Tong Thai – spicy enough?

Tong ThaiDubai; I am back again. I, well actually we, follow the hostess as we pass one private dining booth after another, with the most beautiful ornate Thai art adorning the walls. A glorious neon orange-fronted bar. A trio of cast iron Buddhist bells hang over a mock well and fountain. We round the corner and up close and personal sits Tong Thai. I am almost tongue tied…corny I know but forgive me, I am in awe of this stunning dining room decked out in my two favourite colours – hues of orange and red. Glittering lanterns suspend from the ceiling at differing angles, a wall of mini Buddha statues, and floor-to-ceiling French windows wrap the restaurant overlooking Business Bay, albeit only from the fourth floor. JW Marriott Marquis Dubai’s Thai restaurant mirrors Atul Kochhar’s Indian outpost Rang Mahal just across the corridor.

Tong Thai barTong Thai bellsTong Thai interior

We nab a window table. It’s a Saturday night with only a few tables occupied but it does get a little busier later. We have a veggie amongst our foursome, and for the first time in Dubai I notice a menu highlighting that certain meat and seafood dishes can be substituted for veg. Aside from the usual appetisers, salads and soups, the mains comprise grills, curries, steamed or stir-fry dishes, plus the proverbial rice and noodle options. The waitress happily serves our starters and mains at the same time.

Tong Thai restaurantMy salad of julienne strips of green papaya and green beans arrives tossed with dried shrimp, a sprinkling of peanuts and of course red chilli – fresh, crisp and crunchy but oh my does it rip my tongue off with the intense spiciness…and I had asked for mild, half-expecting a kilo of chilli given we’re in a Thai restaurant. But it’s not just me, FooDiva’s spice tolerance may be lower, but my dining companions reiterate the same with some of their dishes. Luckily my steamed seabass marinated in lime and garlic, despite the chilli infusion, is much more palatable – served on a bed of Thai celery, a more robust taste than the celery we know. So healthily good, just what I need for a school night detox.

Tong Thai feast

Photo credit to Tong Thai – sadly my food pix are tinged red from the lighting ;(

The vegetable spring rolls are beautifully presented in a metal bucket with a basketware handle. My friends’ three coconut curry dishes all impress albeit a tad spicy again – a red prawn with sweet basil and baby eggplant, green chicken with bamboo shoots and eggplant, and a green tofu with carrots, broccoli, eggplant and sweet basil – with oodles of prawns, chicken and tofu. Mopped up with steamed jasmine rice served a la minute. The veggie pad thai overflows with stir-fry rice noodles, peanuts, bean sprouts and Chinese chives – am a huge fan of prawn and chicken pad thai, but I must admit this one is just as flavoursome. Our jasmine tea is served in metal cups which scold our hands making it almost impossible to hold without a napkin – not a clever move.

Interestingly, the waiting staff are all female (whilst neighbour Rang Mahal’s are male only) – quirky touch, but the service is far too attentive with the waitress constantly checking on us, whilst interrupting our meal to remove plates, even though we have not finished – almost bordering on rude. A real shame and as I’ve preached many a time before, Dubai’s weakest link is the drop in basic service standards.

At AED 130 per head (without booze) the menu is very well priced for a licensed restaurant in a five-star hotel. With a little investment in the right staff training like its steakhouse sister Prime 68, Tong Thai has the potential to spice up Dubai’s Thai dining scene and perhaps rival Thiptara. Just remember my preference for mild ;). Here’s to a three out of five FooDiva knife rating.

Tong Thai is located at the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, Business Bay, Sheikh Zayed – fourth floor. T; +971 4 4143000. E; Online booking also available. Open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner only from 6pm to midnight. Licensed. AED 130 per head without booze.

Have you dined at Tong Thai? Where’s your favourite Thai in Dubai – with or without booze?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x



FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 3
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18 Responses to “Tong Thai – spicy enough?”

  1. dave reeder July 3, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Sounds like a great place – one more to add to the list! However, I do have a continuing soft spot for Benjarong at the Dusit with its royal style cuisine. Personally I don’t have a problem with chill heat – I’ve yet to taste a dish I couldn’t finish but have yet to sample the dread ghost chilli! A great place I discovered some years ago in Key West was a speciality hot sauce shop that had a tasting counter. You sat down, the chilliologist asked a few questions – Do you prefer fruity or acidic? What heat level do you want to start with? – and then you could sample as many of the shop’s hundreds of products as you could take till you found the ideal sauces for your palate. Somehow I got a large cardboard box back to the UK…

    • FooDiva July 3, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      I think I tasted the rogue chilli Dave! Wow love the idea of a chilliologist…so cool and hot! Someone had better bring that over here pronto 🙂 I last dined at Benjarong over a year ago when that model-cum-TV chef Daniel Green was in town, so I can’t really speak for their cuisine. A non-licensed and longstanding favourite is Lemongrass opposite Lamcy Plaza.

  2. Marissa July 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Thank you FooDiva! I am the biggest fan of Thai food (could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week!) and this is now something I have out on my list of ‘to dos’ for when we are back from the summer break.
    Sadly, it happens all too frerquently that newly opened luxury hotels and restaurants overlook the basics such as privacy and politeness when they are so focused on wow-ing patrons. But something worth sharing with the management – they will probably appreciate the feedback.
    One of my favourite no-frills outlet has got to be Ban Khun Mae at the food court in Mall of the Emirates. Brilliant value for money and although I am sure it does not compare to Tong Thai, it surely outdoes some of the fancier Thai restaurants in the city.
    Again, thank you very much for sharing, as always!
    M xx

    • FooDiva July 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks so much for dropping by Marissa with such a long and thoughtful comment. The hotel has taken the comments on board so I hope they will make some changes…and before you visit! Wow I’ve never come across Ban Khun Mae – which MOE food court is it in? My all-time favourite non-licensed Thai is Lemongrass opposite Lamcy Plaza. As a Thai fan you must have tried it! x

  3. Kelly July 3, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    I believe that I will enjoy the food and restaurant. It all looks so appealing!!! On my list for the next visit.

    • FooDiva July 3, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      You will Kelly. There’s a new Asian concept which includes Thai dishes at the Ritz-Carlton JBR – Blue Jade – that I need to try – and so do you 🙂 I realised when I reviewed Tong Thai, it’s been a long long time since my last Thai review. Will remedy that moving forward 🙂

  4. Melanie July 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    Loved the theatre of this place. And I did enjoy the spice.

    • FooDiva July 3, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      I think I had a rogue chilli Mel!

  5. dave reeder July 3, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Another thumbs up here for Lemongrass. And, of course, a two minute stroll from the essential restocking of supplies at Deans Fujiyama Japanese Supermarket.

    The chilli place in the Florida Keys has been under new management for some time, but still worth checking out the Web site:

    • FooDiva July 5, 2013 at 4:56 pm

      I’ve never been to Deans – what Japanese goods does it stock that the supermarkets don’t have?…given it’s a trek from here…

      Love that you can shop by heat and pepper species 😉

  6. GA July 3, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    You must have looked fabulous in that setting 😉

    • FooDiva July 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      I blended in – probably not a good thing!

  7. GA July 5, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    You will have enhanced your surroundings 🙂

  8. Marta's Kitchen July 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Will give it a try when i’m back! Love spicy food 🙂
    Waiters (or waitresses in this case)being too attentive and nice seems to be a common factor in many restaurants in Dubai….I appreciate good service but sometimes being too nice can be too much!

    • FooDiva July 6, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      It’s my pet peeve Marta here in Dubai. A good waiter or waitress should be attentive when you need them without being intrusive. How hard can that be? Appreciate your comment and enjoy your travels 🙂

  9. dave reeder July 5, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Dean’s is a crazy place! It’s a tiny grocery stuffed with everything you don’t see elsewhere from frozen prepared sushi portioned fish to strange condiments and spices to chefs’ knives and serving plates. I guarantee you’ll come away with a pile of stuff you won’t know what to do with, but you;ll have fun finding out! Maybe combine the trip with a visit to the Thai supermarket in Karama?

  10. Fretzo May 23, 2015 at 5:28 am

    FOODIVA thanks its really helps all your restaurant review. hopefully in future try my favourite Thai restaurant in town the Royal Buddha. its amazing food!

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