If you haven’t been to Downtown Burj Dubai then it’s worth a look, if only to see the Burj Tower up close. You can’t really miss it, although every time I drive past I’m convinced that it’s leaning to one side. An optical illusion I’m sure.
What is for certain though is that despite being largely under construction the whole area is starting to open its doors. The latest place to welcome the public is The Palace Hotel. It will one day be at the centre of an impressive development, with its neighbouring souk and waterways. Given time it will almost be like a little slice of the Madinat, but right now it’s a hotel that isn’t quite finished in the middle of a very large building site. The Thiptara restaurant, however, is finished and fully open to serve Thai food.
And it’s a very big restaurant, beautifully decorated with wooden floors and beams, intricate designs, flowers and Thai themes throughout. Upon entering the hostess asked for my phone number, just so they could ring in case we left anything at the restaurant. Either a lovely touch or a marketing scam that will lead to texts and adverts – time will tell – but I was in no mood to be cynical as the staff were all wonderfully polite as the setting was almost regal.
But here’s the thing – the setting is right in the middle of a giant building site so as we sat outside on the decking, from just across the water floated the seemingly constant rumble of lorries and construction – after all, they are building the tallest building on the planet. The sounds of traditional Thai music that is being played by live to one side of you is offset by the sights and sounds of the unfortunate workers toiling away into the night the other. There’s not a lot the restaurant can do about this now but when business bay is completed and the construction has finished it should be more tranquil. Until then, inside is a better bet. You have to feel a bit sorry the restaurant because the food was utterly faultless from start to finish.
I started with the classic Kai Reu Neau Satay – chunks of grilled marinated chicken served with a peanut and cucumber sauce – and if I’ve ever had better satay I really can’t remember when. Hot, tender, flavoursome, just the perfect little meal lollies and even the sauce was nicely thick so it grips on. My dining partner had the spring roll stuffed chicken vegetables served with red sweet and sour sauce. The six little spring rolls were tightly packed, bursting with flavour and unlike many spring rolls, were not dripping with grease so sauce-covered-thumbs up all round. Not cheap though – at Dhs75 and Dhs70 respectively you’d expect them to get things spot on.
Mains were really expensive for what they were, but what they both also were was fantastic. Would you pay Dhs155 for a spicy yellow curry with prawns and coconut milk if you knew it was going to be one of the best Thai curries you’ve ever had? I did and would do so again, but only on special occasions.
The roasted duck curry in coconut milk and pineapple was not quite as spectacular (although as expensive) but had tender morsels of meat, a spicy kick and deep warming flavours that largely offset the cost. A side of Phad Thai was a balanced and impressive dish that went well with the mains and if you’re getting really good food then don’t mind paying the extra dirhams.
We shared a tropical fruit platter for dessert. Fruit platters are often an expensive reminder that it’s tough to get decent fruit locally, but this was pretty good. Kiwi, melon, pineapple, grapes all fine and blimey, even the strawberries were red and juicy. In fact, the only solitary downside to the restaurant – not due to external factors – was near the door there are glass tanks with large fish crammed in, and that’s not something you really want to see. At this point, vegetarians might rightly point out that if we’re happy to eat a fish, then seeing it unhappily wedged into an overpopulated tank in it’s final days might be a decent reminder of what we do to get meat onto our plates. On the other hand… do shut up.
In many ways Thiptara reminiscent of Pai Thai at The Madinat – a pricey but classy Thai restaurant next to the water – and in time it should offer some serious competition. If you’re in the area, save up and book a table inside. This restaurant is a fine example of Thai cuisine, but as a dining experience it won’t be the finished article until the surrounding areas are somewhere near finished themselves.
The bill came to Dhs590 without drinks
Verdict: Great food and a lovely setting, but pricey and it’s a building site outside.