A selection of Time Out’s favourite places to find South East Asian food in Dubai
Time Out Dubai staff
Pai Thai: The canal-side setting and theatrical entertainment mean a booking at Pai Thai is always a valuable addition to the Dubai restaurant scene. If possible, opt for the terrace (after arriving on one of Al Qasr hotel’s abras, or at the very least, one of its golf buggies) and enjoy the ‘fawn lep’ (aka the fingernails dance) and soothing traditional Thai music. Once you manage to take your eyes off the entertainment and the location, the menu is not to be scoffed at either, especially the Dhs750 Seafood Indulge option. With Pai Thai open and crammed every night, Dubai’s other Thai restaurants have a lot of work to do.
Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah. Call 04 366 6730 for reservations.
Thiptara: One of Dubai’s newer Thai restaurants, if you want to make the most of Thiptara – book an al-fresco table ahead. Nestled amid the sweeping Burj Khalifa Downtown complex, the restaurant boasts stunning views of the tallest fountain in the world, which ought to be seen (and heard – the water dances are accompanied by a classical and Arabic soundtrack) at least once. The restaurant itself is also mesmerising, encircled by dancing fiery torches that cast multiple shadows and render mini torches necessary to decipher the menu. And a large menu it is, including all Thai classics whipped into several gut-busting set menus.
The Palace, The Old Town, Downtown Burj Khalifa. Call 04 428 7961 for reservations.
Mango Tree: Mango Tree is one of the few Souk Al Bahar spots where the food will send you into even greater raptures than the spectacular Dubai Fountain which it overlooks (make sure you book an outdoor table well in advance). In fact it’s hard to find fault with this place: the service is unparalleled, the gorgeous dark wood furnishings and enormous Buddha tick the hip and trendy box, and the food… ah, the food. Even the menu makes your mouth water with its enticing descriptions and quirky background info. Darkly delicious panangs and sweet coconut-laced yellow curries hit several spots, but less Thai-sounding dishes like the lamb chops also induce swooning.
Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Burj Khalifa. Call 04 426 7313 for reservations.
Buddha Bar: The decor at Dubai’s link in the international Buddha Bar chain is stunning. Enter the vast bar-restaurant and you feel a little like you’ve walked onto a movie set: the atmospheric lighting, the so-chic music, the magnificent red chandeliers reflected in the enormous two-storey windows, and of course, that giant sparkling golden Buddha. Service is fairly prompt and friendly (even in a place as upscale as this, they don’t question if you ask for a doggy bag), while the menu is lengthy, but not too overwhelming. The red prawn and Thai green curries are strong renditions of favourites, while the beef is delightfully tender. Sugar fans must try the white chocolate noodles: an original mesh of coconut, mango puree and convincingly noodle-like strands of white chocolate, as well as the divine mango cheese cake.
Grosvenor House Dubai. Call 04 399 8888 for reservations.
Hoi An: That Hoi An is the only Vietnamese restaurant in Dubai mustn’t detract from our words when we say it is also the best. From the decor to the service to the menu, every aspect suggests carefully crafted authenticity. Details such as the black and white photographs of Hanoi cyclists at the entrance, the blue shutters blocking out the world outside and the huge fans quietly whirring above all combine to weave the cosy scene. Expect to leave ever so slightly overfull – purely because every single dish is too good to leave to waste. The only aspect lacking is full tables, but then, do you really want to share Dubai’s secret Vietnamese jewel with everyone else?
Shangri-La Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road. Call 04 405 2703 for reservations.
The Thai Kitchen: Situated alongside the bobbing yachts of the Creek Club, as well as the sparkling waters of the creek itself, Thai Kitchen offers perhaps the very most spectacular al fresco setting to eat Thai food in Dubai. While it is possible to order a la carte, the restaurant’s tendency to serve dishes in smaller bowl portions makes it far more appealing to share set menus, tapas-style. This goes down particularly well for the Friday brunch The food quality is consistently high, although understanding what each bowl contains can at times be difficult. But these are small grumbles, which won’t linger long in your mind when you’re devouring great Thai food under the shade of gently swishing trees.
Park Hyatt Dubai. Call 04 317 2222 for reservations.
Sukhothai: Sukhothai manages to uphold a strong reputation despite having to battle with the myriad other eateries of Méridien Village and the boisterous football chants wafting out of neighbouring Irish bar Dubliners. Still, the wooden decor inside manages to evoke a calm ambiance should the lively atmosphere outside get a bit much. The menu may initially cause frown lines: it’s very lengthy, although partly because it’s written in various languages including Thai. However, the various set menus – including a bargain three-course lunch deal for Dhs150 – offer great variety and loaded plates for a very low prices. Particular highlights include the succulent lamb curry and the zingy steamed hammour in lime and chilli.
Le Méridien Dubai. Call 04 217 0000 for reservations.
Dae Jung Kum: The spacious, friendly Dae Jung Kum serves some of Dubai’s best Korean food. The high-ceilinged interior is cordoned off into sections with wood screens, giving the place a traditional feel with a modern slant, thanks to the blown-up artful images of elegant, smiling Korean women dressed in traditional costume on the wall. The food is fresh and fabulous, incorporating the relatively simple ingredients of Korean cuisine. The barbecue dishes are the highlight, with huge slabs of meat carefully marinated and lovingly cut up by a friendly server. The pancakes are also wonderfully fluffy with crunchy green onion – make sure you try one with the restaurant’s signature sauce, a wonderful concoction of sweet and spicy.
Royal Ascot Hotel, Bur Dubai. Call 04 355 8500 for reservations.
Kabalen Restaurant: This is Time Out’s favourite Filipino restaurant. It tempts diners to give it a shot with its homely interior – lovingly decorated with clean, bright yellow walls and fruity tablecloths. Once you start on the dishes, you will be glad you gave it a chance. Even the quality of the simple beverage buko pandan juice makes it clear there is someone in the kitchen that cares deeply about food and fresh produce. The adobong manok, which the waitress describes as a tamarind chicken soup, has an old-school feel, as if it is a recipe that had been passed down through generations. But far from dowdy, it’s bursting with vitality. Everything, no matter how disarmingly simple, hides an unexpected vibrancy.
Karama. Call 04 397 8839 for reservations.
Lemongrass: One of the most reliably authentic and tasty Thai restaurants in the city, Lemongrass offers a rare experience in urban dining escapism. Situated just behind Lamcy Plaza it can be hard to find but worth looking for.
Oud Metha. Call 04 334 2325 for reservations.