Take a trip out of town for tasty Thai food in Al Barsha’s Holiday Inn
I hail from the Unites States. So does Holiday Inn. That doesn’t mean that I feel some kind of bond with the charmless hotel chain, or that I feel any patriotic compulsion to eat in one. It seems my co-workers felt even less compelled, as finding one to join me for dinner at the newly opened Holiday Inn Al Barsha’s Thai restaurant was proving to be a difficult task. I had them (scared) at ‘Holi-’.
Thankfully, one of my friends event-ually took pity on me, and together we set out for Royal Budha. When we arrived, we found an oddly swishy, crimson-clad room, centred around a giant golden Budha. The soundtrack was jazz-trance fusion, more appropriate for a place like Budha Bar than a cosy restaurant with no dancefloor.
Just as the decor was fancier than what I’d expect from a Holiday Inn outlet, the menu, too, was a bit pricier. But then the quality of the food also surpassed our expectations. The beef salad, a Thai standard, was juicier than the norm, and had enough spice to give it kick, but not too much to overwhelm the palate. The equally traditional Thai summer rolls (shrimp, cabbage and coriander wrapped in rice paper) made for a fresh, enlivening opener. These tasty offerings made it clear that Royal Budha wasn’t trying to trick out the wheel, just serve up good-quality, Thai standards.
Shrimp in an order of green curry were so monstrously large that we wondered if they had been taking steroids on the sly. Normally, big prawns equal tough chews, but these succulent beasts positively wilted in the mouth. My order of hor muok pla, or fish steamed in a banana leaf, struck up a bit of controversy at the table. It was moist to the point of soggy, and coated in Thai herbs. I enjoyed the flavour, which bore a resemblance to tea leaves, but my date found it off-putting.
Desserts were also fairly classic, but excellent regardless. I was amazed that an order of caramelised bananas could be so light. Meanwhile, my date’s order of sticky rice and mango was as sweet and fresh as one could hope for (there was also the option to order durian – the notoriously foul smelling, yet sweet tasting south east Asian fruit, but we opted to take a pass).
Throughout all this, the waiting staff were exceptionally polite, speaking in strangely hushed tones and demonstrating cat-like reflexes throughout our meal. Once, after dropping a chopstick, I asked our waiter if I could get a new one. I hadn’t yet finished the sentence before a fresh pair stealthily appeared next to my plate. Bellies full and preconceptions challenged, we surveyed the room. It would seem that not all of Dubai shared our snobbishness – the restuarant was respectably full. It’s nice to see a low-key restaurant such as this pull in customers for its value and the good quality of its food, and not simply because it’s simply some five-star hotel’s glitzy new jewel.
– By Daisy Carrington
Time Out Dubai, 16 March 2009.
Click here to read it on Time Out Dubai