Yes, absolutely classy Thai style – extremely elegant and tastefully decorated, Benjarong restaurant is the signature restaurant of the Dusit Thani hotel chain around the world.
For our good fortune, this includes also the Dusit Thani Hotel Abu Dhabi!
You see, conceptually it is not only a restaurant: it is the presentation of authentic Royal Thai cuisine to the world.
And that is not something the Thais take lightly!
Besides the sophisticated yet strikingly gorgeous atmosphere, and perhaps even in contrast to the prestige that is communicated through the very carefully cured decorations, the staff present a down-to-earth and genuinely welcoming vibe.
Here I must admit to a long and happy connection to the beautiful country of Thailand, now spanning over 26 years. Thai culture is unique and resplendent in social etiquette in which guests are dignified with respect and genuine care; however, there is no projected exaltation of an artificial custom, no showiness that I personally find off-putting, and indeed the Benjarong staff displayed this wonderful cultural balance of being able to dignify yet remain dignified in serving their honoured guests.
It is quite difficult to explain in words.
The food is divine! No words needed for that…
Above is a plate of appetizers: Chicken satay, fish cake with sugar cane skewer, rice paper veggie rolls and prawn crackers. This makes a great start, but let me also signal the spicy minced chicken salad (Larb Khai) or its cousin with beef, the Yam Nua. One of either of these will get your taste buds dancing and superbly complement the more docile but equally tasty mixed platter.
The presentation was impeccable with all dishes throughout the meal, an example of which is the Pad Thai photograph below. Pad Thai simply means “Fried Thai style” and I wanted to highlight this dish because it clearly displays a very important characteristic of Thai cuisine.
The Thais have a system of customization in the presentation of many of their traditional dishes. See the plated Pad Thai: the noodles are prepared and seasoned, as are the prawns, and the fancy egg omelette atop the dish, and it could be eaten directly as it is… but, perhaps one person prefers the taste a little different than another, and so added on the side are complementing and contrasting tastes: sweet (usually sugar), spicy (yes, ground chili!), sour (usually lime), salty (fish sauce), and even other tastes which outside Thailand are not normally recognised as tastes: crunchy (the bean sprouts), nutty (the ground peanuts), sharp (the green onion), and there’s more!
In this way, a very simple dish can take on dimensions of flavours beyond what is normally available to the diner – it’s a very “Thai-style” way of doing things!
Benjarong also offers a superb selection of curry pastes:
Red Curry (Gaeng Daeng),
Green Curry (Gaeng KiewWan),
Phanaeng Curry (Gaeng Panaeng),
or Massaman Curry (Gaeng Massaman)
To your choice of the base curry paste, you then indicate your preference for the main ingredient: beef, chicken, prawn, lobster, mixed seafood, or vegetables – and the Chef goes to work!
In our case, this was Chef de Cuisine, Mr Yongyos Chimthep, a culinary genius with an outstanding career – and, yes, absolutely originally 100% authentic Thai!
The menu is very comprehensive, and it reaches extremes of very rare complex culinary preparation to popular Thai favourites such as Chicken with Cashew Nuts – by popular I also mean fantastically tasting!
Overall, Benjarong is all about offering a dignified representation of Thai cuisine to the world, at a level fit for royalty.
I can add also a Thai perspective to this pride in sharing one’s home cuisine: Thai food exploded onto the world scene not too many years ago, in the mid-80s when tourists brought home stories of fantastic Thai dishes – this lead to a tsunami of Thai restaurants sprouting like mushrooms in all major cities on all continents: suddenly Thai food was “in”, and it still is, and rightfully so. The problem is that to the dismay of the Thais themselves, who know how these dishes are supposed to taste, the abroad renditions were ridiculously below par! The Thais felt ashamed that their beloved cuisine could be so badly presented overseas: I have been served Pad Thai cooked in ketchup!
And so the Dusit Thani Hotels, now operating for 65 years, as well as other prominent international Thai establishments, have tried to set things right with fine Thai restaurants such as Benjarong, where you are guaranteed that the dishes are not only prepared to quench your hunger but also to deliver a dining experience that enlivens the individual spirit, while remaining true Thai-style.
Benjarong Royal Thai restaurant is located in the Dusit Thani Hotel Abu Dhabi.
Here is an interactive Google map of Benjarong’s location for your convenience.