Busaba is now permanently closed.
Busaba Eathai opened a little more than a week ago, and while the opening night didn’t scare me away, I also didn’t feel that this was a place I had to go back to ASAP. Though, the other night, my sore throat was craving hot soup and Poul was craving food (his favorite dish), so we decided to swing by Busaba anyway.
The restaurant was completely empty except for a few diners at the tables upstairs on the outdoor patio, which was also where we chose to sit. I was curious to see the menu and happy to find out that the price level was a lot lower than I had expected. It wasn’t cheap, because nothing is cheap in this part of town, but it was very affordable with most mains being around 40-70AED.
I had the Tom Yum Talay, (tom yum with fish/seafood). In addition to the standard tom yum stuff, it had rice noodles, fishcake and squid as well as a lot of fresh herbs. All the extra ingredients made the soup more filling and the dish could easily pass as a main course. The flavor was bang-on authentic and I couldn’t have made it better myself (and I make a mean tom yum, just ask my friends). Poul had char-grilled duck breast with Chinese broccoli in tamarind sauce, and we shared a side of som tam (green papaya salad) and a serving of sticky rice. The som tam was exactly like the one you get in Thailand, if you ask for a non-spicy version. It was moist and tangy with plenty of that delicious dressing, which makes som tam one of my favorite Thai salads. The duck breast was perfectly cooked, rose-colored and tender, and the bed of Chinese broccoli with tamarind sauce made a brilliant companion.
Personally, I prefer sticky rice to ordinary Jasmine rice, and in Thailand, most of the popular salads from Isaan (Northeast province) are eaten with sticky rice, which you roll into small balls and dip in the spicy dressings and sauces.
For dessert we shared a Red Ruby (I think it’s called tub tim krob in Thai?). It’s a dessert made from coconut milk and water chestnuts in red syrup and the one at Busaba also had slices of fresh mango. It’s one of the few Asian desserts I really like and Busaba made it to perfection.
Both Poul and I were so happy with our food that we couldn’t help going back the following evening. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but the food was just as good as the night before. Though I must warn you about the Jungle Chicken Curry. It is very spicy and without the hint of sweetness you’ll find in most other Thai curries. I liked it a lot, but I think you really have to be a fan of spicy food to appreciate this dish. We had Thai calamari as a starter/side dish. It’s one of Busaba’s signature dishes, and it was delicious, especially after adding a few dashes of chili sauce. We even received a complimentary portion of chicken wrapped in pandan leaves, which the restaurant thought we should try. It was a really nice gesture, and I think they wanted to thank us for dining there 2 evenings in a row:)
I was really surprised about how tasty the food was, and how authentic Thai the baseline flavors in each dish were. Even though some of the food is pimped up a bit, you never doubt that this is in fact a Thai restaurant.
As a food blogger/travel guide writer, it’s always more fun to tell my readers about those hard-to-find, independent neighborhood gems. Recommending yet another branch of an international chain may feel a bit meh (will my next blog post be about Burger King??) but trust me, Busaba is really something special. In terms of value for money measured in price compared to tastiness, I don’t think there’s any better place to eat at The Beach JBR right now, and I can only recommend that you go before everybody else finds out. If the people at Busaba continue doing what they’re doing right now, I’m quite sure that you’ll soon have to line up, to get a table.