Spicy soups, flavoursome curries and more of the best Thai food in Dubai
Time Out Dubai staff
Benjarong As perhaps the best-known Thai hotel chain, a Bangkok-born brand with more than 65 years in the game, there's a fair amount of expectation that accompanies a visit to the Dusit Thani's signature Thai restaurant, Benjarong. But in Dubai, they get just about everything right. The venue looks, and more importantly feels, great – the ornate but restrained colonial-tinged decor has an understated charm, elegant without being glitzy, creating the vibe of a family run joint rather than a global hotel chain. The kitchen faultlessly delivers the goods. Kick off with the khong wang ruammit appetiser platter, then dive into one of the classic curries, and you won't go wrong. Extra touches such as magnificent views of the cityscape from the venue's 24-floor vantage, an impressive mixed drinks selection and an authentic live music duo playing traditional Thai music – excellently but non-obtrusively – make this a great night out. Open daily noon-3pm, 7pm-11.30pm. Dusit Thani Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 3333).
Mango Tree Mango Tree is a sure-fire way of impressing visitors to Dubai. With a top floor Souk Al Bahar balcony, it offers one of the best vantages for catching The Dubai Fountain in full flow – and the ideal atmosphere to do so, watching the soaring water jets majestically erupt every half hour, as punctuation points in a leisurely meal, is way more appealing than an evening jostling with the crowds outside Dubai Mall. With such a USP it would be easy for Mango Tree to get complacent in the kitchen, but thankfully there’s no sign of that happening. With a number of additions to the (already lengthy) menu, we can report that new arrivals such as the duck paper rolls and steamed sea bass are fresh and zesty, while old favourites continue to perform. Service is warm and slick but just make sure you book well in advance. Open daily 12.30pm-11.30pm. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai (04 426 7313).
Pai Thai The Jumeirah Group is renowned for its culinary capabilities and hosts some of the best restaurants in the city. While Pai Thai offers a special dining experience, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Things start special, with a touristy abra ride through the twinkly waterways of Madinat Jumeirah to reach the quaintly decorated restaurant, which boasts an inviting outdoor terrace. The experience remains strong when dishes start arriving, with traditional soups and salads offering an authentic, warm and zesty first course. Open daily 6.30pm-11.30pm. Dar Al Masyaf Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 6730).
Smiling BKK As any old school Dubaian will tell you, Smiling BKK is a bona fide piece of the emirate's dining history. But times have changed. Known for kooky framed pictures, ripped magazine pages and Thai tourist T-shirts lining every inch of wall, this is no longer the only independent eatery spouting Western-tinged irony with reckless abandon. The classic red curry and tom yum are both hard to fault and this remains a thoroughly charming spot. Open daily 11am-midnight. Al Wasl Plaza, Al Wasl Road, behind the Emarat petrol station near Safa Park, www.smilingbkk.com (04 349 6677).
Spice Emporium It’s amazing that, more than five years since opening, Spice Emporium still feels quite as relevant as it does. With chic, minimal furnishings, dark wooden tables, and low lounge-style seats, The Westin’s signature spot immediately feels of the minute, despite being a Dubai dining fixture since 2008. The large open kitchen seals the hip credentials, tipping the restaurant over into the kind urban trend territory you’d associate with hottest eating out scenes on the planet. Eschewing earlier French/Asian fusion concepts, today the menu proudly announces seasoned Thai chef Khamphun at the helm, who offers a more traditional take on his homeland’s flavours. The set menus and sharing deals offer the best overview of the restaurant’s signature dishes, and make for good value too. A top Thai option which refuses to tire. Open Sat-Wed 7pm-10.45pm, Thu-Fri 7pm-11.45pm. The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi, Al Sufouh, www.spiceemporiumdubai.com (04 511 7136).Bubbalicious brunch: Dhs450 (with soft drinks), Dhs550 (with sparkling), Dhs680 (with bubbly), Dhs225 (children aged six-12), free (children under six). Fri 1pm-4pm.
Sukhothai Sukhothai is an intimate venue perched in the corner of the sprawling Méridien Village. There is a pleasant outdoor terrace but we’d recommend dining in the cosy interior, where tables are arranged around a pagoda-style feature, and twee models and knick-knacks line the walls. Curries and soups come especially recommended and this a good option for Thai food. Open daily 12.30 pm-2.45pm, 7pm-11.45pm. Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre, Garhoud, www.sukhothaidubai.com (04 286 8949).Bubbly table: Dhs798 per couple (five-course set menu and a bottle of premium bubbly). Business lunch: Dhs99, Dhs129 (with glass of selected grape), 12.30pm-2.45pm.
Thai Bistro In the authenticity stakes, Thai Bistro scores two major (and perhaps even unique for Dubai) ticks. The music policy is Thai pop classics and the distinctive blue and white chinaware is all proudly imported from a Bangkok pottery. Other things this old Dubai spot has going for it include a pleasant al fresco terrace next to the Dubai Marine Beach Club’s pool. The outdoor spot is ace and the food on offer is certainly worth sampling – salads and soups are especially superb. Something of an old favourite to regulars, there’s a pleasant sense of character and a personal touch to the service lacking in so much of the competition. Open daily 6pm-11.45pm. Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Jumeirah 1, www.dxbmarine.com (04 346 1111).
Thai Kitchen The fact the terrace is bustling late on a weeknight tells you everything you need to know about Thai Kitchen. A prime al fresco creekside spot, set back from the city in the lush surroundings of the neighbouring Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club are special. The food, you're informed on arrival, is all about smaller 'family style' tapas-eqsue dishes, with a balanced but not gigantic menu split neatly into clear sections – wok, grilled, steamed, fried, etc – and we'd recommend trying something from each. The whole steamed sea bass, lightly seasoned, soft and juicy, is a particular highlight. For this pristine setting prices are very reasonable. Highly recommended. Open daily 7pm-midnight. Park Hyatt Dubai, Deira, www.dubai.park.hyatt.com (04 317 2222). Brunch: Dhs240 (with soft drinks), Dh299 (with selected beverages), Dh375 (with premium beverages). Fri 12.30pm-4pm.
Thiptara This Thai restaurant has so much going for it – not least, a prime spot on the edge of Souk Al Bahar, with one of the best views of the Dubai Fountain in town. It feels special. Staff offer a warm welcome and the atmosphere is set with dim lighting and dramatic torch fires flickering away in the twilight. While strictly a Thai restaurant, there are daring fusions as well. Traditional dishes such as som tam and curries are spot on. But really it’s the peerless location and intimate vibe one forks out for. Open daily 6pm-11.30pm. The Palace Downtown Dubai, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai, www.theaddress.com (0 4 428 7888).
Tong Thai So great is the elaborate sense of occasion that Tong Thai presents, a first time diner is left almost expecting disappointment. Arriving at the venue, you're warmly welcomed and ushered down a long, ornate corridor. Seemingly endless, one suddenly emerges in the dining space, which is equally beautiful with two towering walls reaching to the sky and dramatic ceiling-high windows offering glistening views of the Business Bay neighbourhood. At this point, the food is under such a weight of scrutiny, that you can’t see anything but an impending slip-up. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen. The food is authentic but inventive; classics like Tom Yum have been perfected but don't bore, salads burst with fresh taste, while both the curries and stir fries pack depth and flavour. Service is faultlessly friendly. Moreover for this standard, prices aren't extortionate, portions are ample and white rice is provided free of charge. Open Tue-Sun 6pm-midnight. JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 414 3000)