Smiling BKK

Quirky Thai Al Wasl Road 36 Reviews

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From Time Out Dubai Eating Out 2009

The Dubai eating institution that is Smiling BKK inspired an entire cover story in Time Out Dubai, with the headline, ‘Secret city’. This was because of its clandestine location – set among Jumeirah villas, only indicated by its neon sign boasting a mustachioed Mona Lisa.

To experience it, you need to have heard of it, Chinese (or should that be Thaiwhispers style, from a friend – or now, us. Unlike Dubai’s endless round of five-star fine diners and below-par canteens, the BKK boasts real charm and absurdity. Its interior consists of dangling coloured lights, photos of customers mixed in with magazine shots of celebs – and a very deceptive mirror that makes you think the place is twice as big as it actually is.

The menu, meanwhile, looks like a bored teen has been at it, renaming all the dishes with names such as ‘Billy Jean’s not my lover’ (steamed fish with basil, lemon and chilli), ‘Fook yu’ (noodles in Thai gravy with meat or seafood) and ‘Six inches of glory’ (sticky rice). Quite. Certain nights of the week you’re invited to sing for your supper (or, at least, shake a tambourine if you require assistance), and every night the staff are cheeky and chirpy.

But what sort of dinner should you expect? An extremely reasonably priced, albeit average one. Still, you’re sure to come out smiling.

By Time Out Dubai staff
Time Out Dubai,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: Jumeirah, Dubai
  • Tel: 04 349 6677
  • Travel: Al Wasl Plaza, Al Wasl Road, behind the Emarat petrol station near Safa Park

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User reviews

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  • Users voted this restaurant most suitable for: Family friendly

User reviews:

Posted by: fawaz on 29 Oct ' 13 at 17:18
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

The highlight of my experience with BBK is the horrible service. it definitely didn't leave me smiling. It took more than 2 hours for the food to be delivered. The food is mediocre, the manager and other staff that take the phone orders are rude and should not be working in a restaurant.

if this is what Thai restaurant service is like I will never step food in thailand

beware this hole in the wall. Mediocre food, horrible service

Posted by: Mehdi on 27 Oct ' 13 at 23:11
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Don't waste your time and money in this restaurant.
The service is extremely poor, the food in general lacks quality and authenticity.
I lived in Bangkok for sometime and i can tell you that this restaurant has nothing to do with authentic Thai food.
This is what i ordered:
-Tom Yum (Acceptable)
-Grilled beef salad (Unbelievably bad and full of fat)
-Green Curry (It tasted Mainly coconut, very bad)
-Pad Thai (Poor, the dish looked like leftover)
This is probably the worse Thai i had in Dubai, save your money and go somewhere else.

Posted by: Nurali on 20 Sep ' 13 at 15:37
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

love the concept of ordering. perfect for romantic dinner.
in short a good perfect dinner

Posted by: Narissara on 18 Sep ' 13 at 09:35
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Edited by TimeOutDubai.com

May not offer the best Thai food in town??? Are you kidding? Maybe not for western or other nations. I am Thai and I can say, for Thais, this is the most authentic Thai food we can find in Dubai. We you like Thai street food, go to smiling BKK. If you'd like Thai fusion, Thai adapted food or Thai thats trying to be european or something else, then go somewhere else :)

Posted by: Brenda Marques on 16 Jun ' 13 at 08:52

Edited by TimeOutDubai.com

Smiling Bkk, was an experience, I did like some of the food and the ambiance, The place was small and dimly lit. We ordered and waited for a long time for the food to come. Our experience in relation to the food was good. What really needs work is the service... It was way too slow... We had to wait a long time for the dishes to arrive. The desert menu didn't have very many options on it. When I did ask for Thai deserts. there were just two that they could offer from the 6-8 listed and one of them was fried banana with ice cream... So would I recommend this restaurant...maybe ...and if I did recommend it, I would add that the service wasn't very good and the staff weren't really friendly, they looked non interested....we had to request them to clear the table first in-order to for us to have our desert served. I do wish to check out the other location and hopefully that would be a lot different from this one.

Posted by: Razi on 05 Jan ' 13 at 17:22
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Good food. Family atmosphere !

Posted by: Paris on 29 May ' 12 at 00:32
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Edited by TimeOutDubai.com

I loved this place purely because there aren't that many "hidden finds" in Dubai. They are usually well known about and in big hotels which to me makes them quite generic. This place had lovely food, ambiance and nice decor. I wouldn't recommend going to the bathroom though. Maybe that's just another way to make you feel like your in Thailand. Other than this it was great. Its quite hidden so make sure you know where your going before you go here.

Posted by: Hipster on 23 May ' 12 at 06:48
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Awesome restaurant and great food

Posted by: shima on 09 May ' 12 at 12:35
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Loved it, it was my first experience with thai and i enjoyed it...yummm, must go.

Posted by: Khalil Eisa on 20 Mar ' 12 at 17:10
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Just had to write this in as I was very disappointed with this resto. Lived nearby, and always wondered why its always packed, esp with Western expats. Thought all along that the food might be of excellent quality, so came in there last Monday just to discover that I am grossly mistaken!
Service was far from smiling and staff were more interested in trading stories among themselves rather than looking after customers. Food quality was non existent - mango salad was mediocre, tom yum soup was very watery with shrimps, instead of prawns on it. Pad Thai was a pathetic little plate of nondescript noodles, sizzling chicken was totally tasteless! All this for Dhs 185?? I should have spent my money on a taxi fare to Thai Rock in Al Quoz and ordered the same things for a measly Dhs 105 at a far superior quality !!! Best to avoid!

Posted by: Preeti on 01 Mar ' 12 at 14:11
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

I just ordered Tom yum soup and chicken satay. It was probably the worst thai food i have ever had.They also forgot to give me my drinks. It was really dissapointing and suprising cause i have eating smiling bkk food before and it was good. The standards have fallen down completely and i do not intend to go back to this restaurant.

Posted by: Que on 05 Nov ' 11 at 05:00
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

good food,

Posted by: Kanchan on 20 Sep ' 11 at 17:48
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

After Lemongrass this is by far the best Thai food i have ever had in Dubai. Have been to lot of fancy 5 star Thai restaurants but this one is just awesome! The location is a little difficult to find, but that hardly matters after you have found it. At first I found their curry lacking something, but then after frequent visits you realize that they cater to the British crowd thus put less coconut milk/cream. That is it.. that made my day. From now on I make it a point that I order the curry at least once in 2 weeks.
About the other dishes they are quite good too. The names of the dishes are funny, the decor is cozy and romantic, the staff is friendly and the food is simply amazing.
But be careful of one things esp for Indians, when you tell them to make your food "Extra Spicy" they make it so spicy that you end up having more water than the food. So to be on the safer side it is better to keep the food medium spicy if you are fond of spicy food!

Posted by: kulatog on 25 Aug ' 11 at 07:46
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

EVERYTHING IS GOOD

from food,service,value for money and location.....

Posted by: Ibrahim on 20 Aug ' 11 at 14:20
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Posted by: Chris on 16 Aug ' 11 at 11:34

I love Thai food having lived in Bangkok for three years and eating street food pretty much exclusively. Since moving back to Dubai I must have eaten in over 15 Thai restaurants searching for the authentic taste but so far I've always been disappointed.

Image my joy when I opened the menu and saw dishes that Thai people eat every evening on street side stalls all over Bangkok. The egg and mussel and bean sprout dish, that the Time Out reviewer mentions, is called Hoy Tod and I've never seen it on any Thai menu outside of Thailand......ever. However, I have to be honest, the food was a disappointment. I so wanted it to be good that I was actually willing the food to be tasty. Sadly thought power alone was not enough. The Thai lady who served us, after spotting my glum countenance, admitted that some ingedients where hard to get hold of in Dubai. Anyway, my dinning companions really enjoyed the experience and told me I was just being pompous and over critical, so I'm going to go back with a couple of Thai friends for a second opinion.

I'm going to rate it highly because my sister and brother-in-law told me to, but if you've spent anytime in Thailand you'll be disappointed. What I want to know is where do Thai people in Dubai go to eat?

Posted by: natalie on 14 Aug ' 11 at 16:13
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the food was beautiful, the restaurant is quirky, the menu was dirty, the whole place needs a good scrub and for the standard of the restaurant and the location - the food should be cheaper. The service is not great BUT because the food is nice, I might go back, its only somewhere to go to grab a quick dinner after work, or a catchup with a good friend, would be a disappointment date place...

Posted by: HotButterCuttle on 15 Jul ' 11 at 15:57
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

I am a avid fan of Thai food, and have had Thai cuisine in different parts of the world. I'm sad to say that Smiling BKK (SBKK) didn't live up to my standards.
As the description goes, yes, it is an interesting place, starting from location to the ambiance to the menu item names. But the food should live up to the other fancy additions too.
We had an appetizer (which was good), Tom Kha Gha, Red Curry Chicken, and steam rice and Thai ice tea. All the menu items which said "coconut curry" did not have enough on them. Starting from the Tom Kha to the Ice tea the lack of coconut milk and its creaminess ruined the "Thai-ness" of the meal! I will try this place once more.. but a heads up - This place is not cheap! These menu items I mentioned came to DHS175!!!! So yea.... risk it at a price....

Posted by: Chris on 30 Jun ' 11 at 08:42
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

We LOVED it! It is so different from what one normally gets in Dubai. You could be anywhere in Bangkok or Phuket... tiny restaurant, not pretentious, original decor (surely not done by any famous designer... quite refreshing actually). The service was good, fast, the food was lovely (only better in Thailand) and the prices were OK. The menu is very extensive too. For me it is a gem in this city!

Posted by: the dude on 12 Jun ' 11 at 07:47
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

quality has seriously deteriorated over the last year, ordered the chicken with cashews, chicken was stale and limp, didnt even bother bringing it up with the waiter, as noticed him arguing with the table next to mine about a screw up in their order, stay well away

Posted by: Elchico Malo on 03 Apr ' 11 at 08:24
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

reading through previous reviews i have come to a conclusion... you can't please everybody. it's a thai resto and how come some people know too much about Thai food when their names dont even sound asian? well one thing's for sure, i am utterly pleased. This is not the place where on comes all suited-up in dinner jackets, but its an alternative to overhyped, overpriced, overrated restos. The place is a treasure throve (i.e. literally coz its not so easy to find), the ambience was simple yet romantic, the food was Thai, the service was good, and the steamed rice came in heart shaped =) Eating is an adventure, expect the unexpected!

Posted by: Wendy on 06 Jan ' 11 at 11:22
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

I love Smiling BKK! It is just as you say 'quirky'. The decor is so 'busy' that you find something new every time you go. I love the 'paper doll' picutre, very original!
As for the food, just 'delish!!' Thai food is def one of my favourite and have to say that I havent found another Thai rest. better.
The food is very tasty and the names of the dishes are quite amusing!
The prices have gone up over the past few years, but then again if they keep them low the customers will keep coming back!

Posted by: Michelle on 23 Dec ' 10 at 15:34
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Love the place, cozy and nice.. good value for money.. amazing servce.. can't wait to go back :-) keep up the good work.!!!!!

Posted by: ravie on 10 Aug ' 10 at 13:54
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

every once in a longish while you have one of those eating-out experiences which are good/ great from the moment you feel hungry....everything seems to go right and everything that you encounter in your journey to, through and beyond your journey for that meal turns out just right....
my first visit to SMILING BKK was just that and a tad bit more.
a colleague suggested it and also drove us there...hot didnt easily qualify what the weather was that afternoon...killing!!! 1. found parking easily....2. found nice large table waiting for us...3. smiled silly at the menu....attended very well by staff...4. crackers were fresh and so was the interesting chilli paste dip/ chutney....5. perrier was pleasantly chilled...loved the size of glasses...made each drink of water seem strangely satisfying in quantity...(regular ikea small glasses!!)...the food arrived looking appetising....the sticky rice i asked for could have done with a larger portion but i was too happy with all the smells and sights to bother or complain...we had penang and steamed rice in addition to the chicken in green curry that i wolfed down....the check at the end of the meal was as expected....and affordable...the take-away menu is a collctible in this part of the world!! its a bit cheeky and shd be fun to hold on to.
I got back to office and wowed to talk this place up to anyone who'd listen....hence this quick post giving the SMILING BKK a royal thumbs up.....definitely go there. its a rare find and im sure there arent too many places like this one.

Posted by: Yogesh on 01 Aug ' 10 at 12:18
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Dont get conned by the reviews and fancy names. The fancy names can be a good marketing gimmick to attract new customers, but the food is nothing worth talking about.

Some of our dishes were either burnt or stale ingredients were used. Infact we returned 1 dish completely as the chicken was so badly fried that it had become competely black. The waiter told us that he will have it replaced "immedately", which we got when we had paid the tab!

Its another fly by night restaurant

Posted by: Naila on 20 Jul ' 10 at 10:16
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  • Best for: Brunch served
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Love it...and its so nice to go to a place in Dubai that has character, good food and at reasonable prices.

Posted by: MG on 09 Jun ' 10 at 09:31
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

We had never visited Smiling BKK before and after reading the User Reviews on this web-site (ranging from very good to very bad) we were left wondering whether it would be best to stay away. However, we decided to give it a try for the first time last night and were not disappointed.
Yes, it is not so easy to find, tucked away in a residential area behind the Emarat petrol station. Yes, it is dark inside and they use magazine pages for table mats (is that a bad thing?).
But...
the decor is quirky (one of the walls is decorated with Thai T-shirts, which are for sale at 30 Dirhams each!), the atmosphere is unique and the staff are friendly. As for the food, it is authentic Thai food, cooked by Thai chefs – it tasted good to us, without being amazing. If you’re looking for fine dining, do not visit this restaurant – it will be too rough around the edges for you. But if you are looking for good Thai food and a restaurant which is different to the others, I recommend that you give it a try. There is certainly nowhere else like it in Dubai!

Posted by: gloria swan on 24 Apr ' 10 at 11:31
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

I would like to say that I took my young family there and we had a great time. The staff were fantastic and friendly and the kids tried all things recommended. The decoration was funny and so was the menu. I love the fact that they are helping with recycling by using magazine pages as placemats and found out they even recycle bottles and cans. I like that it is not like every other restaurant in Dubai and will definately be a regular patron. Keep up the good work Smiling BKK team!

Posted by: Snacker on 03 Mar ' 10 at 08:14
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

I went to Smiling BKK when is first opened, and was raving about it to anyone who would listen! Unfortunately, each sussessive visit has left me more and more disappointed, and I would never recommend this place to anyone. The food quality is below par, and tasteless (I can cook better Thai food at home!). The service is pretty rubbish, and the food portions are just perfect for my 2 year old! Lets face it, with so many restaurants in offer in Dubai, I'd rather pick a franchise with good food over quirky but tasteless!

Posted by: gb on 10 Jan ' 10 at 08:27
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Very cool place; was happy to find another non-franchised Thai restaurant in Dubai. Unfortunately, the food quality is below . You can get much better and cheaper (!) non-franchised Thai food in the nearby Safestway shopping mall.

Posted by: Nadia Dweik on 06 Jan ' 10 at 19:32
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  • Best for: Romantic
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Lovely place little place with a lot of character. Ideal if you are in the mood to get away from the fancy but usual hotel style type of restaurants.

Posted by: Jinna on 01 Oct ' 09 at 12:27
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

I've been to this place recently and it was absolutely disappointed. First, I called them up to find out the location with street number and staff could not even answer it. So I had to go back to Post office to follow their instruction. Second, they were having problem with power (disconnected) and restaurant was very dark. Third, the staff did not look they care about the customers. They were right next to our table but I had to raise my voice to get their attention. Fourth, They used any page of fashion magazine as a place mate which was shocking. I did not even feel like to leave my cutlery there.The most importantly, food was not impressive at all, curry was watery and meat they used (especially beef) was bad quality.

Posted by: nsl on 16 Jul ' 09 at 13:41
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

This is one of the most unusual and interesting places in Dubai. Food was very nice and the atmosphere was quirky and friendly a very nice change from all the super posh, pretentious places in the fancy hotels.

Give it a try - you'll be pleasantly amused if you go with a sense of humor and a healthy appetite!

Posted by: rachel on 14 Jul ' 09 at 18:29
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

I WENT THERE WITH MY FAMILY AND TOTALLY ENJOYED IT. THE FOOD WAS DELICIOUS AND ALL THE STAFF REALLY FRIENDLY. THE ONLY THING I DIDN'T LIKE WAS THE OUTSIDE TOILET. I HAD GREEN COCONUT CURRY AND PRAWN CAKES AND THEY WERE YUM! THE PRICES ARE FINE AND AFTER TALKING WITH THE OWNER MYSELF I CAN CERTAINLY SAY THEY ARE LOVELY PEOPLE WHO ENJOY THE PLACE AND DON'T PUT ON ANY AIRS OR GRACES. FOR WHAT IT IS, THE PLACE IS GREAT. IF YOU WANT UPMARKET THEN THERE IS AN ENDLESS CHOICE. GO JUST FOR THE FUN OF IT.

Posted by: Shweta on 05 Jun ' 09 at 14:47
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  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

A mustachioed Mona Lisa welcomes you to this quirky, unusual restaurant. Inside, there's more craziness - mismatched multicolored lights, dishes with names like 'Fook Mi' and a little rattle to get the waiter's attention. Everything sounds really good but somehow we felt the quality was lacking. Our mains arrived before our appetizers, the hot plate was kinda lukewarm and overall the food was below par. The only dish we enjoyed was the flat rice noodles with shrimp. Well worth a visit just for the 'off the radar' atmosphere, but the food may not make you want to return.

Posted by: Dara on 27 Apr ' 09 at 07:43
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  • Best for: Family friendly
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

Having visited this place when it first opened I found it contained all the ingredients for the restaurant with the best of everything. It had the decor, the difference, the price and the meals were fantastic. Recently I've been back after some time and to say I'm disappointed would be an understatement. The sauces were watery and tasteless, the meat of poor quality, the service was terrible (even though there was nobody there except us) and the prices had gone up considerably. It still holds a certain charm but it's completely spoilt by the fact that the proprietors are obviously more interested in making money by cutting corners rather than keeping clientelle.

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