Benjarong - Dusit Thani, Abu Dhabi
"Sawadee ka": You are greeted warmly in Thai fashion at the door and shown to your table. Typical Thai traditional music in the background threatens immediately to arrest your thoughts and carry you back to your previous visits to Thailand. For such is the power of those steps to my table that I feel I am in as authentic a Thai restaurant as I could hope to be. I am given the menu, and I vacantly take it. The host goes through the formalities, but my mind is not there. I am taken in by the beauty of the restaurant. However, I am brought back to Abu Dhabi when I am offered a warm damp hand towel to freshen up - I wipe my hands and face and think how therapeutic it is. Lemongrass imbues the air. I put down the towel and peruse the menu.
|Dining solo, meant I did not use this semi private room.|
|I love the attention detail.|
It would be a shame to go the usual route of ordering a starter, soup, main and dessert, so instead I ask the chef to prepare small portions of a few starters, aware though that Chef will be compromising on presentation, but I let aesthetics be, and opt for trying to focus my attention on the tasting of his dishes.
|Chef's innovative presentation because I went with smaller portions.|
|The banana leaf used to good effect.|
|My spicy sour soup|
Bridging my starters and mains, I ordered the tom kha gai soup, a spicy and sour cream coconut soup. While in some dishes, the taste often leans towards one or the other, this dish allowed you to appreciate both hot and sour in equal measure!
Next, my waitress for the day came and took my order for my main. Again, with no note pad. Wow, I thought. A few minutes earlier I watched her with two other customers as she took some complicated instructions from them regarding their dishes with only the skill of active and attentive listening- we could all learn from her! I am afraid I was very uncreative in my choice of main, but I really wanted a curry, one of my staples on previous visits to the land of smiles. My waitress sensed my uncertainty though, and suggested I try small portions of all the curries. Brilliant.
|I named this a Tale of four curries.|
Again, I thought the portions were absolutely spot on - a platter with four curries comprising red, green , panang and massaman curry. Benjarong allows you to 'create your own' curry, and I choose chicken, beef, seafood and vegetables in that order. So, in the end, could I choose a favourite? An unfair question because each curry had something unique and delicious. The coriander stood out in the green curry, the red curry had a boldness about it and a hint of sweetness. The seafood in the panang curry was outstanding while I enjoyed the taste of cardamon in the massaman curry. All in all, my tale of four curries was a lovely one. It was flavorful, and at times it took me to the streets of Bangkok. Memorable.
|Mango and sticky rice|
|Note the banana leaf.|
Thus ended not just a meal. For me it was indeed retracing of footsteps; it was a journey that brought me flashing images : tuk tuks, street food, the colour yellow, the reclining Buddha, the Chao Phraya river, ubiquitous 7-11s, the traffic...that is how real my experience at Benjarong was. It was alittle piece of Thailand right here in Abu Dhabi, at the Dusit Thani!