Big plans are afoot for Gaggan Anand, the risk-taking and straight-talking force of nature behind the two-time top winner of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants award. And here’s the good news: world domination isn’t one of them.
While many chefs in his position would be opening up Gaggan franchises and spreading themselves thin in an effort to cash in, he hasn’t. Instead, he’s made some unusual chess moves that allow him to retain creative control, not repeat himself, and, for the time being, stay in Bangkok. As things stand, these plans include a high-tech food lab and a more traditional Indian restaurant, as well as Meatlicious, a relaxed, produce-drive steakhouse for carnivores who want to hunker down on superlative meat but don’t care for all of the fine-dining frippery.
It’s the kind of place you might picture Gaggan mingling on his night off, a glass of pale ale in hand. Entering its mid-century house on Ekamai Soi 6, the first thing you notice is the fragrant scent of burning eucalyptus wood drifting from a blazing brick hearth. The second thing you notice is the multicultural team of young male chefs milling around, ready to start prepping your Miyazaki wagyu or Lozère lamb chops at a moment’s notice. A chef ’s table at the back allows you to sit at a wooden counter and watch them doing their thing—flaming, crisping and burning with Zen-like intensity— in the open kitchen.
This is not just fun; it’s enlightening. As each dish arrives, and with it a brief description, it quickly becomes clear that they each bring something to the table. Many dishes are essentially reworks of comfort food from their homelands (Honduras, Venezuela, France, the Philippines and Thailand), such as the fresh and tangy salmon and scallop ceviche garnished with shallots, coriander and Peruvian corn. “They’re called cancha and they add texture and crunch,” explains Jorge Grande, the resident beef specialist.
Next comes an unassuming buratta cheese salad with tomatoes, grapes and wild rocket, and dressed in basil oil and reduction vinegar. And then there’s a spice-rubbed Argentine tenderloin garnished with a piquant chimichurri dressing. Grilled medium-rare, sliced and served alongside roast vegetables, the depth of flavour is disarmingly good.
The same goes for the suckling pig, cooked sous-vide for 12 hours (modern techniques are used, but only sparingly) and served alongside French beans and a mild Hokkaido curry sauce. “I finish it in the oven to make it crispy,” says French head chef Pierre Tavernier. To close, we dive into an Alaska cake-like treat that’s also expertly kissed by flames: homemade ice-cream topped with fresh meringue.
With the prices lower than at many of your more hoity-toity meat joints and Gaggan’s name nowhere to be seen, Meatlicious is exactly the kind of sophomore restaurant his accountant probably wouldn’t think makes sense on paper. It’s the primitive yin to Gaggan’s pioneering yang, a little charred around the edges, the polar opposite to all the molecular, tech-driven wizardry for which he and his eponymous Indian restaurant are so well known. Chances are some of his chef buddies initially dismissed it as a bit daft, if not downright reckless. This makes it exciting and, given his reputation for being an insouciant maverick, very Gaggan.
Meatlicious, 8 Ekamai Soi 6, Sukhumvit Soi 63, Bangkok; tel: 09-1698-6688; facebook.com/meatlicious