The best of Bangkok right here on your Dubai doorstep
Winner – Best Thai Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Tong Thai Upon first arriving at Tong Thai, it’s hard not to be impressed. You’ll be led through a highly conceptual and quite stunning space, past a tinkling water feature and below hefty yet intricate temple bells. Service is also impressive, with the warm staff offering excellent recommendations while also checking your preferred level of chilli-heat. Making for a satisfying starter are the classic satay skewers (a selection of chicken and beef). The meat is tender and the beef notably flavoursome with a slight lemongrass edge, complemented by a sweet, nutty sauce. For mains, the steamed sea bass is a good choice, with a gentle chilli touch to the flesh, while the grilled wagyu steak is served in rare, tender slices with lovely bursts of fat interspersed evenly throughout the flesh. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-midnight. JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 414 3000).
Highly Commended – Best Thai Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Thai Kitchen Nestled next to the marina at Dubai’s creek-side Park Hyatt hotel, Thai Kitchen comes into its own when the weather is hospitable enough to allow the seating to spread out over the restaurant’s modest patio. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit even in summer’s sweltering peaks, because what makes Thai Kitchen worth a visit is a combination of excellent, deeply authentic cooking, charming service and unfussy contemporary decor. It’s hard not to want to try everything on the menu, which is perhaps what makes its Friday brunch such a popular affair, when guests can order unlimited tapas-style portions of some of the restaurant’s signature dishes. The homemade Thai fishcakes burst with fresh coriander and chilli, the duck red curry arrives heaped with generous chunks of rich meat, while the mango and sticky rice provides a not-too-sweet ending that will leave you wanting more. For Thai food lovers, there are few better places likely to satiate your cravings with such finesse. Open daily 7pm-midnight. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira (04 317 2222).
Highly Commended – Best Thai Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
Thai Bistro Home to a variety of restaurants and bars, Dubai Marine Beach Club Resort & Spa has something of a tiny village feel to it. Sitting beside the resort’s lagoon-like pool, the quaint, romantic Thai Bistro is just one of the restaurants on offer, and while it certainly isn’t the busiest of them all, it shouldn’t be overlooked. Friendly, entertaining staff are quick to ferry dishes out from the kitchen, and the food is hard to fault. The crunchy, generously-stuffed and seasoned spring rolls don’t disappoint, while the tangy tom yam soup is a no less moreish but lighter way to start. It might be an obvious choice, but you’d be a fool to miss the Thai red curry, which arrives in a clay pot, bubbling over a small flame. Whether you opt to enjoy the outdoor patio or take a table in the restaurant’s snug, chalet-style interiors, it’s hard not to find Thai Bistro humbly enchanting. Open daily 7pm-midnight. Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1 (04 346 1111).
Lemongrass For truly fabulous, not-too-greasy Thai food at reasonable prices, Lemongrass remains one of the city’s go-tos. While not as busy as it once was, before many of the city’s residents migrated towards New Dubai, the Oud Metha staple is still holding strong. Long-time fans know the eatery does a mean pad Thai, while the tom yum boasts outrageously plump, juicy prawns. It’s seafood that the intimate and surprisingly tranquil restaurant emphasises though, with red snapper and prawn featuring heavily on the menu, and these are best enjoyed (weather permitting, of course) on the cute picnic-style benches outdoors. Vegetarians are also very well catered for here, with choices including eggplant, tofu and even potato-based dishes alongside the usual variety of Asian veggies. For a good quality Thai feast sans five-star prices, look no further. Open daily noon-11.30pm. Behind Sultan Business Centre, Oud Metha (04 334 2325).
Mango Tree Nestled along the first-floor balcony of Souk Al Bahar, Mango Tree joins the throng of midrange restaurants with enviable views of the Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa. As such, it’s a popular spot with tourists and residents looking to impress visitors. While the staff are well meaning, they’re not always clued up when it comes to dietary requirements – so vegetarians, celiacs or those with any other allergies should state their case, and then state it again to be on the safe side. But miscommunications aside, the menu is varied and full of contemporary takes on classic Thai fare. While the starters are a little fond of the deep-fryer, the substantial salt and pepper tofu is worth sampling. As for mains, avoid the alarmingly oily Thai omelette in favour of something a bit more obvious. Yes, Thai curries are a failsafe, but try the lentil take on the red curry and your bravery will be rewarded. Open 12.30pm-midnight. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 426 7313).
Pai Thai Once one of the city’s most romantic restaurants, Pai Thai finds itself falling increasingly into the hands of big groups and noisy families. At one time, the restaurant’s relatively secluded, tranquil location in the grounds of Dubai’s sophisticated Al Qasr hotel all but guaranteed its status as a place for special occasions. Now, it appears to be drawing a similar crowd to Madinat Jumeirah’s more casual eateries. Fortunately, though the ambiance may have altered pretty dramatically, the standards of both the service and food remain high. A delicious, coconut creamy tom khar phak soup is the perfect entry into an expertly-prepared Thai meal. Though an obvious choice, the rich green curry is among the best in the city, and is well complemented by an order of morning glory, cooked with a liberal smattering of fresh garlic. For fine Far Eastern cuisine, Pai Thai should still be high on your list. For wowing someone special, however, it may be time to seek out a new spot. Open daily 6.30pm-11.30pm. Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).
Shang Thai With plenty of choice on the menu, a prime downtown location and very fair prices, this authentic Thai pit stop outdoes decidedly classier competition in the food stakes. Open daily 11.30am-midnight. Al Safa, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 380 5408).
Smiling BKK Following the opening of a shinier, swankier outlet at Al Wasl Square, Smiling BKK may now boast two locations in the city, but it’s the original plot, stuffed away down a Jumeirah side street, that holds a special place in the heart of many a Dubai resident. Once you’ve finally located it, expect to be rewarded with the mouth-watering Thai aromas of lemongrass and fish sauce – but be prepared for a long wait. Even during quieter services, the restaurant’s efficiency seems to have slipped in recent years, and punters can often find themselves served a single dish at a time, with as much as a 20-minute wait between the arrival of the first and last components of the table’s main courses. Is it worth the wait? Absolutely. Is it worth the surprisingly high price tag? Perhaps not. Portions are on the small side, and as Dubai’s Asian food scene grows, Smiling BKK’s offering becomes less unique. Open daily 11am-midnight. Al Wasl Plaza, behind Emarat petrol station near Safa Park, Al Wasl Road (04 349 6677).
Sukhothai Nestled among the myriad restaurants and bars at Le Méridien Dubai, you’d be forgiven for missing Sukothai between the aromas and bustle emanating from its neighbours. Step over the threshold, however, and discover a quaint Thai eatery where somewhat rustic decor is juxtaposed intriguingly with modern touches such as iPad menus. If you’re dining in a group, the khong wang Sukothai (an appetiser sharing plate) is a good place to start, with plump prawn rolls and tasty chicken satay, while a sweet red curry with chicken or beef and the wok-fried morning glory make for a good follow-up. Despite the restaurant’s old-fashioned appeal, however, it seems to struggle for patrons, even on what would be busier weekend sittings. Perhaps Sukothai’s retro charm has struggled to compete with the city’s shift towards New Dubai, but if that’s the case, the restaurant – and many like it in the older parts of town – is certainly due a revival. Open daily 12.30pm-2.45pm, 7pm-11.45pm. Le Méridien Dubai, Airport Road, www.sukhothaidubai.com (04 217 0000).
Thiptara Overlooking the Dubai Fountain and the sparkling lights of the Burj Khalifa, with gentle amber lighting and softly-spoken staff, The Palace hotel’s Thai eatery certainly has all the ingredients of a romantic restaurant. Seating on the terrace gets popular during cooler months and the setting is delightfully relaxing and quiet. While service can be a little halting, with drinks and later parts of the meal arriving at different intervals, the menu is at least what you would expect from one of the swankier Far Eastern restaurants in town. Sadly, there’s little on the menu to suit vegetarians, though the kitchen is happy to rustle up a quick vegetable pad Thai or stir-fry, even if it is curiously reluctant to offer a tofu option. Overall, there’s the distinct impression the restaurant is banking on its location just a little too heavily, so while Thiptara no doubt shines, it seems to have lost a little of its sparkle. Open daily 7pm-11.30pm. The Palace, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).