Food Worth Writing For

Gaggan Anand, the #1 Chef in Asia, Pops Up in Los Angeles

Driving through Melrose and turning onto Highland, you might drive by this strip mall without giving it a glance. The strip mall’s signage shows it has occupants such as Yum Yum Donuts, a dry cleaner, a Tasty Thai, and Raffallo’s Pizza. However, if you walk over to Raffallo’s Pizza, the restaurant’s front door has the words “No More Pizza” printed on it. It hasn’t served pizza for many years. In fact, it hasn’t been Raffallo’s Pizza for half a decade. It is Trois Mec, a high-end French restaurant that replaced Raffallo as the tenant. Trois Mec is run by French chef Ludo Lefebvre who offers a reservation only, pre-fix menu at the tiny restaurant.

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Gaggan’s staff from Bangkok that came with him for his US tour

Trois Mec is closed on Sundays, but it made an exception one September weekend. Gaggan Anand, the number one chef in Asia (according to Asia’s Fifty Best Restaurant for the fourth consecutive year in a row as of 2018) and owner of the number five restaurant on the World’s Fifty Best Restaurants, Indian restaurant Gaggan of Bangkok, was in town for a US tour with his staff.  Taking over Ludo Lefebvre’s kitchen for the night, he was running the show that Sunday (9-16-18) for his LA pop-up. Anand is known for his progressive Indian cuisine and for being the chef that elevated Indian food to the level of fine dining. He had trained under the Michelin three-star restaurant El Bulli in Spain. His style of cooking is inspired by his experience there as he incorporates molecular gastronomy into his dishes. His restaurant, Gaggan, was awarded number five by the World’s Fifty Best Restaurants, which demonstrates how exceptional of a restaurant Gaggan is since it is an Indian restaurant that is located in Bangkok, Thailand. One would not expect to find an Indian restaurant, let alone one that serves amazing Indian food, in Bangkok, Thailand.  Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to get reservations at Gaggan and you must reserve it months in advance, which means many travelers would have to plan their trips around the reservation. 

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Seventh Course – Gaggan’s staff making the 7th course on the spot. Female staff is holding a piping bag of eggplant ice cream as the male chef holds the plate to assist with giving the patrons one by one by hand. Gaggan Anand : This course has no plates! You have to eat it on the spot!

The tiny restaurant seats only 24 patrons, so when EaterLA announced in an article that his pop-up would be releasing reservations the week before, it stirred a frenzy as many Angelenos were eager to get reservations to eat at Gaggan. Luckily, I was able to snag a reservation for 2, which amounted to $175 per person for 14 courses. At the beginning of the dinner, Anand jokingly said he should move to the US to open a restaurant – the reservations were gone in 30 seconds upon release, and there were about 1200 individuals on the waiting list.

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Gaggan’s signature emoji menu. Each emoji represents a dish. He believes that emojis are universal in all languages (he can say sushi  in emoji, but he wouldn’t know it in multiple different languages)

After getting checked in, I walked into Trois Mec. Gaggan Anand was right there in the tiny kitchen, casually talking to his staff as they prepped for dinner. Wearing a black t-shirt, he turned out to be a very spirited, humorous individual.  His personality emanated through his menu and dishes – his menu consisted of only 14 emojis and no words, each of which represented a dish. He explained that the emoji menu was created because emojis are universal in every language. To set the mood of each dish, he also had a playlist of various songs. For example, for the second course, it was a vegetable puree with foie gras and other sauces. The vegetable puree spelled out “Lick It Up”. Anand told us that he heard that Californians were very good lickers and that Indians did not eat with utensils but with their hands. While we were licking up the plate, he blasted the song “Lick it Up” by Kiss.  

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Gaggan Anand: I heard Californians are very good lickers! We don’t use forks and knives in India, we use our hands! Pick up the plate and start licking!

All in all, his dishes were very innovative and delicious. His emphasis was drawing out the flavors of the ingredients rather than too many ingredients (for the soup he made, he used three ingredients only – corn husk, quail legs, and salt).  He incorporated a lot of techniques he picked up along his journey of cooking from molecular gastronomy techniques such as his yogurt explosion, which is his signature amuse bouche that consists of a spherical yogurt that pops in your mouth. Many of his dishes have a mix of Indian and Japanese elements to it. His sushi course consisted of sashimi topped with roe on an Indian inspired cracker. He noted he first traveled to Japan in 2013 and he has returned there eighty times since – his obsession with Japan is evident as he is closing his restaurant in 2020 and to open a restaurant in Fukuoka, Japan.

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End of the Meal: One of the diners left half way through the tasting menu and brought back pizza from Pizzeria Mozza, a Nancy Silverton restaurant, for Anand and his staff.

It was a mind-blowing meal cooked by Gaggan Anand and his crew. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to try his food since his restaurant in Bangkok is closing in 2020 (just a little over a year left!), which means getting reservations at Gaggan will be even harder as it already takes up to four months to get reservations. I look forward to his restaurant in Fukuoka opening and seeing what new dishes he comes up with!

If you haven’t had the chance, I suggest you check out Gaggan Anand’s featured episode on Netflix’s Chef Table: Season 2. Episode 6. It follows his journey from an extremely poor family in India to world famous chef. The episode does an amazing job delving into Gaggan Anand’s life during his struggles from child to his restaurant Gaggan and helps the viewer understand Gaggan Anand a bit more. Much kudos to David Gelb.

Line Up of the Whole Tasting Menu

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Gaggan’s signature emoji menu. 14 emojis = 14 courses. 

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First Course – yogurt explosion. Gaggan’s signature amuse bouche

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Second Course – “Lick it up!”. Some type of veggie puree and foie gras pate/sauces

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Third Course – Charcoal Surprise

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Fourth Course – Bird’s Nest. vegetable juice filled “egg” over fried veggies

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Fifth Course – Mushroom-shaped Bread

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Sixth Course  – curry cracker

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Sixth Course (showing the filling)  – the inside of the curry cracker

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Seventh Course – Gaggan’s staff making the 7th course on the spot. Female staff is holding a piping bag of eggplant ice cream as the male chef holds the plate. Gaggan Anand : This course has no plates! You have to eat it on the spot!

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Seventh Course – Staff handed each patron their piece one by one – no plates. Fresh uni with eggplant ice cream on fried apple skin

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Eighth Course – sashimi w/ roe on a cracker (Indian sushi in a way). A “tribute dish” inspired by Gaggan Anand’s travels and love for Japan. He has been to Japan over 80 times as of late 2018.

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Ninth course – yakitori style quail breast with soup made with only 3 ingredients – corn husk, quail legs, and salt w/ yuzu andc hili chutney sauce

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Tenth Course – uncooked curry – everything that goes into curry but all raw, except the fried onions on top. Scallop curry.

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Tenth Course – when the uncooked curry is mixed up

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Eleventh Course – sea bass baked in banana leaves.with Bengali mustard w/ aroma from burnt cedar wood. The staff had to open the door to air out the smoke. 

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Eleventh Course (when unwrapped) – sea bass baked in banana leaves.with Bengali mustard w/ aroma from burnt cedar wood.

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Twelfth Course– crab curry with basmati rice

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Thirteenth Course – a fruit filled pastry shaped like a sunflower. Eaten to the song “San Francisco” by Scott McKenzie.

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Fourteenth (and the last) Course – 6 fruits blended into a spectrum of colors w/ chocolate

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