Defying Definition: The Gaggan Anand Experience Reviewed

By Nimmi Malhotra

One of Asia’s top restaurants, Gaggan, has transplanted its kitchen and staff to Singapore for several months. We booked a seat to review the restaurant incognito

For those who haven’t caught up with the flurry, Gaggan Anand’s eponymous restaurant – ranked fifth in Asia’s Top 50 restaurants this year, and four times number one from 2015 to 2018 (under his previous venture Gaggan) – is in town.

The pop-up is presented by and located at Mandala Club (in the same space previously occupied by Mirazpur). The entire Gaggan team of 20-odd staff, including chef, sommelier and table attendants, are in tow to recreate the Gaggan Anand experience.

Anand has oft been quoted for his irreverence for the term “fine-dining cuisine”. As we experienced his progressive Indian affair, we found his plates defy definition – they are elevated, unbeholden to any singular cuisine or dining standards and yet, at $360 apiece, how else could we interpret the experience?

Black-clad staff ushered us to a dimly lit dining hall that boasts a monochrome mural of Last Supper, a reimagined pop-art version we might add, with thought bubbles in bright red and white. Lunch is a languorous affair; allow for two to three hours of attentive service with buzzy music.

The Gaggan connoisseurs know not to expect a descriptive paper menu (the Bangkok restaurant’s menu was once a one-sided card with double-barrel names and corresponding emojis). In its place, we are presented with a passport booklet and rubber stamp emoticons – including the middle finger and eggplant emojis – to express how we feel about the dining experience. The cutlery becomes an extension of the iconoclast personae; it appears for some courses, for others, we use our hands.

His signature, the Yoghurt explosion, arrives with a lotus pad made from green chutney. We are urged to place the yoghurt sphere on the mock leaf and eat it in one mouthful. An unexpected flavour explosion followed, titillating the senses. We were buckled in for the ride.

Next is a foie gras and yuzu ice cream with monkfish liver. While I am not a fan of monkfish, the different components worked in harmony.

The dish that tickled my Indian palate was Idly and Sambar. Anand reimagines idly as a sea sponge with the help of nitrogen and sambar as foam. Held by hand, we devoured it in three swift bites. It is a multi-sensorial experience. The intensity of flavour is surprising given the texture and lightness of the sponge.

Foie gras and monkfish liver

The following dish was the delectable Charcoal, a spherical black ball made of vegetable ash that sits atop makhani gravy and encases textured chicken tikka masala. The uni jelly and deconstructed curry plates failed to impress. The Bengali fish, a seabass fillet smoked in a banana leaf, took us on another path. We were transported to Anand’s native Calcutta, with familiar flavours of mustard, green chilli, and coriander. Neither molecular nor innovative, it harks back to the humble background Anand hails from.

Yoghurt explosion

The savoury courses culminated in an utterly plain steamed bowl of basmati rice with white corn and Hokkaido snow peas served with a fragrant and lickable Alaska crab curry. Dessert comprised two courses: the masala chai ice cream with cashew nut crumble lacked dimension, and the white chocolate covered sponge cake felt hollow and vacuous in the centre.

Rice bowl with Alaskan crab curry

As lunch came to a close, the chef sauntered out of the kitchen to greet the diners, collect accolades and bestow hellos. We waited for our turn, which came in the third round  – it was rushed and brief while we witnessed him sharing a hearty tete-a-tete with multiple other tables. Why the random selection, we couldn’t quite decipher? Behind us sat another couple, who were simply asked, “Hey, do you want more curry?”

The Gaggan Anand’s Singapore lunch is decidedly not the full experience that unfolds at his Bangkok restaurant as my dining companion informed me. He has experienced it twice. Perhaps, book dinner or follow the maestro’s footsteps to his next restaurant.

Food: 7/10

Ambience: 5/10

Overall experience: 6/10

The Gaggan Anand Residency is now on till end of March 2022. Lunch is a nine-course meal priced at $280 ++; dinner offers 18 courses at $388++. There will be a new menu and gastro-bar from 12 January. For more information on Gaggan Anand, click here.