Time Out reveals the city's finest places to eat Thai food
Time Out Dubai staff
Winner – Best Thai Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013
Thiptara Step out onto the al-fresco decking of this wooden-style restaurant overlooking the Dubai Fountains and you’ll feel as if you’re being treated to a private meal from your very own holiday bungalow. Surrounded by water, dim lighting ensures that the fountains are the focal point, and the jets literally light up all vantage points like glowing harp strings. The food is pretty special too. This is the type of establishment that prides itself on the little things, like a basket of crunchy deep-fried wantons instead of the stock standard prawn crackers. This is something you might want to remember, especially if you plan on ordering a similar starter, such as the crispy spring rolls with minced chicken, mushroom and sweet chilli sauce, which are not over or under-stuffed with filling. The mains are quite traditional, think green curry with chicken and beef tenderloin. Desserts, however, steal the show: opt for the chocolate spring rolls, which, when cut into, ooze runny chocolate sauce. And they’re paired with a tart lemon sorbet. Open daily 7pm –11pm. The Palace Downtown Dubai, www.theaddress.com (04 428 7888).
Highly Recommended – Best Thai Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013
Benjarong Occupying the 24th floor of architecturally unique Thai Dusit Thani hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, this restaurant has an authentic feel. The elaborate dark-wood decor features tables with high-backed chairs and hints of gold. Traditional Thai dancers also perform on a small stage at 8pm each night. The menu boasts a number of interesting concoctions, such as prawns wrapped in rice paper rolls and the deep-fried (they look like they’re in sleeping bags). Get stuck into the mud-crab claws in yellow curry sauce with egg, they’re medium-sized and unbelievably flavoursome with just a hint of spice. Soak it up with the pineapple fried rice, served in the open fruit, the rice is infused with pineapple flavour and includes veggies, small chunks of tofu and meat. There are a number of slightly obscure desserts, but be warned: the plate of an assortment of sweets is for the adventurous palate only. Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Dusit Thani Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 3333).
Highly Recommended – Best Thai Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2013
Thai Kitchen This Old Dubai favourite offers both indoor and outdoor dining in a creekside location. Sit inside to take in the fragrant smells from the bustling open kitchen or take a perch on the terrace to enjoy the breeze coming in off the Creek. As well as offering a brunch, the venue puts on various meal deal nights in which diners can order as many dishes from the menu as they like, which come in tasting sizes. There are plenty of interesting choices, such as braised shank with five spices and the savoury deep-fried shrimp toasts with sesame. Other menu options include a rather adventurous wok dish of frog legs, chilli, peppercorn and basil, panang curry and spicy pomelo salad. The menu is vast, though there is little in the way of plain vegetarian options. If you want to try something a little left of centre for dessert, tuck into the water chestnuts in coconut, which are infused with rose syrup and are icy cool. Open daily 7pm-midnight. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira, www.dubai.park.hyatt.com (04 317 2222).
Blue Rain There are only a few places in Dubai that would charge Dhs220 for a curry and this place is one of them. In their defence, the establishment, which pits itself as fine-dining, is only one of a handful places in the city that uses top notch cuts of meat, such as wagyu in their curries. Located on the first level of the swish hotel in DIFC, the restaurant is flanked by a wall of cascading water, which is quite good at hiding the fact that the restaurant tends to be rather empty at times. The meal begins with an amuse bouche and then out comes a platter of mixed appetisers, including stand-out succulent satay prawns. The panang curry comes with thick slices of tender wagyu beef, chilli and kaffir lime surrounded by a yellow curry sauce and is delicious paired with the well-seasoned crab meat and egg fried rice. If you’re busting for dessert, there are numerous Thai takes on the classics, including a slightly odd rock-hard chocolate mousse with basil and strawberry coulis. Open daily 6.30pm-11pm. Ritz-Carlton, DIFC, www.ritzcarlton.com (04 372 2222).
Lemongrass Set in a slightly obscure pocket of Oud Metha, overlooking a car park and the surrounding neighbourhood, Lemongrass is an affordable option for good quality Thai fare. Grab a seat on the outdoor picnic-style benches, which are lit up by candlelight in the evening. Bite into the crispy deep-fried spring rolls with minced chicken and glass noodles dipped in plum sauce, or sample the fragrant tom yum goong soup with lemongrass, prawns, mushrooms and coriander. There are plenty of seafood options on offer, including a healthy steamed snapper with ginger and a light soy sauce. If the weather’s warm, you might like to try the lab, a refreshing minced beef salad marinated in Thai spices and lime juice. For dessert, there are plenty of options including sweet sticky rice with coconut milk, fried banana with ice cream and water chestnuts in crushed ice. Open daily 12pm-11.30pm. Next to Lamcy Plaza, Oud Metha (04 334 2325).
Mango Tree Popular with both visitors and Dubai residents alike, this Thai restaurant may be pricey, but it consistently draws a crowd. While the service can be a little slow and sometimes neglectful, the food will keep you coming back, as will the views. When booking, ask for a table outside so you can enjoy cozy starters such as a bowlful of tom yum goong with fresh, pop-in-your-mouth prawns, while you watch the nightly fountain shows. If you’re not a fan of seafood, there are a number of soups that offer chicken instead, such as the hot and spicy tom sap gai. For an alternative to papaya, try the spicy green mango salad, which has a sour tang and is served cold, topped with peanuts and shaved coconut. The menu deems the soft shell crab to be crunchy, but it tends to arrive at the table saturated in basil sauce and can be an odd texture. Still hungry? Scoop up the Thai-inspired dessert of lemongrass and ginger crème brûlée with a subtly flavoured lychee ice cream. Open daily 12pm-midnight. Souk Al Bahar, www.soukalbahar.ae (04 426 7313).
Pai Thai As far as locations go, it doesn’t get much better than Pai Thai. The modern eatery is set on the waterways of the Al Qasr hotel, which means diners can access the venue via abra boats or on foot via the entry near Talise Spa. Opt for a seat outdoors on the wooden deck so you can savour the view. The menu is quite substantial and features options not seen on menus anywhere else in Dubai. Once you’ve devoured the shrimp crackers (careful, they’re temptingly moreish!) tuck into the fish cakes, a blend of minced fish and herbs and spices. The deep-fried shrimp and squid money bags are tasty and beautifully presented, each resembling delicately wrapped sweets. The crispy duck with plum sauce and the wok-fried glass noodles with chicken and mixed vegetables make for great main courses, and desserts such as the sticky rice pudding with mango and the more unusual pumpkin in coconut will satisfy sugar fiends. Open daily 6.30pm-11.30pm. Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah, www.jumeirah.com (04 366 6730).
Spice Emporium The decor is the main eye-catcher in this spacious eatery offering traditional Thai dishes. Over one table, notes with handwritten Thai script hang from a modern overhead light, while above, a huge brass leaf sprawls itself across the ceiling. The kitchens are open-air, but glass-encased so that you have the benefit of watching the action without hearing all the noise. The assortment appetiser comes with succulent chicken satay skewers, fragrant fish cakes, spring rolls and chicken wrapped in pandan leaves. It will be tempting to fill up on prawn crackers (they’re A-grade), but save some room for the roasted duck red curry with pineapples or the chicken pad se eiaw gai (flat rice noodles with veggies) and don’t be shocked if the music changes and a traditional Thai dancer appears on the sly. Open daily 7pm-10.45pm (last orders 11.45pm on Thu and Fri). Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Umm Suqeim, www.westinminaseyahi.com (04 511 7136).
Thai Bistro With tables delicately littered around the Dubai Marine Beach Resort's luminous pool, it'll take some concentration not to fall in during your meal. Thai Bistro has many things going for it: it's good value, the food is impressive enough to go back for and the setting is the ideal place for a date or romantic dinner. Appetisers include deep-fried squid with salt and chilli, chicken wrapped in pandanus leaves, chicken satay and crab spring rolls, though there is an option to try them all as taster appetisers. There are a great deal of stir-fried dishes to choose from including numerous variations on duck, lobster, chicken and cashew, as well as red and green curries with your choice of seafood, prawns, chicken or beef. The pineapple fried rice with shrimp is fluffy and fruity and substantial enough to stand on its own. Still hungry? Devour the deep-fried banana and ice-cream dessert or go for something more traditional and try the water chestnuts in coconut milk. Open 7pm-11.30pm. Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, www.dxbmarine.com (04 346 1111).
The Royal Buddha Stepping inside the dark wooden interior of this Thai restaurant, hidden away in Holiday Inn Al Barsha, is a little like, well, going on holiday. Gold buddhas are illuminated by soft lighting, the serviettes are fanned and the chairs are throne-like, immediately conjuring up fond memories of eating out in Thailand. An open kitchen keeps diners entertained, which is lucky considering the venue is popular with families and large groups. Further amusement comes courtesy of the over-extended, half-fork-half-chopstick utensils, which look suspiciously Edward Scissorhands-like. But that won’t stop you from tucking into a starter of tasty deep fried, crispy fish or tofu balls stuffed with crab meat and chicken mince. Try the thick flat rice noodles (pad see ew) with beef, for a change from the standard pad Thai. If you’re game, the green curry is as hot as we’ve tried. If not, the red curry with duck is a little less sweat-inducing. Open daily 7pm-11.30pm. Sheikh Zayed Road, Holiday Inn, Al Barsha, www.hialbarshadubai.com (04 323 4333).