Review: Gaa*, Bangkok, Thailand: Asia 50 Best, Michelin
Gaa: Inside Asia's 16th Best Restaurant
13 Course Tasting Menu, 3200 Thai Baht ($105, €95, £82, AED390). With Wine Pairing: 3000 Thai Baht Supplemental ($100, €90, £77)
The highs are truly high
The dessert was the best course I ate in 2019
Excellent baby corn, caramelised milk and chicken liver courses
Highly-capable and female chef
Sources local ingredients
Half the courses are underwhelming or miss the mark
Unclear whether there is VFM given the number of misses
Let’s talk stats: Three Michelin stars, five times the #1 restaurant the world (and once #2) and millions of reservation requests for only 8000 sittings. Bookings opened 1 day a year and sold out in moments. The restaurant opened only for 6 months per year allowing the team to bravely experiment, test and create for the other six months with focus. Countless famous chefs today, aka Bullinianos, worked at El Bulli honing their craft at the tip of the gastronomic zeitgeist.
All empires fall
I shared a pact with a former colleague that if one of us got a golden ticket to Wonka’s magic factory that we would take the other. In 2011, he called me unexpectedly with care and sincerity to tell me gently of El Bulli’s planned closure like the unexpected death of a dearly shared friend. The closest I got to El Bulli was meeting Ferran Adriá during an evening promoting a book in London years later.
The moral of this story is to grab the opportunity to experience greatness with both hands before it’s gone.
The World’s Best Restaurants
Miraculously I secured a table for two at Gaa during my last night in Bangkok just before boarding a flight back to Dubai.
Like the chefs at El Bulli, Garima Arora spent time honing her craft and learning at the incomparable Noma in Copenhagen. Noma topped the number one restaurant in the world list four times (currently number 2). El Bulli is the only restaurant to achieve five number-one spots; Noma is within touching distance of its glory. The commonalities do not end there. Like El Bulli, Noma also gave the world a litter of accomplished chefs who travelled far and wide for the opportunity to learn eventually returning home. Garima joins this club before being ensconced under the wing of chef Gaggan Anand’s eponymous restaurant also listed as one of the top ten best restaurants in the world and the best in Thailand. Gaggan faced Gaa until its surprising closure in August 2019.
Garima achieved the goal of one Michelin star and #16 on Asia’s Top 50 restaurants within 2 years of opening its doors. It’s a phenomenal accomplishment. She was the highest-ranked female chef in Asia as of the date of this post. Garima also won the elit™ Vodka Asia’s Best Female Chef Award 2019.
Garima Arora deserves respect and recognition.
Gaa: Would I Return?
The Michelin Guide defines two stars as “excellent cooking that is worthy of a detour”. Three stars are defined as “exceptional cuisine that is worthy of a special journey”. Let’s not get into a protracted and highfalutin debate about the difference between one, two or three stars. I doubt very much that many people actually care, and query whether Michelin stars even mean anything nowadays.
If you are in Bangkok looking for a strong fine dining option then Gaa has much to offer but no need for a detour or special journey. It is good and has room to be better. Gaa should ask the purpose of each course and whether each course is fulfilling its potential.