Acclaimed Chef Gaggan Hosts Emoji-Themed Dinner At Eight Tables

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The Eight Tables and Gaggan teams in the kitchen
The Eight Tables and Gaggan teams in the kitchen

Sometimes dinner at a fine dining establishment can be stuffy or boring. Sterile atmosphere, pretentious waitstaff, and no music can turn a multi-course meal into a nightmare. However, there are restaurants where haute cuisine, superb staff, and a lively environment come together to form an incredibly memorable evening. One such place is Gaggan, an Indian restaurant in Bangkok helmed by chef and owner Gaggan Anand. For the past four years in a row, Gaggan has been named the best restaurant in Asia—it’s also number seven on the list of best restaurants in the world—and for a good reason: Anand is a culinary genius.

Chefs George Chen and Gaggan Anand
Chefs George Chen and Gaggan Anand

The Indian chef was recently in San Francisco for an ultra-exclusive event at Eight Tables by George Chen. The once-in-a-lifetime pop-up dinner was to support Chefs for Change, an organization that Anand cofounded. Chefs for Change connects the world’s best chefs with remote rural communities. In these African, Asian, and Latin American communities, the chefs create change through agricultural development. Anand believes that lives can be transformed through sustainable farming. He spoke a little bit about the cause at the pop-up, and a portion of each ticket was donated to the nonprofit.

The emoji menu
The emoji menu

Eight Tables by George Chen only has eight tables, and there was only one seating, so the pop-up had a dinner party-like atmosphere. Although the restaurant has opulent Asian decor, the tone of the evening was playful and light. When guests discovered that the menu was presented in Emoji form, with each of the 17-courses representing a different colorful symbol, they knew it was not going to be a traditional tasting menu. The first Emoji was an explosion and those who have seen season two of Chef’s Table, in which Anand is featured, guessed that the first dish would be his signature yogurt explosion.

The lick it up plates
The lick it up plates

Gaggan introduced every course, and his longtime sommelier Vladimir Kojic served sensational wine pairings. If the eccentric menu wasn’t enough to set the tone, the second course quickly established that this was not your grandmother’s tasting menu. With the tongue Emoji and the Kiss song Lick It Up blaring from the restaurant’s speakers, diners were presented a white plate with three different colored purees smeared across the middle. The instructions “lick it up” was stenciled above the purees. It was a refreshing reminder that fine dining could be whimsical and hilarious.

 The Gaggan team plating "The Dark Side of the Moon"-inspired dessert

The Gaggan team plating “The Dark Side of the Moon”-inspired dessert

The group instantly let their hair down and with the help of Kojic’s never-ending pours, the night took on the air of a wedding reception. Guests got up and mingled in between courses, trading seats, and stories while enjoying the creativity that flowed from the kitchen. Mind-blowing dishes included an intense broth made from corn with succulent duck, a seared and salty lamb chop, and a crab curry with jasmine rice. Once the final course was served the crowd headed to Cold Drinks, the luxe bar adjacent to Eight Tables where the celebration continued until the wee hours of the night.

Images courtesy of Glodow Nead. 

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