Lost in Bangkok
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Not too long ago I found myself in Bangkok for a conference. As is my standard practice, I researched the restaurants I wanted to try and quickly settled on two: Gaggan and Nahm (Gaggan has since closed and he has opened Gaggan Anand and Nahm has changed chefs). I recall having to make a reservation well ahead of the trip, as is usual for a restaurant with such a reputation. I arrived in Bangkok after a long flight: Newark-Tokyo-Bangkok. I was exhausted. A 12:30AM arrival meant that I could go to sleep as soon as I arrived at the hotel which I did.
Bangkok is a fantastic city. If one is a fan of chaos, Bangkok is a city in which to thrive. There is something happening around every corner. Beyond the salacious activities for which Bangkok is widely known, there is much to do in this city. The conference was a fantastic experience. I met some wonderful people. I learned about topics I hadn’t even imagined before. But as with almost any travel experience, I was constantly thinking about my first major meal.
Alas the day came and I walked out of my hotel headed towards the Como hotel that houses the restaurant. It was early evening and the sun had already begun to set. By the time we arrived, the night had fully enveloped the sky. I walked in and was shown to my table. Being a solo diner, I was somewhat disappointed to see that I had been seated at what had to be the most romantic table in the restaurant: it was on a terrace overlooking a small man-made lagoon with a waterfall. The lights set the mood for romance. My wife was home over 8,000 miles away. She would have enjoyed this experience.
As I sat down I was greeted by my server. She presented me with the menu that I studied as if for the first time. The fact is that I had been studying the menu for weeks and had already decided what I was going to order. I always do this and I always end up changing my mind when I am seated at the table. So as I studied the menu and I found myself questioning my previous judgement, I asked why there was no tasting menu. The server said that while there was no tasting menu listed, she could ask the chef if he would be willing to construct one for me. I told her that I was allergic to shellfish and pork but if the chef could take that into account, I would be interested. She walked away to ask.
She came back and the answer was yes! I prepared myself for what was to come. I Eagerly waited for the first course to arrive. I waited. I waited. I waited some more and I was starting to become frustrated. Why was it taking so long to get the first course to me? I started to imagine the pace at which the meal would be served and projected towards a very long night. I questioned if I had made the right decision. Alas the food arrived.
I had not expected that the dinner would arrive all at once. I am not sure why. I had eaten several meals and in each case appetizer, entree, and side dishes had been served at the same time. I had not anticipated that this would be the same. There was a rice dish, a chicken dish, a couple of soup dishes—I wish I could remember the names but since there was no menu, I was entirely lost— and the highlight of the dinner, a fried fish served with two different sauces.
I immediately started on the meal. I attacked the buffet before me. I tried to maintain decorum but it was difficult. I wandered from flavor to flavor, texture to texture. I cannot recall the specifics but I do recall the fish. More to the point, I recall the sauces that accompanied the fish. The first was a citrus sauce with a hint of sweetness to it, the second a spicy yet light sauce. The fish was fried just right. It was cooked to the point that it absorbed the sauces perfectly and each one complemented the fish in different ways, yet perfectly in each case. I ate more than I normally do at a restaurant where I usually want to enjoy the meal well after I am done rather than walk out feeling like I should have eaten less. Still, I labored through the meal until I had reached my limit. I was satisfied beyond what I though was possible. I was done.
“Would you like some desert?” Most of the time, I pass on desert. I am not a fan of sweets. But the meal had been so satisfying, so delicious, so varied, that I had to try one last taste. I recall what I ordered: Fruit in syrup. The name was nondescript enough to catch my attention. It came. It was just what it said, a fruit resembling and onion in syrup.
What followed was an experience I have never felt again. I enjoyed this desert more than any other desert. It was the most intense while equally light sweetness I have ever encountered. To this day, I have tried to think about a desert I have enjoyed more. I cannot.
Since my visit, the chef has departed for other opportunities and Chef Pim Techamuanvivit has taken over. I look forward to my next visit.