A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Zomato that made me drop everything and start doing my infamous Funky Chicken Dance for 5 minutes straight, (that’s how long it took me to exhaust myself thanks to my impressive physical fitness). The email invited me for my very first Zomato foodie meetup, and I think it’s safe to say that it was one of the best evenings I’ve had since moving to Dubai 🙂 Thai food is my absolute favorite cuisine and I couldn’t have been more excited!
As soon as I walked into this welcome addition at JBR, I could tell that this place is truly Thai (as if I had any doubts) and it promises not to disappoint. The ambiance was Oriental but in a very chic way that wasn’t trying too hard.
We were greeted by extremely friendly staff that showed us to our table and continued to entertain my every whim and desire (food related, of course), throughout the evening. Big shout out to the Manager 🙂
The fellow foodies were an absolute delight to get acquainted with, but I was there on a mission: to eat my heart out!
The evening started with a brief master class. Placed before us were large mortars and pestles, and an assortment of ingredients, including julienned green papaya! I wanted to click my heels with joy when I saw what they’re going to teach us how to make: Som Tam salad! My oh my! Ever since I saw Marion making this in her show on Food Network, I’ve been dying to try it, and now I know how to make it!! And let me assure you, it was DELICIOUS! The crunch of the papaya, tanginess of the lemon, nuttiness of peanuts, pungency of garlic and explosion of chili was one of the most brilliant (yet easy) combinations of flavors I have ever scooped into my mouth!
I ordered a Vanduke to calm my throat which was on fire (I was daring enough to put not one, but TWO Thai green chilies in my salad). This drink comprised of coconut cream, kalamansi puree, lychee juice and orange juice. I gave this drink several chances throughout my meal, and even tried it on a neutral palate- and it is safe to say it was just way too sweet for comfort.
I hoped to Dear God that the drink wasn’t an indication to what the rest of our meal would be like, but thankfully the appetizers washed away all my worries, and then some.
Ladies and Gentlemen! People of the world! If you like Calamari, if you think you’ve EVER had good Calamari, or even if you HATE Calamari- you need to try the Thai Calamari over here. OH. MY. GOD. Fireworks in my mouth! Figuratively, of course, not the kind you experienced when you ate Poprocks as a kid. I had to call the manager and ask him what they do to make it this awesome. He proudly boasted they sell (globally) an entire TON of this calamari every MONTH. Frankly, honey, I’m not surprised. I’d eat an entire ton of this all day errday all by myself if I could. Once deep-fried and then stir-fried, this Calamari is uniquely seasoned with oyster sauce, sugar, ginger and coriander.
Next up we tried some:
-Veggie spring rolls. Nice crunch and flavors and not excessively oily like most spring rolls.
-Goong Tahd Prawn Fried to perfection but what will make me order it again was it’s chili, ginger and lime dipping sauce.
-Chicken Satay. Very nicely done.
-Prawn pomelo salad: This confused my tastebuds a bit and I didn’t really like it.
– Beef Sirloin Salad. I’m extremely picky when it comes to beef. This salad was perfection. The beef was tender and juicy and made my mouth extremely happy.
Round 1: Busaba nailed it! I can’t ask for better appetizers than this!
My drink was still making me very unhappy. So i decided to try the l emongrass and ginger iced tea (two of my favorite ingredients in a drink? Why the heck not?!)
In the meantime i decided to try my fellow foodie’s (abandoned) drink, that she offered to me. It was the grapefruit mojito and without exaggeration it was one of the most disgusting drinks i have ever tried. It had grapefruit, lime, chili and vanilla. Not only does that combination make no sense to me, but it was also excessively bitter and the vanilla was WAY too overpowering. I couldn’t taste any lime or chili.
Before I could dwell too much on yet another disappointing drink, the entrees arrived. I was back in my happy place.
-Cod fillet: Strips of fried cod that were lemony, and aromatic and just really, really delicious.
– Butternut pumpkin curry: Extremely flavorful yellow curry. (They have 3 main curry bases: red, yellow and green). It was very different from the usual Thai curries that are dominated by coconut mainly by coconut milk and you can literally pinpoint the 4 ingredients that go into it. It was definitely a complex curry, but I’m not sure it’s what I would want to order at a Thai restaurant. So I’m a little confused about this one, but needless to say, it was delicious nonetheless.
– Asparagus fried rice: This was a first for me but it certainly won’t be the last. LOVED it.
– Chili Prawn: Very, very average, nothing “chili” about it. And no other wow factor either.
-Chinese Brocolli: Tragically lacking flavors. This dish has so much potential but sadly it left so much to be desired.
– Mussaman Duck Curry: I don’t eat duck. I don’t like duck. I never have. Up until today. Let’s change the “don’t” to “didn’t”. Thank you Buaba Eatthai, for turning me. I had no idea Duck could taste this good. This is the first time I had duck that doesn’t have that highly unpleasant gamey flavor/smell. Slow braised in an extremely fragrant curry that has at least 10 different spices in it, this dish is what you call legendary.
– Pad Thai: Oh, Pad Thai. Here’s the thing: i LOVE Pad Thai. Pad Thai is what i make for weeknight dinners. I know Pad Thai. The Pad Thai at Busaba Eatthai was very average. There was nothing “wrong” with it, but there was nothing that stood out about it either. I’m used to having Pad Thai with chili flakes. When i inquired about the missing chili flakes, I was told that they have an alternate, spicier version called the Sen Chan Pad Thai.
Sen Chan Pad Thai: The only differences between this and regular Pad Thai are that this comes with some julienned green mango and a garnish of crab meat. Still no chili flakes. Still no spicy. A little disappointing.
My main criticism on the entrees would be that the food was no where near as spicy as Thai food should be. When I think Thai food, I think of my brain exploding with crazy spicy food. And I like that. I like the cuisine for what it is. I can understand that the restaurant probably wants to make food that is more universally palatable, but i wish there was at least an option of making things spicier- much spicier. An option that was a little more attractive than a bottle of Siracha in the middle of the table.
Somewhere in between my dinner, my lemongrass and ginger iced tea arrived. I didn’t feel the need to mention it till now because sadly, it wasn’t worthy. Again too sweet, a hint of lemongrass, no hint of ginger, and did i mention it was too sweet? I’m worried that the only good drink on their menu is the basic lemon iced tea that my husband ordered. That was good, but come on, I can get a lemon iced tea anywhere. When I go to a famed Thai restaurant, I want something a little more…Thai. I really feel that the drinks menu needs some serious reconsideration.
The grand finale was the dessert. Now, anyone who knows me knows that dessert is a really big deal to me. It’s the last thing you eat for the night. It’s the cherry on your hopeful sundae of a night. Dessert: matters.
For dessert we received a trio of:
-Sticky rice with Mango: Very average
– Thai ruby: I like it when chefs transform ingredients in such a way that you have trouble pinpointing what it is but only because it’s that unique in a delicious way. This dessert was just that. there cubes of water chestnut boiled in sweet rosewater, coconut jelly, and julienned jackfruit- all submerged in sweet coconut milk. This was nice. It’s what I’d expect from a Thai restaurant.
– Gingerette: And then there are also times when you’re again trying to pinpoint what a dish/dessert comprises of but mostly in a “what-the-hell-am-i eating? I-need-to-NEVER-put-this-in-my-mouth-again” kind of way. This was just that. It has this bitter and unpleasant aftertaste that lingers in your mouth which I just couldn’t understand. The waitress explained to me that it was dark chocolate mousse with passion fruit and ginger powder on top. Um. Ok. I love dark chocolate. I like passion fruit. I love ginger. I hated this. Everyone on my table hated this. THIS did not work.
I hope they have more dessert options than this. *should have asked*
Luckily there was a final touch that ended our evening on a very high note. The management gave us goody bags that contained a beautiful dish for serving jasmine rice, a jar of tom yam paste, and a baggie of the magic spices that go into this magical cuisine!
Will I go there again though? Big YES! Will I recommend it to friends and family? With great conviction! Thank you, once again, Busaba Eatthai for your hospitality, and Zomato for this opportunity.