Hi there – I’m Courtney, an American expat behind the blog A to Za'atar, which seeks out unique culinary and hospitality experiences from the UAE and beyond. I’m currently living in Dubai and have lived in the GCC since 2007 (including stays in Doha and Abu Dhabi). When I'm not working on a novel, I enjoy visiting new destinations and sabering champagne.
While I've been out dining on a number of cuisines recently, Thai food has definitely been missing from my list. And, I'm going to be completely honest with you -- I'm not as well-versed in food from this amazing country as I should be. Thus, a trip to Benjarong (Dusit Thani, SZR) was a wonderful circumstance. With excellent reviews across social media, I wanted to see if the venue lived up to the hype.
Riding the elevator up to the 24th floor, my dining partner and I first decided for a quick drink at the Champagne Lounge, which is located on the same floor as Benjarong. Instead of bubbles, we opted for Thai style cocktails, including the super spicy Tom Yum Tea. The views in this bar provide unique views of Sheikh Zayed Road, so I think it's worth dropping in early or having one for the road here -- out of town guests will no doubt be impressed.
Crossing the foyer, we checked into Benjarong. The venue is like stepping into a small piece of Thailand in Dubai. The interior features small details including statues, authentic artwork, and intricate woodwork that add to the decor. There is a small stage for live traditional guitar playing and dancing (although currently dancing is on hold, as the restaurant is in mourning the loss of King in solidarity with Thailand). Overall, I enjoyed the gentle sounds of the guitar and felt the Thai musician added to the authentic atmosphere. If you have the opportunity, there is a small room for private dining which has absolutely outstanding views of the Burj Khalifa.
With an almost intimidating amount of food to choose from, we decided to opt for the set menu (which is a deal at AED199 per person) and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. The meal starts with a small plate of appetizers (which appear to be a slightly edited version of the larger Khong Wang Ruammit Benjarong), including a fish cake, a spring roll, papaya salad, and a wrapped chicken. A trio of sauces (yum!) accompany the plate. My favorite was the chicken (to which I liberally applied sweet chili), while my dining partner had nothing but wonderful things to say about the equally spicy and crunchy papaya salad (officially, Som Tum Thai).
We then moved onto soup, Tom Yum Gai Rue Goong, which was, unfortunately, a bit overwhelming for me. (Yes, embarrassingly enough, I am one of ‘those people’ when it comes to heat levels). However, this was one of those instances when I simply powered through the pain. The sour notes and big pieces of prawn allowed me to get a bit further than I thought I would. In the end, I did appreciate that our server proactively brought out a box of tissues. :)
I enjoyed that the staff, after clearing the soup, asked if we would prefer a break before our main dishes were brought out. Understanding the pace of a meal is a tricky element that very few restaurants deliver on in this city. At this point, we were also able to direct the kitchen to hold back on the spices for the remainder of the meal. However, in case you enjoy inferno levels of spice, they can crank things all the way up to ‘Thai Spicy.’ (Excuse me while I sip a glass of water).
For our mains, we were served with a collection of Thai delicacies, starting with the Gaeng Kiew Wan Gai (that's green curry to the rest of us). Served with jasmine rice, this was my favorite dish. There's something so wonderfully fragrant and flavorful about this curry. We were served (of course) the ubiquitous (but always delicious) Pad Thai (with a intricate lattice of egg on top -- very cool feature). We also were able to sample the Goong Phad Med (lightly battered shrimp with cashew nuts) and the Goong Phad Med (stir fried beef with mushrooms and oyster sauce). Of my least favorite dishes was the Pla Rad Prik, a fried red snapper that was just a bit too fishy for my liking. Overall, there was an excellent range of proteins and each dish was plated perfectly for sharing.
As you might have guessed, the amount of mains was more than enough for the two of us, and as I hate food wastage of any kind, I was delighted to see there was no issue packing up what we did not finish (and Hubs was more than happy to have the leftovers for lunch the next day).
To end the meal, we enjoyed (of course) sticky rice and mango (Kaho Naew Mamuang). What sets Benjarong's version of this apart is the rice, which is green in color (!) and a bit more sugary than other versions I’ve had in the past. While Western restaurants rely on heavy chocolates, creams, and cakes, I enjoyed the simplicity of fresh fruit and the subtly flavored sweetness.
Of course, should you be interested, there is an extensive ala carte menu, although vegetarians might want to check ahead to ensure there are selections they can enjoy. While I think individual prices for the menu are in line (and maybe even a slightly above market), I can guarantee you will be delighted with the set menu.
Even better? Should you not be able to go to Benjarong, it can be brought to you! Via Deliveroo, residents in certain locations have the opportunity for delivery.
And finally, where would we be without brunch? Benjarong looks to have a fairly involved Friday option, complete with live cooking stations.
Have you been to Benjarong? Was there anything I need to go back and try?
Benjarong is open daily for lunch from 12-3PM and dinner from 7-11:30PM. Reservations can be made by calling 04 3174515.
A to Za'atar was a guest of Benjarong. Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.