Spice reigns supreme
By Megha Pai
Friday, May 04, 2012

Over the years, Dusit Thani’s Benjarong has proved why it is deserving of its status as one of Dubai’s signature Thai restaurants

In the estimation of this reviewer, Thai cuisine is the best thing to have happened to mankind since the invention of the wheel.  “You must have been Thai in your previous life!” my friend tells me, as I drag her for what she calls the umpteenth time to the 24th floor of Dusit Thani Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road to savour some authentic Thai fare at Benjarong, a place I believe to be the finest Thai restaurant in Dubai. It is my nineteenth visit to the restaurant (I correct my friend) since I moved to Dubai about two years ago. And the food only gets better every time.

In many ways, Dusit’s signature restaurant is the perfect symbol of the hotel and deserving of its flagship status. It is elegant, graceful, refined, welcoming and authentically Thai. The regal dining room is decorated in the fashion of old Thai palaces — dark wood 
with imperial pillars and blue and gold moldings. Large windows overlook one of the best views of Dubai’s skyline.

While most cuisines have welcome drinks, Thais serve Mein Kam, a traditional welcome dish made of peanuts, dried prawns, ginger, lime, dried coconut, chilli, onion and a deliciously sweet sauce all filled into a spinach leaf pocket. We enjoy the little bite of tastiness as a beaming Thai woman plays Thai kim — a brass-stringed instrument played with two flexible bamboo sticks.

Without using the cliché, appetisers at Benjarong are to die for. Gai Haw Bai Toey is a very popular choice. The dish is made of deep-fried marinated chicken wrapped with pandanus leaves, which lend their unique sweet aroma to the chicken. The chef, however, recommends Khoong Wang Ruammit Benjarong, an assortment of five kinds of Benjarong’s special starters. The menu has an equally appetising range of herbed and spiced salads. A personal favourite is the crunchy Som Tum Thai, a spicy green papaya salad with dried shrimp, chilli 
and peanuts.

The gourmet experience at Benjarong is incomplete without ordering the classic Tom Kha Gai, comprising chicken and galangal shoots in coconut milk. The soup is bursting with ingredients, with each flavour holding its own. If you are a daredevil like this reviewer, ask the chefs to turn on the spice. For those who are not too big on coconut milk, ask for the equally delicious alternate, Tom Yum Goong, 
a spicy tiger prawn flavoured soup with lime, lemon grass and chilli.

For first timers, the main course choices must comprise either of the two classic curries that are behind Thai cuisine’s iconic status — Gaeng Kiew Wan and Gaeng Phed — 
otherwise also known as Thai Green and Red curries. The curries are a balancing act of rich and sharp, spicy and sour, sweet and bitter, crunchy and tender. The flavour is unparalleled. Pair the curry with some jasmine rice (otherwise known as sticky rice) for phenomenal gastronomic results. Be sure to mention how spicy you want it. Those who do not like the piquant taste may opt for the mildly sweet Phad Thai Goong, the traditional Thai fried rice noodles with prawns, bean curd, bean sprouts, egg, ground peanuts and tamarind sauce. It’s hard not to like this one.

After the assault of spices, it’s time to cool off with some uniquely Thai desserts. The restaurant offers some interesting ice cream flavours such as green tea lemongrass, kafir and lime. But considering the amount of spice just consumed, you may want to opt for the ruby water chestnuts in iced coconut milk. Call off the fire brigade — the dessert has saved the day!


In seven words: 
Arguably the best Thai restaurant in Dubai

What we liked: Detailed attention to bringing out the flavours in each dish

What we didn’t like: Absolutely nothing
Cost for two: Dh400

Best for:  
The setting is perfect for when you want to impress that special someone

Did you know: 
Benjarong borrows its name from Thailand’s beautiful historic ceramic ware, Benjarong, meaning ‘five colours’

Contact: Benjarong, Dusit Thani, Dubai; 04-3433333



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