Monday, October 15, 2018

Karmakamet Diner in the Clouds

It's interesting how a restaurant can be remembered internationally for 1 dish.

That's what's been happening at Karmakamet Diner. They have their regulars of course, but when I ask my friends, "the nice place with the cotton candy" is the usual reply. Having dined at both Karmakamet Diner and Karmakamet Conveyance (their new fine-dining concept restaurant) recently, even if I don't love all the dishes, I feel that the depth of thought Chef Jutamas Theantae (Som) puts into every dish is often neglected at the back of the wildly-popular cotton candy dessert.

It doesn't take rocket science to figure out that most only order it for photo-taking purposes, and who can blame them?

banana split in the clouds
Even I succumbed.

Did anyone sit down and gave it a thought, to whether there was any meaning behind the cotton candy dessert aside of creating a signature must-order "gimmick"?

I did. I asked Chef Som, and turned out it wasn't that much of a gimmick after all.

Chef Som recalled her days studying overseas, and how sad she was leaving Thailand at the end of every visit back home. But whenever she looked out of the window during her flight, and saw the colourful clouds in the sky, she was happy, thus the inspiration to recreate that particular memory with this famous dessert.

#thekawayiis really loved their "Banana Split in the Clouds".

I can't help but feel a little disheartened for her, that all this thought behind her "Strawberry/Banana Split in the Clouds" is usually brushed off as a shallow Instagram icon. But Chef Som explained to me that she has long gotten over that initial disappointment, because she realised that the end-product of bringing happiness has been achieved regardless. She sees the surprise, glee, excitement and even ecstasy from customers whenever a cotton candy dessert is placed on the table, and that, is enough.

Happy girl.
I looked back at the moment my "Banana Split in the Clouds" was served, and recalled gasps of pleasant surprise by customers from both tables flanking mine (total strangers), and the joy my kids had munching into the cotton candy.

I guess there's nothing more we can ask for.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Gaa: The Absolute Benchmark for Modern Fine Dining in Bangkok

Update 25th June 2019

Slightly more than half a year after this review, Gaa is now:
  • 13th Best Restaurant in Thailand Tatler's Best Restaurants 2019
  • 2nd in BK's Top Tables 2019
  • 16th on Asia's 50 Best List 2019
  • 95th on World's 120 Best List 2019
  • 1-Michelin Star rated
  • 1 of only 14 eateries to have ever been awarded Stranger in Bangkok's "Wah Lau Eh!" Stamp of Approval
So congratulations the entire team at Gaa, and of course to Garima, the reigning best female chef in Asia. I told you so!


I love simple food that's not simple.

Too many times, dishes are served in front of me like meticulous assemblies of 10-15 elements, only to taste much less than the sum of its parts. I crave for food that look straightforward yet get my brain juices flowing.

Enter Restaurant Gaa, the brainchild of head chef/part owner Garima Arora. After understanding the origins of the word Gaa (a combination of chef's initials), it's easy to realise that the classy yellow house standing proudly opposite Gaggan is simply an extension of chef Garima herself, and the cuisine, a culmination of her personal journey, which includes a childhood in India, a stint in journalism and a star-studded cooking route through Paris, Dubai and Copenhagen.

Chef Garima Arora
Gaa's food is either simple-looking dishes that taste extraordinary, or peculiar combinations that end up making absolute sense. Chef Garima's craft has reached a kind a maturity that isn't easily found in Bangkok. This spirit is consistent throughout the whole tasting menu, right down to the in-house drinks (eg. the fizzy lychee sake or coffee kombucha). It's also the only restaurant in Bangkok that made 3 reputable chefs text me before they finished their meal to exclaim how great the food was.

Chef Garima insists on using only ingredients sourced in Thailand, which explains a lot as you glance through her menu (the main course is the single most delicious pork rib you will ever eat, not some air-flown A5 Wagyu beef). When I commented on the presence of obvious Indian elements in most of her dishes, it was clarified that spices were used to lift the flavour of individual dishes when required, not to specifically introduce hints of any particular cuisine. She is not ready to use any words or cuisine to limit what they will put out in the future.

With the rise in global recognition for Bangkok's fine dining scene, what needs to improve concurrently is the receptiveness of the local palate to different cooking styles. In this aspect, Gaa has set a benchmark in this city when it comes to the gradual education of local diners to modern unbounded cuisine. Chef Garima does not plan to slow down, and Bangkok will be better for it.

Personally, I have visited Gaa twice, devouring basically the same menu (bar 1 dish) both times, and I am happy to report that the 2nd meal was even better than the first. If there's any gripe about Gaa, I just wonder whether I will pay for the meal a 3rd time if the menu remains largely similar. Chef Garima, however, has assured me that many changes are on the way. She just wants to make sure every new dish is perfect before making changes, and not release them for the sake of it.

So there is only 1 thing left to do, that is to declare Restaurant Gaa as the first fine-dining restaurant to receive my "Wah Lau Eh!" Stamp of Approval. I thought long and hard about this, and I am super thankful that Chef Garima was actually willing to spend time with this little blogger and receive the cheesy sticker when I reached out.

For her kindness, I gave my stamp, and my first little heart, to Chef Garima.
Truth be told, Gaa deserves stars, not stamps, but whatever happens moving forward, they will always be, to me, one of THE places to eat in Bangkok.

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