Day 04: Bangkok – Abloom!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Can’t believe it was already the fourth morning of our trip! Let me show you where we were staying in Bangkok!

Buffet breakfast provided by the hotel. Small selection, but adequate to get you going until you find some real food out on the streets! 😉

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Pool! Always nice to have a pool!

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Hotel had a really nice and quirky lobby.

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And we’ll end the post with a selfie!

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On to fun touristy-yet-beautiful stuff in the next post!

Day 03: Bangkok – Dinner at Gaggan!

Monday, July 15, 2013

After our little shopping adventure, we met up with Laura in the evening close to Lumpini Park for some drinks – buy one cocktail get one free! 😀

It was nice to spend more time together but it wasn’t long before we said our good-byes and parted ways because Mike and I had reservations for a very special dinner… at Gaggan, known for its progressive Indian cuisine. I know what many of you, including Laura, are thinking, “Who goes to Thailand to eat Indian food?”

Well, when it’s listed as #10 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2013, (#3 in 2014!) you know it’s worth it. We made our reservation back while studying for exams and were looking forward to this meal the entire trip. We had even already decided that we would be going for one of the tasting menus.

Unfortunately, it was raining and we had left our umbrella back at the hotel… and because our cab driver (which we needed for only a couple hundred of metres) was inefficient, we still showed up to the restaurant wet. It is also why we don’t have any pictures of what the restaurant looks like from the outside. But to give you an idea, it was a large white colonial-styled house with many large windows, each with warm light shining through. 🙂

We were greeted by friendly staff and shown upstairs to our table for 2. There was a sense of intimacy as we were seated in the corner but could still look out to the dining room and see the other diners. I only wished the lighting was a little bit brighter for better quality of photos 😉

The ambiance was really nice and felt like we were dining in someone’s house rather than a restaurant. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures to show you… sorry!

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Along with our menus, we received a ‘welcome drink,’ a passionfruit and strawberry sorbet, frozen with liquid nitrogen. We didn’t get the “flair” presentation with the liquid nitrogen being poured at the table like other diners have shared, but it was still tart and tasty.

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We soon decided on our drinks: An Asahi beer for Mike and a frozen lychee and rosewater mocktail for me.

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And it also didn’t take much effort to confirm that we would be going for the 10 course tasting menu. Most courses are listed on the menu, but the unlisted ones were a nice surprise!

The meal was exceptional… and I have photos to share with you!

The first item was something we had read online from previous diners and were quite looking forward to – the Yoghurt Explosion. Rich yoghurt with black pepper submersed in an alginate bath to give the form of an egg yolk and served on a ceramic spoon. We were instructed to slide the whole thing into our mouth and just experience the explosion. Explosion indeed! An awesome burst of flavour that left us with silly smiles on our faces and looking forward to what the rest of the evening had to offer.

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Next was a trio served on an interestingly shaped metal plate. We were instructed to eat from left to right. The first was a white chocolate shell filled with a spiced liquid concoction that included chili. Sweet and spicy, a nice kick to start off the plate.

The next item was an edible bag made of rice paper and filled with wasabi flavoured beans and dried fruit. Interesting textures from the melting rice paper, crunchiness of the beans and chewiness of the fruit – the combination of flavours was nice as well.

Lastly was a deconstructed samosa with potato mousse on the top. Nicely flavoured, but I wish it was served fresh and hot rather than cold/room temperature.

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My date! ❤

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Our third dish was called Viagra – French Oysters freshly shucked served with kokam nectar and Indian mustard ice cream. On top of the oyster was an oyster leaf with foam. We were told to eat the leaf first on its own and that it tastes like an oyster… wow, true! Did some reading afterward to find out that oyster leaves have a slightly salty/ocean taste that highly resembles oysters – even referred to as vegetarian oysters. The oysters were fresh (actually the first one I’ve tried and enjoyed) with the coldness of the mustard ice cream immediately melting in your mouth. Yum! With slight brain freeze 😉

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The next dish, Egyptian Secret was spiced foiegras with spiced red onion chutney and cold raspberry foie powder. My first time having foiegras, and it didn’t disappoint. It was smooth and creamy with a slight bitterness that was balanced by the sweetness of the other components.

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The fifth dish, In Season was an airlight soup of summer truffles and organic waynaud peppers. With slivers of truffle on top of this delicious foamy creaminess, In Season has ruined one of my favourite comfort foods – Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup from a can. The soup was literally airy but packed full of flavour. So rich and tasty! I only wish I could eat it again…

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Next on our tasting adventure was Smoke It Up – river king prawns tandoor grilled and finished with fennel Kachumber, coriander foam and charcoal oil. The green garnish on the prawn was called salty finger, and we were told to eat it first. It was a surprising taste of watery saltiness, and interesting addition to seafood dishes! Mike’s prawn came out with a head and mine didn’t, one of the only inconsistencies we noticed that night. The dish tasted nice, although the salad was a little too salty. At the end of the night, this was our least favourite dish.

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A happy girl!

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What Mike had been looking forward to, Game On – Wild French quail sous-vide 6 hours with chettinaud spices tandoor roasted with pineapple chutney. Without inquiry, we were assured, “Using fingers is fine!” which gave us a little laugh. The quail was super tender and flavourful and the pineapple chutney added a combination of spicy sweetness we’d never had before. We both agreed that the chutney was a little too thick, too dark and too sweet.

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The last savoury dish for the night, British National Dish – chicken Tikka masala deconstructed and reconstructed curry makhani foam with traditional chicken tikka. Yes, a pretty full on dish description but it can be simplified to fewer words: Best Tikka masala ever. Really. For us at least, we’ve only eaten Indian food in Brisbane. The naan was delicious as well, we completely devoured that dish!

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Our pre-dessert: Black sesame ice cream topped with a sponge cake. Being honest here, the ice cream was great but sponge cake was kind of weird… I think this dessert would’ve been much better as a take on fried ice cream. With crisp, fried cake on top instead 😉

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And the finale to our night: Cinanana – banana meringue with Ceylon sweet cinnamon burnt ice cream. So tasty! The banana meringue, in terms of texture, light sweetness and flavour, really made the dish for us. There was also passion fruit gelee tubes which had a nice flavour but we weren’t a fan of the texture and thought the flavours would’ve been just as great without. 🙂

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After such an enjoyable meal, our only wish was that we could’ve had 2 or 3 times the portions! But alas! It was still be a great adventure!

I was adamant with Mike that I wanted to meet Chef Gaggan and shake his hand. Mike was skeptical. Chefs, after all, are busy people where their kitchen is a secret where magical things happen and not the place for customers. So I tried to prove him wrong. When I asked if it was possible to meet the chef and give him our thanks, our waitress said she would ask. She came back and said, “Yes, and he would like to give you a tour of the kitchen! Would you like to go? But he’s a very busy man, so he’s waiting for you to come right now.”

Without a second of thought I blurted, “Of course, thank you! Let’s go!” And off we scurried downstairs. Chef Gaggan met us at the kitchen entrance and welcomed us into his kitchen, asking how we enjoyed our dinner. Then he gave us a tour of his little kitchen, which although small, was highly functional with around 30 staff members coming and going. We even got to see his lab, where some of the magical creations take place.

Unbelievable to Mike, I asked Chef Gaggan for a picture with him, to which he happily agreed!

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Knowing he was quite busy, I still jumped at the opportunity to ask if I could snap a few pictures of the kitchen… He responded with telling his staff to put on their faces for the camera!

[Chef Gaggan has an interesting history and extensive experience, read more about him here on their website!]

I’m sorry for disrupting for your work environment! I wish I had been able to get everyone’s names and titles but I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. ^_^

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Excuse the pan, my fault for barging in and snapping away! But look at the colours! 🙂

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Mike and I had a great experience here and I wanted to share that with all of you! If you are ever in Bangkok, make a booking at Gaggan for a night of surprises. We were taken on a whirlwind of wonderful tastes, and the other great thing? That 10 course tasting menu cost a fraction of what it would in Brisbane – 1600 baht per person (+10% service charge and 7% VAT) ~$55 CAD + fees.

Day 03: Bangkok – AFRIMS & Shopping

Monday, July 15, 2013

Our first morning in Bangkok!

After breakfast at the hotel, Laura met us around 9am in order to take us into work with her – say what? There’s a reason and don’t worry, it wasn’t because of free labour. Laura works at Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) and we all thought it would be interesting to visit her workplace and meet some of her colleagues. Additionally, Mike’s old PhD supervisor had spent many years doing Dengue Virus research at this facility and a lot of the tools Mike used during his PhD came from AFRIMS.

AFRIMS was only a short tuk tuk ride away, where we had the opportunity to meet with many of Laura’s colleagues and even got a tour of the facilities… complete with multiple mini presentations on the methods of research they used! Didn’t think I would be hearing about ELISA and Haemagglutination Inhibition Assays on vacation!

The visit ended with a wonderful lunch at a nearby Thai restaurant where we were introduced to our first bowl of Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut soup). Thank you again, Laura and all the staff we met at AFRIMS who gave us their time to not only welcome us but also to share with us the projects they’re working on!

After lunch (and a quick detour through the surrounding hospitals to exchange money courtesy of Laura), we headed to the Victory Monument sky train station. An opportunity to see Bangkok life and grab some pictures!

Victory Monument, one of the busiest transportation hubs in Bangkok.

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There are no pedestrian crossings in the traffic circle, instead people use overhead walkways.

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We decided today would be the day to check out the city and the shopping. But before that, we stopped quickly at our hotel to BATHE IN AIR CONDITIONING… and plan our shopping trip, of course.

Back alley to Abloom – remind you of Vietnam? There were many aspects of Bangkok that reminded us of Vietnam actually. From the construction of older parts of the city, to the food, to the people.

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I believe this was Sanam Pao sky train station, the one right by our hotel.

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Our first shopping stop was MBK Center, a massive 7-8 storey mall with absolutely everything you could possibly need.

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Unfortunately, what I haven’t told you is that Mike and I are terrible shoppers. We last for a few hours tops and get disheartened when our dreams of “really cheap bargains” don’t live up to expectations 😛 Mike got a pair of pretty shoes though!

We then quickly walked through Siam Center… where I saw some cool sights.

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And of course, had to check out the swanky Siam Paragon.

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We finally got to settle our long-time craving for quality donuts! Yum!

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And then continued on foot down to Central World Plaza. Loved the huge open space, people passing by, art gallery, city backdrop, etc.

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More city views!

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We were going to check out Palladium World Shopping Mall, but got distracted by… SUPER C.

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We thought of all the wonderful foods we could buy and decided to go grocery shopping instead. It was a jackpot. We found Seaweed Pringles we couldn’t find last time in Vietnam, we stocked up on our favourite Kewpie salad dressings, found LARGE containers of Koh-Kae wasabi peanuts, Ice Cream flavoured Oreos, and we even got Strawberry, Vanilla, and Cappuccino TimTams (that’s right, they’re not even for legal sale in Australia). If you’re over at the right time, maybe we’ll share! 😉

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With that, we called our shopping day a success and headed back to the hotel to drop off our loot and freshen up before meeting Laura for drinks followed by our most anticipated meal this trip – dinner at Gaggan.

More to come! 🙂