My mom was in town last week for only 3 days (not even 3 full days, in fact). She loves Thai, Chinese and Indian/Pakistani food, so it was a no brainer that her first meal on this Dubai trip had to be a Thai one. Tong Thai have been on my radar for a while now, and I had a standing invite to dine there, so the timing and company could not possibly have been better.
We reached Tong Thai at 7 p.m., with appetites large enough to eat a horse. We were warmly received and shown to out table. The ambience was your standard high-end-Thai-restaurant-in-Dubai, with lots of Buddahs, bells, dim red lighting. Floor to ceiling windows in the dining area promised for the location (and potential daytime pictures) to be absolutely stunning. For now though, I had to make do with my Lumee for lighting, and the little lamps that came with the menus.
For starters, we went with the Tong Thai Appetizer Sampler (priced at AED 160). It was nearly impossible to pick what we liked best, but grading on the curve, the satay were the least impressive of the lot. Everything else was pure and utter bliss. Even the pandan-wrapped chicken was beautifully fragrant and seasoned and didn’t have any of that fatty stench that I find in pandan-wrapped chicken far too often.
Instead of going for a sharing portion of soup, we decided to go with two individual portions instead (priced at AED 70 and 65 each), to be shared 3 ways. The portion size was so big though, that we could easily have shared these 2 “individual” portions amongst 4 people, or had just one soup each with some appetizers and called it a night. We were completely and thoroughly satiated after these 2 rounds alone. The Tom Yum was velvety, luscious and packed with layers and layers of fragrant flavors, and the Tom Kha just brought the house down! The soups were truly so good that the flavors lingered on in our mouths for days!
For mains, we had some Gang Kiew Wan Gai (chicken green curry with coconut shoots, Thai eggplants and sweet basil at AED 90), which had a natural, subtle sweetness from the coconut milk which perfectly offset the masochistic burn from the spicy soups – which we asked for to be “Thai” spicy, and boy oh boy, these folks were not kidding around!
No Asian meal is complete without a stir-fry, so we picked Kung Phad Sa Moon Prai (which has crispy batter-fried prawns, garlic, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves) for (AED 105). The stir-fry, with it’s big, juicy, plump, perfectly cooked shrimps was everything a stir-fry should be.
Our server suggested we try a third main as well, and since it was our first time and we had no idea of the portion sizes here, we ordered a last Nua Phad Prik Gaeng (AED 105), which had stir-fried wagyu, eggplant, coconut shoot, and young green peppercorns. While delicious, to be fair, this really didn’t need to be made with Wagyu in particular and could have used any lean cut of beef, and I find the overuse of Wagyu as a standard buzzword without necessarily assessing whether or not a dish needs Wagyu, to be quite unnerving.
For dessert, we shared a single Tub Tim Krob, and I swear it took us back straight to Chatuchak Market in Bangkok.
In hindsight, for the 3 of us, I should have ordered only 1 less soup, and 1 less main course, and ordered a side dish and a Pineapple Fried Rice instead. The items we did order could easily have fed a table for 4 instead of 3. We didn’t have any drinks, just 2 bottles of sparkling water, which was super wise because who needs the extra sugar, really? No one, is the correct answer.
Going in, I was prepared to make my standard list of hits and misses, but to be completely fair, I couldn’t find a single fault in the food. The only things I could see room for improvement in is the view (all we could see was the Business Bay traffic), but the view really isn’t something they can change. Also, I wasn’t a fan of the orange plates. They felt far too Mexican for an otherwise quite Oriental restaurant. Say no to orange and red plates. Ban orange and red plates!
The entire staff and chef are from Thailand (which evidently does make a difference as they have so much better of an understanding of the cuisine), and our server, Manna, was an absolute treat.
From now on, when people ask me about where they can find the best Thai food in a licensed restaurant in Dubai, I will be vouching for Tong Thai like no other!