Our All (Michelin) Star Weekend in Bangkok

My husband and I just returned from a whirlwind long weekend in Bangkok.  We were traveling 22 hours each way to attend a dear friend’s wedding, and although time was limited, we managed to pack a lot in.  There are currently no direct flights between NYC and Bangkok, so after  much deliberation we booked our trip on Turkish Airlines whose Business Class is reputed to have terrific service.

We were flying from Terminal 1 at JFK, which to put it bluntly is a total shit show.  I was shocked at how disorganized and unpleasant the TSA process was.  We really need to up our game in the airport department.  In any case, the 11:30 pm flight was on time, which was really all that mattered.

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Turkish Air does not have its own lounge, so we spent some time in an unremarkable code-shared lounge, and then continued on to the gate.  The gate process too was unpleasant which didn’t bode well for the journey.  We were called to board and were relieved to find a very welcoming staff and spacious Business Class cabin.

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The Brown pillow kind of gave me the willies, as it looked a bit shabby, but soon enough it was covered with a freshly laundered cover.  The Lemon-Mint welcome drink was very refreshing, and set the tone forTurkish Airline’s food and drink service.

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Though an elaborate dinner was served, my plan was to go right to sleep and be woken up for breakfast.

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The cabin lights were dimmed for the short safety video, and then we were on our way.

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As soon as we reached the proper altitude, the cabin crew came around and made up the beds.  There was plenty of room to stretch out, and there was no constricting footwell to be concerned with.  As planned, I was out like a light.

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About 8 hours later it was time for breakfast.  Simple but tasty.

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Turkish Airlines prides itself on having actual Chefs onboard the aircraft,  and on our flight we had two.  I am not sure if they are actually cooking anything, but it is a nice touch.

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We landed a bit early, so we had about three hours in the Istanbul Airport, which is really very impressive.  The Lounge in particular may have been the most elaborate one I have ever seen.  It was massive, and very well appointed.

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There was a wide array of freshly prepared salads and tempting delights.

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There were severe large cooking/baking stations that were churning out fresh bread and cakes.

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There was even a golf simulator for those who needed to work on their game.

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The selection of Turkish Teas was really impressive.

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After making the rounds and sampling all the offerings, it was time for flight number two. The intention again was to bank as much sleep as we could in the 10 hour flight.

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Success! The flight and service was just as smooth and seamless as the first leg of our journey. We had arranged for a greeter to expedite our arrival into Bangkok, and were surprised to find our greeter came with an armed escort. I’m not sure if this was standard, but we were happy for the back-up. Our driver and a representative from The Park Hyatt were waiting for us once we cleared immigration, and soon we were on our way.

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We had chosen to stay at the Park Hyatt at Central Embassy  because of the proximity to the wedding festivities we were attending, as well as it being one of the newest and most luxurious offerings in Bangkok at the moment.  It did not disappoint.  Upon arrival we were escorted right up to our Suite for check in.  It was modern and fresh, and immaculate.  The staff who checked up in were friendly and helpful.

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The view was terrific.

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The decor was simple yet comfortable.

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No amenity was lacking.

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We quickly washed up and changed in order to make it to the luncheon.  Luckily all our travel was without a snag, and we were able to be party ready in record time.

After an incredible welcome luncheon at the Siam Society, we stole back to the hotel to try and take a nap and rest up for our dinner at Gaggan Anand ‘s G Spot.  This was a reservation we had been coveting since we had first watched him on the Chef’s Table a few years back. He is one of the most ground-breaking and innovative chefs cooking today.  Once we rsvp’d to  the wedding, the first thing we did was try and reserve a spot at Gaggan.  This took a lot of stressful e-mailing and negotiating.  When we finally booked at Gaggan, we thought we were all set, but then in August he had a falling out with his investors and it was announced Gaggan was closing.   This was big news as Gaggan is consistently rated the number 1 Restaurant in Asia, and in the top 5 of the best in the world.  Panic ensued amongst all the people that had existing  reservations,  including us.

It seems a bit of an over reaction, but people literally plan trips to Bangkok around procuring a table.  After a month or two of confusion it was announced that Gaggan would be taking much of his staff from Gaggan, and opening a new restaurant in Bangkok called Gaggan Anand.  Almost instantly there were 6,000 people on a waitlist.  We were so lucky that the reservationist came from his old restaurant to the new, and honored the reservations of the people that had previously booked.  Phew!  We were thrilled.  My son had been to Gaggan over the summer and proclaimed the meal life changing, so we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to experience it.

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When we reserved we were sure to specify we wanted to eat in the communal area dubbed G’s Spot.  Gaggan is a little like the Howard Stern of the Restaurant World.  He likes to shock and push the envelope.  When the reservation is booked you are asked not only about allergies/food preferences, but also your favorite music, curse words and sexual position, seriously.  G’s Spot is an open kitchen area for just 14 diners and everyone is immersed in the experience for at least 6 hours.  There is music (Gaggan could be a DJ if he decides to change careers), there is education, there are jokes, there is reminiscing. It is part theater, and part the best food you have ever eaten.  His goal is to give every diner a foodgasm, (his words, not mine).

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Gaggan’s motto is absolutely “be a rebel”!  The menu is presented as 20 puzzle pieces with emojis serving as the only meal description.  There is no written menu.  Gaggan would prefer you rely on your memory to record the sensations you are experiencing rather than have anything to refer back to.

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One of the first courses we were served was the food equivalent of the rainbow emoji.  There were no utensils, you were meant to lick the plate.  This set the stage for the entire evening.  Your senses were bombarded, and it was fun, new and exciting.  I had requested a gluten free/vegetarian interpretation of the menu and I had all the chef’s explaining to me the substitutions that would be made, why they were made, and how the dish would differ from everyone else’s.  They were not resentful at all, just the opposite, they loved the challenge of making my dishes just as fabulous as the other diners.  They certainly succeeded, the food was insanely good.

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The presentation of the food was as stunning as the flavors.

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This dish was represented by the purple heart emoji and was delivered with Prince’s Purple Rain blasting on the stereo.  It was only one time out of many that the entire dining room sang along.

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At one point in the meal there was a quiz, whereby the people who couldn’t come up with the right answer were made to take a shot of Gaggan’s nasty brew (in fact wheat grass).  He mercilessly teased some of the diners, but in a friendly way.  He had everyone laughing.

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The tableware was designed by Gaggan, and served to set off each course perfectly.

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You can see the puff on the left was made with buckwheat flour rather than traditional flour.  It was delectable, but a challenge to make and achieve the same light airy crunch.

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In all honesty many of the courses blurred together in a delectable haze.  This haze was facilitated by the 9 different wine pairings the Sommelier expertly chose to complete the dishes.

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While I didn’t try this lamb chop, the entire room was swooning over this course. They agreed it tasted just like Wagyu beef.  Gaggan has contracted with a small farmer to raise lambs to his specifications just for this dish.  The obsessive attention to detail shows in every aspect of the restaurant.

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Here is the completed menu, an achievement to piece together and to eat!

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The dishes kept coming, but we were not stuffed, and it seems as though time passed very quickly.  There was lots more singing and revelry as the dinner came to a close.

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All of the Chefs came together to produce the last dessert.

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Once we were finished eating, we admired all the empty bottles, and Gaggan encouraged us all to stay and continue the party in the outside bar area, having some more drinks with him.  We lasted one round as the jet lag was kicking in at this point.  Who knows how long the party continued after we left.  You need to prepay for Gaggan when you make your reservation, and while it is pricy (about $450 per person) the value for those dollars is well worth it.  If you are a foodie and have a bucket list, this should be on the top of it.  Incredible.

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We got back to the Park Hyatt and crashed .  We were exhausted, and completely turned around time wise.  Somehow we managed only to sleep about five hours, and then needed coffee, so we headed downstairs for breakfast (included in our room rate as we booked through American Express Fine Hotel & Resorts).

The buffet display was not overly extensive, but the choices were all appealing and beautifully presented.

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In addition to the buffets, there was a small menu of both Eastern and Western choices.

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The staff in the dining room was so pleasant and accommodating, bringing us cup after cup of delicious coffee.

Healthy choices were on my agenda that first morning, a little detox was in order!

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The second thing we did after we reserved Gaggan was to try and book Jay Fai , another chef who had been featured on Netflix’s A Chef’s Table.  Jay Fai is the first food stall to have been granted a Michelin Star, and both the restaurant and Chef have developed a cult like following.  If you log on at exactly midnight three months before you would like a reservation, you can email jayfaibangkok@gmail.com and put in your request.  I had my alarm set and was able to secure 2:30 pm on Saturday 12/14.  Many people just line up at 11 am and wait patiently to be seated at one of the tables set aside for walk-ins.  There is also a constant stream of gawkers stopping to take photos of Jay Fai hard at work behind the intensely hot fire cooking everyones meal herself.  She is 75, and wears the goggles to protect her eyes from the searing heat.

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The space is on a corner, and is completely open to the street.  The staff is incredibly friendly and patient, which is something of an achievement as they must try to manage the crowds outside.  Once you are seated there is absolutely no rush to eat quickly and turn the table.

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Jay Fai is an iconic figure, instantly recognizable with her trademark goggles.  She is tiny, and is on her feet all day.

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We arrived a few minutes early and were given the menu to study and make our selections.  We had to be at the wedding at 6 pm, and as my dress was very slinky, I couldn’t afford to eat too much, so that dictated our choices a bit.

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The dish Jay Fai is famous for the world over is the Crab Omelet, so we knew that was one dish we had to get.

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Jay Fai in action!

Thai beer was the perfect beverage to order to wash down our mini feast.

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The Crab Omelet resembled a burrito, it was huge.

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Inside there was at least a pound of crabmeat, no exaggeration.  It was outstanding.

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We also ordered Drunken Noodles with Prawns, which we thought was excellent

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Rice with seafood and a fried egg rounded out our order.  This dish was good, but not on the same level as the omelet or the drunken noodles.

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We were so happy we got to experience Jay Fai.  If you are heading to Bangkok, and are organized enough to try and book 3 months ahead, do it!  You will be happy you did.  I can’t imagine Jai Fai can continue cooking forever, so try and get there sooner rather than later.

After lunch we went back to the hotel to get ready for the main event of the weekend, the wedding!  The wedding itself was one of the most magical events we have ever witnessed.  I am not going to attempt to describe it, but if you are interested you can read about it here.  It was worth a trip halfway around the world.

We returned back to the hotel at about 1:30 am, and went right to sleep.  The whole trip so far had been a whirlwind, and like a dream.  The only thing we could imagine doing the next day was indulging in a marathon spa session at The Park Hyatt’s Organic  Panpuri Spa.  We had booked Scrubs, Wraps, Facials, and Massages, all in a beautifully appointed Couple’s Therapy room.

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This was just the antidote for our intensive itinerary of eating, drinking and celebrating.  It was heavenly.

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After we were suitably relaxed, we had one more restaurant we had been meaning to try, the Michelin starred Paste Bangkok located in the nearby Gaysorn Plaza featuring the innovative cooking of Bee Satongun.  She has been awarded the accolade of Asia’s best female chef, and Paste is ranked 28th on Asia’s top 50 list as well.  The menu features modern interpretations of classic Thai dishes, all created with an artistic touch.  The presentation and service is sublime.  Although it is located in a high end shopping center, Paste is airy and luxurious.

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The menu had so many tempting dishes, it was hard to choose.

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We enjoyed a small welcome drink while we tried to decide what to order.

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The waitstaff was very helpful in making substitutions throughout the meal to ensure it was gluten free.

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When we finally decided, we were thrilled to try everything we had chosen. It was all almost too pretty to eat.  The Pomelo and Char- Grilled Prawns was a wonderful combination of flavors and textures.

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The Watermelon, Ground Salmon and Crispy Shallots was so good, it is hard to describe.  Once again, a myriad of flavors and textures, with the star of the show being palm sugar floss (like cotton candy) distributed through the dish.  It was so special, we had to include a close up view.

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Hot and Sour Soup was anything but traditional.

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I ordered a Green Curry with Wild Mushrooms, Palm Hearts and Pea Eggplants which may have been the best Curry I have ever tasted,

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The Paste version of the Thai favorite Khao Soi was also a winner.  All of our choices were excellent.  The food in Bangkok whether high-brow or low is truly extraordinary.

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Speaking of low-brow, the final activity on our agenda before we flew home was to go on a food tour of the markets with  A Chef’s Tour  .

We met our guides Tom & Shell at 10:00 and set out on an adventure.  There was one other woman from Australia joining us, and we were told we would be trying at least 18 different dishes.  We were heading to the Nangleong Market, and the quickest way to get there was a water taxi, and then a bus.

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To boost our energy between the water- taxi and the bus, we stopped for some sticky rice.

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Fried Plantains were next.  Much of what is used in Thai cooking is rice flour, so it most everything was accessible for me to try.

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I am going to include some of the highlights of what we tasted, all described expertly by our very pleasant guides. My husband ate my share of the meat dishes.

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Vegetarian Khao Soi for me.

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These fried Chive Cakes were addictive.

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A cooked coconut rice pudding was right up my alley.

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The gelatinous Thai desserts are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love them.  My husband could’t get past the booger like appearance.

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The pineapple dipped in chili spiked sugar could not be improved upon.  The tour lasted four hours and this was just a portion of what we tasted.  We enjoyed not only food, but history and local lore as well.  We took a Chef’s Tour when we were in Chiang Mai last year, and it was also vey enjoyable.  I would recommend them!

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Our flight was not until 10 pm, so we had some time to kill. We had been given a late check out of 6 pm, so we were able to pack up, and spend some extra time exploring the incredible Central Embassy Mall that the Park Hyatt is a part of.  As Malls go, this one is 5 Star.  We couldn’t resist getting a Bubble Tea from Koi at the Central Embassy .

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One last sweet I had to try while we were in Bangkok was Mango Sticky Rice, and I had been advised that  After You, theres always room for dessert makes a great one.  There are several After You Cafés, and we went to one close to the hotel.   Because I really wasn’t that hungry I ordered the baby sized.  I can’t imagine how large the regular sized one is, but I managed to finish this one off.  It was perfectly balanced between icy, sweet, and creamy.

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It was now time to head back to the airport, ready for another 22 hour journey back to the States.  The trip was AMAZING, and well worth the amount of travel.  The wedding was spectacular and a joyous celebration, and the food was truly incredible, all of it.  It took a lot of advance planning, but it was a trip that made for a lifetime of memories.

 

 

 

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