Sukhothai Thai Cuisine - Le Meridien, Dubai

In the 1200s a city named Sukhothai came into being. It was found in the province of the same name, where it is believed the Thai alphabet as it stands today, originated. However, there is more romantic significance to the name Sukhothai. Loosely translated, it means "Dawn of Happiness". It was Sukhothai, one of an impressive selection of restaurant outlets at Le Meriedien in Dubai, that I dined in a few nights ago. Come with me and taste, through words,  a dawn of happiness.

Statues like this create a Thai atmosphere.
Intimate and warm
Le Meridian Hotel is quite special. Like its counterpart in Abu Dhabi, it is made for walking. We walked through the lobby and thankfully we were shown the long way to the restaurant. I say that because the long way gave me a glimpse into the property and of course its fabled village, a natural garden area that is over 20 years old.

On arriving at Sukhothai, I felt I was entering another time and spatial dimension. To say that the restaurant looks authentic is stating the obvious. But it needs to be said again. The restaurant is small, catering for around 50 guests. There is a romantic element about it, but also a charm that you will not find in more modern Thai interpretations. Wood dominates, bringing that historic feel but also warmth, fitting for such a cosy restaurant. The dim lighting too adds to the atmosphere.

With a menu that is only  a few months old, I am indeed excited. To get the evening started, the in-house wine master in training offers a drink. An ice cold Singha beer would be the obvious choice for me, but he recommends a Riesling which would complement the spicy Thai food very well. Sounded logical to me. He brings me a  Leon Beyer Riesling 2012. It is going to be good evening. No, a great evening.

South East Asian  restaurants are often a challenge for kids who are part of  a fast food culture where red and yellow packaging dominate, so I told my daughter that if she was not in the mood for Thai food, I would ask chef to make her something fun. But I soon noticed her going through the kids menu and promptly ordered. A credit to the restaurant to have a kids' menu that really speaks to kids. While she waited for her 'Bugs Bunny' beef satay (her starter) she was given a kids' colouring book and crayons. Again, nice to see this. I find that high end restaurants tend to overlook kids in this way. Not here.

A light appetizer or amuse bouche if you will, is served. A simple Pomelo salad that immediately tests  the tastebuds - salty, sweet and sour. I enjoy the texture too of the pomelo itself and crunchy peanuts.

Kids' satay
Our starters proper are brought to our table. I notice how the runner works in tandem with the waiter and waitress. It all adds to the theatre of the service. the starters are:  Yam Heau Pee (Thai banana blossom salad), Som Tam Goond Sod (Green papaya salad) and Tom Yam Goong of course. They all taste delicious. The thing about Thai food is the flavours are very strong or extreme if you will. Nothing bland about it. The Thai banana salad is actually my favourite. Fried onion, garlic and chili paste along with the grated coconut bring those extreme tastes I mentioned earlier. However, it is also the texture that I find enticing.

Tik - you will be mesmerized by her performance. 

Our starters are happily intruded upon when we see a Thai performer taking to the small stage close to our table. She starts playing the khim, a  traditional Thai Musical instrument. She smiles broadly, throughout her playing of around 15 minutes. Graceful but intense, emotional but calming. Everyone  in the restaurant is captivated by the intoxicating performance. Wow.

The wonderful hammour

Prawn in red curry
For our main course we try a few dishes to try. My daughter, first of all, has the 'Shrek' chicken fried rice as her main. It is a healthy portion, but she is healthy eater. Loves it, again. The Phanaeng Goong, prawn in red curry with red chili and coriander is rich and creamy, but I find the shrimps not cooked to my liking. The undoubted winner is Pla Sukhothai, a signature dish at the restaurant. It is like a fish with  two stories. Deep fried in its entirety, but with two distinctive tastes. On one end you have the chili sauce and on the other you have a mildly sweet but mainly tangy mango salad with dressing and Thai herbs. It really is perfectly contrasting dish. As we finish the fish,  Tik, the Thai khim player comes back on to capture the heart and mind. This time she dances. She does so effortlessly thanks to her soul and passion.
Crepe Marakot
Sticky rice and mango
Dessert rounds off the evening in a very sweet and traditional way. We have Crêpe Morakot
Crêpe with pandan jam and Khao Niew Mamoung, (the sticky rice and mango). The latter is my standout dessert, as creative and colourful as the crepe is. The coconut milk is absolutely lovely. Also, the Thai mango is not completely ripe, so there is a sweet/sour taste. A great dessert. Simple. Tasty. 

A special reason to try Sukothai
Sukhothai was a dining experience to savour. I find it hard to remove Thai cuisine from the cultural aspect. Sure, you could say that is true of any food, but for me it is quite particular with Thai food and culture. It was, therefore, fitting that there would be the  khim playing and dancing while we had dinner. Lunch, dinner or any meal is not just about food. I have said this before. It is the experience, something Sukhothai offers in abundance. A traditional Thai menu with flavors faithful to their origin, service from the heart, a manager who leads by example and of course Tik. You are bound to have a memorable experience.

The low down

Le Meridien (Garoud)
+971 4 217 0000

Set menus from 239 Dhs net
Starters 29-75 Dhs
Curries 80-185 Dhs
Mains 70-150

                                                                                                                                 Pictures thanks to Nokia Creative Studio on my Nokia 1520
Brandon Stoltenkamp