Thai cuisine at Silk&Spice - Sofitel Hotel, Abu Dhabi

I am surprised as I walk in to Silk&Spice, the Thai offering at the Sofitel Abu Dhabi  Corniche . White floors and open space. The floors are refreshing change from the usual wooden floors that one finds in traditional Thai restaurants. Tables are nicely spaced out and I feel if they wanted to, they could easily get the seating way passed the 70 or so it is designed for now. As I look around, inhaling the lemongrass scent in the air, my eye catches the very stylish 4 seat bar. But I come back to the spaciousness. A glass wine rack continues to convey that sense of openness. Finally, I see a stunning semi-private dining area, with a sunken table. Quite lovely. Where I am seated, I find soothing peace immediately as I hear the water fountain gently flowing, creating an almost spa-like moment for me. I am offered  a glass of lemongrass mildly chilled ice tea and a cool, refreshing towel. A good start.

The entrance to Silk&Spice
Loved the bar
The sumptuous semi-private dining room
Call me dull, but when I try a new Thai restaurant, I never steer far away from the predictable dishes. In that vein, for my starters I order Yam Talay (Thai spicy seafood salad), Lab ped yang (Thai spicy grilled duck salad) and of course, Som tam goong yang(Green papaya salad with prawn). While wiring, I order a glass of Laurent Perrier Brut NV. a fresh, lemony and stylish Champagne.

The dishes are served, but sadly are not introduced. The waiter has missed an important aspect of service - the introduction of the dishes educates the guest but also serves as a way to engage the guest in a natural manner. Nonetheless, I try the yam talay and find chunky pieces of lemongrass - I love lemongrass, so I enjoy both the aroma and crunch. The calamari, in particular, grips me because it has the right degree of chewiness. The som tam is what you would expect of a high end Thai restaurant, but do I like the grilled prawns. Different. Nice.  Finally, my favourite starter for the night, the lap ped yang, is perfect. The beef is well cooked, so I am not left with cold, chewy beef. All the sour and spicy elements I am looking are there. But it is the generous onion and mint that wows. Yum.

Yam talay
Som tam
Lam ped yang
For my main course, again, my guest and I try a  trio of curries - classic Thai curries: Gang keow wan gai (Chicken green currry), Nua Massaman (Massaman curry) and Gaeng phed ped yang (red beef curry). The portions are hearty, and can easily satisfy two people. We also order Goong phad nam makam (Stir fried prawns in tamarind sauce). The three curries are as expected, except  for a hint of sweetness that I find in both the green curry and then the red curry. The gaeng phed ped yang, in particular, is a lot sweeter than I anticipate. There is pineapple in the dish that brings that sweetness. Basil in abundance, balances it out quite nicely. But it is the green curry that for me is just classic - rich and creamy and very aromatic. Lemongrass. Mmmm. As for the Goong phad nam makam, the dish is made by that tamarind sauce. Delicious.

Green curry in the foreground

After my main courses I already reflect on an area that needs working on - service. At one point my server had disappeared for 17 minutes, leaving basics like the topping of water and wine wanting as there was no one else looking after our area. I also notice a couple at the entrance waiting to be seated. They eventually seat themselves.

It is the final dish of the day, the Khao niew ma maung (Mango with sticky rice and ice cream) that turns out to be my favourite dish of the night. Having had this on numerous occasions at other restaurants, I have grown accustomed to having a couple slices of mango and sticky rice on a plate, often held together by coconut milk being poured to connect the two parts of the dessert or nothing. Tonight though, it is a dessert with the elements already together. It feels like a pudding. Mild heat keeps the sticky rice and mango warm, while the ice cream on top provides an obvious contrast. Defintely one of my favourite desserts in the city.

Silk&Spice is a restaurant that can be so much more. It is pretty much a traditional interpretation on classic Thai dishes, despite the contemporary design. The prices are very reasonable and the portions are spot on. It is an absolutely gorgeous restaurant with a small bar that I would visit just to experience the Thai ambience. However, a focus on getting staff to adopt some basics in service will go a long way to making Silk&Spice more than just a good Thai restaurant. It has all the makings of being excellent.

The low down

The Sofitel Corniche,
Abu Dhabi.
971 2 8137777

Starters 38-65  Dhs
Mains 45-118 Dhs
Desserts 25032 Dhs

Brandon Stoltenkamp