Last week I was invited to the opening of Busaba Eathai in Dubai. Busaba is a London-based chain of Thai restaurants founded by Alan Yau, who is also the man behind Wagamama, Hakkasan and Yauatcha.
My +1 and I had some difficulties finding the place, so we arrived a bit late. I hope they’ve changed the maps down at The Beach JBR, because they were misleading, to put it mildly.
During winter (and sometimes even summer) Bangkok is like my second home, and I think I’ve visited Thailand more than 15 times through the years. In Bangkok I always eat plenty of street food because it’s delicious and cheap. I don’t mind eating my food from a plastic bag, while sitting on a ramshackle chair on the pavement. In fact I even suspect that some of the flavors and smells I associate with Thai food aren’t really from the food itself, but from the urban surroundings down Bangkok’s busy sois.
I therefore usually get a bit suspicious, when you take what’s basically just plain Thai street food and serve it in sleek, comfortable surroundings, for a heavily inflated price. Usually the food lacks flavor, because the menu has been adapted to non-Thai taste buds and all authenticity is lost.
I can’t say what Busaba will be like, and I couldn’t dream of basing a restaurant review on an opening night, but the food we were served was surprisingly fierce and most of it also surprisingly tasty. The laap-style minced meat on rice was full of mischievous pieces of bird’s eye chili, which made me gasp for breath (loved it!) and the green curry was aromatic with all the heat wrapped in a soothing coconut milk-based broth. Another thing I really liked was the matchstick chicken wings (split chicken wings), which were chewy and full of flavor, almost like chicken jerky. Though I don’t recall ever having anything like that in Thailand.
The beef salad looked delicious, and it also turned out to be hot and spicy. Though personally, I prefer when the salad is completely drenched in that delicious dressing made from fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice and chili, so I found it slightly dry.
The sticky rice looked promising, but lacked sugar as well as a pinch of salt, but then again, this was the opening night, and I’m confident they’ll eventually get it all right. At least I hope so, because our new apartment is only a short walk away from Busaba Eathai, and I would love to live within walking distance of a good Thai restaurant.