A WISE WELCOME
It’s unanimous, Thai food is in our top three cuisines of the world and its Dubai takeover isn’t slowing down any time soon. FACT’s Shabana Adam stepped into the vibrant Wise Kwai at dusitD2 kenz in Barsha Heights for her fill of all things nice…
If the funky colours won’t do it, the warm welcome of the friendly staff will; it takes just seconds to feel at home in Wise Kwai as we sit down at a booth-style table, ready to order (we’ve already done an online search and scanned the menu). Always do your homework, or in our case – be prepared for all the food.
First off, the restaurant has a real hawker centre meets casual cafe vibes – there’s a subtle nod to Far-East cinema; exposed brick walls, elaborate frilled drapes, vintage cameras hung up and even fragments of metal film reels, lining the walls. The colour of chairs are mismatched in perfect synchrony and extra large, round psychedelic-patterned plates hang above most tables where placemats are an ode to film posters of a time gone by. In short, this place is super cool and insta-ready. We can also say the same about the food. Paying homage to the dynamic street food scene of Thailand, Wise Kwai stays true to its roots with a menu that celebrates all the wonderful treats you can stop to try on the streets of the aptly-named Land of Smiles.
We’re talking moreish spring rolls, skewers of satay chicken, creamy coconut soup, grilled fish, glass noodles and everything in between. We get stuck right in with the Neua Phayu Foon (AED50) – strips of marinated crispy beef in roasted rice served with Thai north-eastern sauce and chilli sauce on the side. This is a classic textural explosion of chewy flavours – we can imagine walking through the night markets in Bangkok with a box of these in hand. Next, a staple of Thai salads – if Wise Kwai can do the Som Tam Thai (AED50) right, they’re half way to being the real deal. Of course, this is the popular Thai green papaya salad with roasted nuts and cherry tomatoes – a concoction of super fresh ingredients and simple flavours that just go so, so well together. There’s crunch and subtle tanginess from the papaya, whilst the nuts and tomatoes add an earthy escape for your palate.
Then comes the one dish that can make or break any Thai restaurant – the Tom Yam Gung (AED60) – a generous bowl full of hot spicy and sour prawn soup with mushroom, chilli and Thai herbs. This is somewhat of a biblical dish in Thailand and one of the best soups in the world, in our humble foodie opinion. Here, the best thing is the richness of the spice and herbs which act as instant sinus-clearing ingredients – great for anyone with a cold. Also, we love that the chef has not skimped on the amount of shrimp in the soup – something that we’ve often experienced elsewhere – at Wise Kwai, it’s shrimps for days! So far, so good.
We adored the Black Rice with Calamari, Prawns and Clams (AED99), unlink a few other places in Dubai where the paella is served in a gigantic dish, here it is kept manageable, with a portion that would easily please a table of three to four people. This one-pan menu item is an instant crowd pleaser – moreish but not stodgy, the chefs have created a harmonious mix of ingredients. The Grilled Sea Bass with Asparagus and Romesco Sauce (AED125) is a blend of flavours that we didn’t realise we had been craving – stunning. Whilst the Chuleton Prime Ribs 1kg Sharing (AED420) added the tender touch of cooked meat to top off a fabulous choice of mains.
We take a little time to digest before the next round of food and wander onto the restaurant’s very urban-inspired terrace. Fairy lights give the place an ethereal persona with large wooden crate-benches topped with colourful cushions making up the seating. We can absolutely see this place being an afterwork hangout for the cool crowd of young professionals when the cooler climate comes through. In we go for the main act of the evening.
We’ll start with our highlight of the meal: Plan Neung Ma Nao (AED125) – steamed fish with coriander, garlic, lime and chilli sauce. IT. IS. BREATH-TAKING. The white fish is tender and bathing in all the simple yet mouthwatering flavours that we love. The entire presentation screams Thailand and the taste goes beyond our expectations. With a side of Pad Pad Ruam Mit (AED50) – stir-fried mixed vegetables and shiitake mushroom in oyster sauce – it doesn’t get more Thai than this. The crisp vegetables alongside the delicately-cooked fish go beautifully together!
You can’t come to a Thai restaurant and not have a curry – it’s practically against the rules. We order the Keaw Wan Gai Neua, Gung Rue Ped Yang (say it all together). This is the classic Thai green curry which can be made with your choice of chicken, beef, prawn or roasted duck – AED 55, 65, 70, 75, respectively. We go for beef following our server’s recommendation – and there’s no regrets. The curry also has eggplant and sweet basil, adding to the milder, pungent taste – perfect for those who don’t want to go all-the-way-spicy to the Thai red curry. A side of Khao Suay (AED20) – steamed Jasmine rice, is the perfect accompaniment.
We end this culinary trip with Khao Niew Ma Muang (AED50) – sweet mango with sticky rice and coconut cream. It’s a light and pleasant dessert that also doubles as a palate cleanser after the assault of aromas and tastes we’ve encountered at Wise Kwai. The service is consistently impressive and every dish had something special about it, making sure that the unique qualities of Thailand are presented to you in the most traditional way. Wise Kwai manages to do the one thing that many venues struggle to – it keeps things down-to-earth and genuinely authentic. ✤
Wise Kwai (www.wisekwai.com) has been nominated for the 2019 FACT Dining Awards in the following category: ‘best/favourite Thai Casual Dining experience in Dubai’. Help your favourite restaurant take home the award by voting for them on link https://factmagazine.com/index.php/2019/05/16/voting-form-fact-dining-awards-dubai-2019/. #FACTAwards2019