has won the top spot in the San Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants Awards, twice? In our case an email and a prayer. Agreeing to a late seating, we secured a dinner reservation and prepped for a 19 course tasting menu.
Housed in an elegant old colonial era building, nestled in downtown Bangkok, we were presented with a menu consisting of dishes called dewdrop, edible plastic spiced nuts and foie gras sundae. We knew a gourmet adventure awaited.
The wizardry involved in some of these treats is spectacular - the flavours and tastes were amazing but so was the playfulness. The pleasure wasn't just in the eating but in the experience of the dish, like putting what looks like plastic in your mouth and having it melt or having an Indian tiffin tin(multi-layered metal container that holds food) placed in front of you and being told to work out how it opens on your own.
Undoubtedly the standout dish of the night was simply titled "Rangoli - off the tandoori lamb". When this single lamb chop on a beautifully decorated plate arrived, I wondered where the rest of the dish was But, wow, that chop together with the edible decoration needed nothing more. From a taste and cooking perspective, it was exceptional. Smoky from the tandoori oven and flavoursome from the correct blend of herbs & spices. This is the best chop I have ever eaten! Gaggan executes well on his ambition of taking Indian cuisine to another level, he certainly is a chef to watch. Since my visit Gaggan has gone on to receive a host of accolades including a 2 Michelin star rating in Bankgok's first Michelin Guide launched in 2017.
SIROCCO RESTAURANT: We arrived for sunset cocktails at Sky Bar at the Lebua Hotel, to make the most of its scenic views. The bar and its golden dome was made famous when it featured in the hugely popular Hangover 2 movie. The hotel is pretty swanky, so Sky Bar has a strict dress code and a price tag to match the luxury. We ended up here on a public holiday which was also a religious holiday, which meant only non-alcoholic drinks were on offer. But the lack of booze, didn't negatively impact the experience. The views of Bangkok, from this vantage point 63 floors up, are fantastic. This despite the cloud conditions, wind and threat of rain. The modern structures with their glass facades and imaginative design, sparkle like precious stones as the sun heads out. I wish we had roof top bars like this in South Africa, we have great weather, amazing spaces, yet never take full advantage of these. While at the Sky Bar our thoughts invariably turned to food, we hadn't planned on where to have dinner. But thanks to the rain, space had become available at the hotel's fine dining Sirocco Restaurant, which is is headed by Chef Gabriele Castellanza. Described on the hotel website as the world's highest alfresco restaurant, it also enjoys many accolades and awards. Although our meals were a mixed bag of really great to good, the service and ambiance was top notch. Just before dessert, the heavens opened and we were ushered upstairs, into the dome. It was great savouring our sweet treats to the sound of the rain on the roof and soothing live music.
SUPRANNIGA EATING ROOM BY KHUNYAI: On arrival, one finds an appealing, chic and modern eatery, with walls of exposed brick and warm yellow finishes. Dishes here are based on recipes from the owner’s late grandmother, who came from Eastern Thailand, so seafood features prominently. We went crab mad and were richly rewarded. For starters, the crab cakes were a great choice. Crispy outside, soft and almost melting on the inside.
For mains, we again stuck to crab dishes.
The dish of the evening was chunky fresh, firm pieces of sweet and delicious crab meat, cooked in a well spiced but not blow-your-head-off curry, served simply with rice. I was in awe. The chillies, lemongrass, coriander and crab, all well balanced. The flavours working together to create a taste sensation. I was immediately transported to my childhood. Having grown up in Durban, I have wonderful memories of eating various crab dishes including my mum's crab curry. Supranniga's crab curry is a welcome addition to my food memory bank. It is easy to understand the restaurant's popularity, there is now a chain of stores. And we agree with many other restaurant reviewers who describe Supranniga Eating Room as the one of the best eateries for affordable and yummy Thai food, in Bangkok.
The Bangkok food scene is dynamic from street food stalls to fine dinning restaurants and while the styles of cooking vary - there is consistency in the form of quality and taste. Its a food journey I would highly recommend and one that I would happily do over again and again.