Shang Thai serves up an excellent dose of tried-and-tested favourites, while its all-woman staff clearly stand on ceremony
By sheer dint of merit and convenience, Thai cuisine is endemic on the worldwide platter. In Dubai — like in most other big cities — it has almost attained the status of a quick grab, like fast food: check out all food courts in malls, and you’re bound to have smiling counter girls promising you foodie nirvana with lashings of Khiao Wan Gai (aka, Thai green curry) or Gaeng Phed Gai (aka, Thai red curry, this time with some gaeng, aka chicken) — accompanied by sticky rice (not so sticky in most quick-fix places since it’s the steamed version trying to pass off as sticky).
To be fair, Thai food is not a slow-cooked production. Most of the stuff is stir-fried, a lot of sauces/seasonings are used to impart the flavour (unlike, say, Indian food where the thumb-rule is the masala doesn’t add, it integrates as the overwhelming mainstay). The resultant concoction is generally light on the stomach despite the infusion of the “very spicy” factor while being a well-rounded, complete meal.
No wonder the cuisine (read: its popular signature dishes) is so ubiquitous. That’s precisely the reason why the launch of yet another Thai restaurant,
Shang Thai, was greeted with “so what’s new?” And, again, that was precisely what we needed to check out: what is new?
As it turned out, dining at Shang Thai was pretty memorable. First, the location: bang on Sheikh Zayed Road, where parking is not a nightmare (however paradoxical that may sound). There’s an unfettered view of the free-moving traffic from where you sit, and a lot of sunlight will stream in (if you are there during the day, that is). The unpretentious décor is summery and fresh, with a clear emphasis on lime green; and the seating arrangement is informal yet distinctive.
If you happen to be someone who believes in woman power, then be prepared to get pleasantly surprised: Shang Thai is manned by an all-woman battalion, and led from the front by their formidable — and extremely well-travelled — lady chef.
To get to the meat of the matter, we dive right into the eating business. For starters, we are served an exquisite medley: vegetable spring roll (I’m not a big fan of spring rolls, but I would highly recommend the ones at Shang Thai), sesame prawns on toast, chicken satay and fish cake. All this to the accompaniment
of a refreshing green papaya salad with roasted peanuts, followed by the invigorating Tom Yum Goong — spicy hot and sour soup with prawns, flavoured with lemon grass and kaffir
For mains, there is steamed hammour with Thai chilli and lemon, stir-fried chicken with hot basil, vegetable green curry, tofu with light red curry, wok-fried rice noodles with prawns and roasted peanuts and, of course, jasmine rice (the sticky rice — and this time, make no mistake).
The dessert (which I hear you may need to pre-order) is a marvellous and delicate coconut and chestnut pudding (somewhat unimaginatively called Ta-ko), set in pandan leaves, that will definitely give you withdrawal symptoms once you’re through with it.
My dining companions and I pronounced the verdict: an excellent meal by all standards. So, what about the flip side? Well, probably the fact that it’s rare to come by a Thai restaurant serving evolved cuisine; most places dish up time-tested favourites with little thought to innovation — and Shang Thai is no exception.
Having said that, let me back it with an admission straightaway: I’m going back there for sure… and yes, helps greatly that it is strategically placed vis-à-vis The Workplace.
In seven words:
Fresh, fiesty food; laidback, sun-dappled eating area
What we liked:
The authentic flavours
What we didn’t like:
Ta-ko portion was too small
Restaurant best for: Catching up with friends
Cost for two: Dh250-300
Did you know: Shang Thai is probably the first restaurant in the GCC with a 100 per cent female staff
Contact: Shang Thai, Matloob Building, Al Safa 1 (after 2nd Interchange), Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, 04-3805408