Garima Arora's kitchen showcases incredible produce and innovative techniques.
The brainchild of chef Garima Arora (Noma-trained and a former sous-chef at Gaggan) offers a trans-Asian culinary journey, applying the finesse and detail of fine dining to street food across 10 or 14 courses. Thai and Indian cultures converge in the poached grouper, wrapped taco-style with caramelized milk skin and kanom la (a southern Thai crepe floss dessert), while Japanese touches also abound. The ingredients, however, are 100-percent local, pulled together with an approach that verges on scientific.
The brainchild of chef Garima Arora offers a trans-Asian culinary journey. When it opened in Mar 2017, Gaa made headlines as a natural sibling to Gaggan for obvious reasons, not least because Arora was previously sous-chef there. Here, too, you’ll encounter high-wire techniques and an approach to food that verges on scientific. And yet there are occasions in your meal (a tasting menu of either 10 or 14 courses, B2,000-2,600) when Gaa feels downright rustic.
Occupying a bright-yellow shop-house opposite Gaggan’s pristine white house, Gaa delivers a younger, more playful vibe. This carries over to dishes that apply the finesse and detail of fine dining to street food. An early appetizer pairs “duckoyagi” (a fried flour ball akin to Japanese takoyaki stuffed with duck vindaloo) with six superb varieties of pickles cherry-picked from across Asia: Vietnamese carrot and daikon, Indian mango chutney, Chinese bok choy. Later, in the fish kanom la, Arora reinvents a traditional southern Thai crepe floss dessert as a savory taco, in which succulent poached grouper, pungent mustard seed and sweet caramelized milk skin play off with incredible results.
For all the cross-cultural references, Gaa doesn’t feel contrived. Subtly-flavored dishes revel in minor twists, as in the shards of frozen chicken liver perked up with juicy longan berries, or the sweet-spicy combination of creamy egg fruit, pomelo and crayfish atop Indian flatbread. All the while, the local produce shines, notably in the Royal Projects sturgeon caviar that tops off a deliciously gooey quail’s egg.
In such delicate company, the main of grilled pork ribs, topped with chopped shallots, spring onions and pomegranate seeds, feels like a slightly stodgy misstep with its tamarind marinade adding a discomfiting sharpness. Another street-food homage, this time to the Indian staple of keema pau, gets things back on track, stuffing juicy minced lamb into fluffy, freshly baked bread—a definite down-to-earth highpoint.
Dessert, too, straddles the line between comforting and intriguing. A betel leaf half coated with chocolate, half sprinkled with fennel powder is a curiosity, but we’d drop by just for a red-rice cone of burnt coconut sugar soft serve with pork floss.
While Gaa’s set menu prices are hardly unheard-of, do note you’ll pay B500 for a cocktail like the tart, perfectly OK, Snakefruit Sling (Campari, Tanqueray gin, orange sake and snakefruit kombucha), and at least that for a glass of wine. That’s no reason not to visit, of course. Creative yet grounded, Gaa is one of the most exciting tickets in town.
This review took place in January 2018 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.