Considering my spouse’s love for Thai food, all I could ask myself is how have we never been here before? Benjarong is Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi’s signature Thai restaurant, hidden deep in the centrally located hotel. After dodging through the weeknight traffic, we are more than happy to experience the peace and calm. The dark wood and cool green accents create a feeling of relaxed elegance. There are no tablecloths and the staff are full of smiles, while both families and couples fill the restaurant. The chairs are large and plush, and the seats are each fitted with an extra pillow.
The meal starts with a soothing warm towel, to clean your hands, and a delicious shot of sweet lemongrass tea, leaving you to wonder if the meal ahead could possibly beat this incredible beginning. The menu is varied enough to exhibit all of the Thai staples without feeling extensive, partially because it is organized and easily readable on one large thick card. We start with the mixed starter platter, which features tastes of a variety of appetizers. The chicken satay is juicy and piping hot. The fresh rice paper rolls are incredibly bright, thanks to the crunchy fresh herbs and even the fried spring rolls are light and crispy, rather than the far too often tasteless and oily variety. The small array of potent dipping sauces allows for a different flavor with every bite…spicy, sweet, nutty, salty…
The main dishes are all enticing and it is hard to decide on a select few. The pan fried salmon is innovatively thinly sliced to create flat, buttery pieces with crispy edges. It is drizzled with a light red curry sauce and the whole dish is easy to finish yet entirely satisfying. The tofu in chili paste offers large chunks of tofu tossed in a flavorful spicy sauce and littered with crunchy baby corn and fresh raw peppers. You will need a strong tolerance for heat, but even the discerning meat eater will enjoy this dish. And, as a seafood lover, two of my favorite dishes were the king prawn plate and the prawn fried rice. The king prawns were large and tender (actual real king prawns). They come lightly battered and flash fried, served with three dipping sauces. The fried rice was a generous mound with a multitude of fleshy pink whole prawns mixed in. The best part however, is the deep fried egg that is served on top. As you cut into the crispy egg white, the thick creamy yolk runs slowly into and over the rice. It is Thai soul food and a meal that you could eat every day.
Over these past few years in Abu Dhabi and all of the Thai food I have eaten, I had yet to experience the treasure that is to be found at Benjarong, Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi. But that is exactly one reason it is so attractive. Benjarong is the epitome of Thai humility, by simply and quietly waiting for you to discover it.
Benjarong, 02 698 8137
Words by Daniela Croda
Food writer and baker, always thinking about great food. Searching for the best restaurants so you don’t have to.