Take it to the Thai
The Royal Budha in Al Barsha serves hallmark food from the country that is so much more than green curry and steamed rice
When it comes to food, I’m not ashamed to admit: I like playing it safe. Perfectly content to go the tried and tested route, be as unadventurous as possible and ignore boos of “spoilsport” and “what a bore” from my more intrepid friends. It was therefore no surprise that a friend’s raving recommendation found me pulling up in front of the lavish Holiday Inn Dubai - Al Barsha paid parking lot, excited about the gastronomic trip that awaited us at the hotel’s award-winning Thai restaurant, The Royal Budha (yes, single ‘d’).
It took a while for our eyes to adjust to the dim lighting — a little strange, considering there were lights everywhere: red ceiling lanterns, candles on every table and what appeared to be spotlights from the ceiling. The vision adjusted eventually to reveal tasteful décor with red cushioned seating, straight-backed chairs, mesh-style dividers (for those who like their privacy) and, of course, a giant Buddha taking pride of place along the length of the hall.
More than anything else though, it was the 30-cm long (I kid you not!) cutlery that caught our eye. The long-stemmed forks and spoons serve a two-fold purpose, our server informed us, with a twinkle in his eye: originality is one, of course — you won’t find these anywhere else in Dubai, he assured — but more importantly, it makes swiping food off your partner’s plate a far more ‘enabled’ process!
We began with a portion of Sum Tum Goong Sod (Thai green papaya salad with prawns and peanuts) for my companion, the traditional Tom Yang Goong (spicy prawn soup with chilli, lemongrass, gal-angal and lemon juice) for me and a plate of Lab Gai Tod (deep-fried minced chicken salad) to share, upon the server’s insistence. My partner usually has trouble with prawns, if they’re not done very well. Suffice it to say, the salad got his stamp of approval. The soup is great for lovers of spice while the minced chicken had us contemplating each bite for a while. It was an interesting preparation, no doubt — only that the taste of chicken kept getting lost in the additional sauces used to prepare the dish.
Service was speedy and we didn’t have to wait long before mains were served. My partner picked up the chopsticks with a flourish, snapped them at me and proceeded to demolish his share of the utterly delicious Nuao Ped Bai Kra Prow (wok-fried beef with basil, chili, black soya and oyster sauce) — his handling of the instruments earning him an approving smile from a passing server and a less-than-sporting “show-off” from me. The tender beef cuts certainly stole the thunder from the more traditional Ching Mai Nam Prik Ong (northern-style fried chicken with chilli sauce, cherry tomato and fresh vegetables) — something I can personally attest to, thanks to my new handy long-stemmed friends!
What’s a Thai meal without sweet sticky rice steamed in coconut milk served with Thai mango? We popped the mango slices into our mouths, expe-cting very little and going round-eyed with surprise. The start of the year is hardly the time to expect cuts as sweet as these. We had no idea where they sourced their mangoes from — but we weren’t complaining! The boiled banana drizzled over with honey turned out to be the Thai answer to that Keralite teatime favourite ethakkappam, with the honey working out to be the perfect sweet finish to our meal.
For someone whose idea of Thai has consistently involved green chicken curry and steamed white rice (and ended there), this outing was a bit of an adventure — and one resident Thai lovers are sure to relish again and again. firstname.lastname@example.org
What we liked: That the desserts took the cake
What we didn’t like: The chicken didn’t seem to taste like chicken
Cost for two: Dh250
Contact: The Royal Budha, Holiday Inn Dubai – Al Barsha, Tel: 04-3234333