Having visited Thailand earlier as a kid, then as a teenager the land is very special to me. I have fond of memories of my family summer holidays in Thailand and some memoirs of the food too. Nestled at the lobby area of Dusit Thani Hotel in Abu Dhabi, Benjarong is the hotel’s signature Thai restaurant.
My mother and I arrived just in time for dinner. It must have been coincidental but from as far as we could see the restaurant’s hostesses were waiting patiently for guests to arrive while flaunting their smiles. All I thought in my mind was such kind and warm gesture is truly Thai and reassuring for guests like me. At times a truly warm welcome is what wins your heart. We were greeted by the wonderful Eunice upon arrival, she was robed in Thai traditional attire and we loved seeing her in that outfit.
The name ‘Benjarong’ literally means five colours. I’ve heard the earliest civilization to use ‘Benjarong’ was the Ming Dynasty in China. But over the years ‘Benjarong’ gained popularity due to its rare painted porcelain designs. But here in the heart of Abu Dhabi, Benjarong was decked in several vibrant colours. I totally loved what I saw upon entering the restaurant. The wooden panel walls at the restaurant are truly regal, soft lighting, and contemporary décor was complimented by a touch of Thai charm. The restaurant was divided into little areas which could hosts private dinners for families, friends and had a dedicated chic Oriental bar.
Now it was time to get down to real business. As true Thai food lovers my mother and I decided on our starters right away. So we both agreed on the ever-famous ‘Tom Yum Kung (King Prawn) soup’ along with the Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad), Mixed Appetizer Platter and Gai Nua (Chicken Satay) all well for sharing. Typically, an oriental meal needs to be shared but at Abu Dhabi’s finest Thai restaurant we were overwhelmed with their generous portions. Our Tom Yum Kung soup was served in little pot accompanied by candle lit beneath to ensure the soup remains warm. The rest of the starters were bountiful, Mom and I kept juggling between our yum fish cakes, to the papaya salad to the skewers. We must admit they were divine. I ended up being a die-hard fan of the soup, whereas my mother loved the fish cakes.
A proper Thai meal should consist of a soup, a curry dish and some condiments. We knew where we were heading; our server was kind enough to wait for us to give her the go to signal. She came up with a list of recommendations for our main course. But since I am slow eater, I left my tummy cool off from all the bustling spices that we’d consumed. And we took some time off to sip on some Thai cocktails in the meantime.
My mother opted for the authentic Phad Thai Kung Gai (Wok Fried Rice Noodles with Chicken and Prawns) for her mains, and I choose to go with my all-time favourite Gaeng Panaeng Gai (Green Chicken curry). While waiting for our food, I got up to walk around the restaurant and noticed the true splendour of the venue. Within minutes our mains arrived from the restaurants open kitchen. Our Phad Thai Noodles’ arrived in an aromatic style with crispy chicken and cashew nuts garnished on the top. After which came the Green Chicken Curry that was accompanied by freshly cooked Jasmine rice. Everything looked far more appetizing than we’d imagine. But the truth is the food tasted eternal. We’re glad Benjarong’s resident Chef Yong Yos designed this sumptuous menu for us.
For desserts, we were offered the best of Thailand in small portions. Our server insisted we try the ‘Mango Sticky Rice’, which we gave unto, followed by Tam Tim Grob (Water Chestnuts) and my favourite homemade coconut ice cream. Ie-Tim Kati (Homemade Coconut Ice-Cream) is one of the unique preparations from the kitchen at Benjarong. Don’t believe me? That’s fine. You have to sample it to believe me. That coconut ice-cream was ethereal, never tasted something as fresh and simple before. It’s something that you would love instantly. My mother loved the Thai mangoes with sticky rice too and says they had this delicious gooey flavour. However we both loved the water chestnuts in cold coconut milk. But I know I’m going back here soon for the Ie Tim Kati.
Summing up on my experience is challenging. A visit to Benjarong is like reading a book, where tales of Thailand unfold with every bite. We’re absolutely visiting this soon to be awarded Thai restaurant next time we’re in Abu Dhabi.
I’d love to hear what’s your favourite Thai meal. Do let me know if there’s something interesting I should try next time.
Disclaimer: My mother and I were invited to sample food at the restaurant. Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi did not advise us about anything. Pictures were shot on my iPhone 6 and Fujifilm AX-1. Do credit the writer/ photographer should you want to share the images