What’s not to like about Thai food? Rammed with myriad flavours, when it’s done well it’s up there with the most exciting cuisines in the world. Any new restaurant of this type is clearly much welcomed into the fold of Abu Dhabi’s dining scene, especially one in such esteemed surrounds as the Sofitel hotel on the Corniche.
Yet despite our expectations, we left Silk & Spice slightly underwhelmed. The food was decent enough, the service was friendly and efficient and the ambience adequately pleasant. However, it never quite scaled the heights that I’ve found in other Thai eateries in the UAE.
Starting with the restaurant’s interior, it’s all about deep, dark wooden panelling, dim lighting and soothing Oriental music. In fact, one could easily mistake this place for an upmarket spa. As we were handed the menu, we half expected to see a hot-stone massage or deep-cleansing facial among the listed items.
As we reclined in our seat, the tranquil ambience, combined with a strenuous day in the office, swiftly induced a soporific effect. The starters arrived as I battled my heavy eyelids, wondering if I could last out the meal without a quick snooze. It took one mouthful of my tom yum goong soup, however, to arouse me from this stupor. The dish was a super-spicy concoction of prawns, tomato and mushrooms, swimming in ginger, garlic and chilli. Subtle it wasn’t, but it definitely provided a kick to keep us animated for the duration of the meal.
Meanwhile, my dining partner opted for the dim sum. Despite being billed as Thai versions of the small, doughy dumplings, they seemed pretty much the same as the Chinese equivalents. That said, we love dim sum so it didn’t stop us heartily consuming them.
Next up, we plumped for a kraprao muek, a stir-fried mélange of crabmeat, calamari and lime leaves. The seafood dish was a fine mix of sweet, spicy and smoky flavours, yet didn’t quite set our pulses racing.
Similar sentiments applied to the gaeng ped yang (or red curry with duck, if you prefer). While the sauce was a deliciously smooth emulsion, we felt the restaurant could have been somewhat more generous with the amount of meat.
Undeterred, and refusing to shirk our reviewer’s duty, we ploughed on to the desserts. Thankfully, these proved to be the highlight of the meal, especially my order of khao niew ma muang. The mango with sticky rice came presented in a brass bowl, atop a burner to warm the rice, while a scoop of ice cream melted into the slices of juicy fruit. Meanwhile, my dining companion had an equally delectable kluay tod – bananas fried in batter and sesame seeds.
Despite their excellence, therein lies the problem. One’s dessert should be a satisfactory final flourish, rather than the outstanding highlight of the meal. That said, I must mention the waiting staff, who were friendly and attentive to a tee, while being consummately knowledgable about the contents of the menu. But while Silk & Spice has plenty going for it, there are equally good and somewhat less expensive Thai dining options throughout Abu Dhabi.
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