Blue Elephant holds a very special place in our hearts. Back when we were Londoners, team Out & About UAE celebrated numerous birthdays and wedding anniversaries at the alluring venue in Chelsea’s Imperial Wharf. Despite being our favorite Thai restaurant in the UK, Blue Elephant sadly closed its doors in August of this year.
So you can imagine our excitement upon receiving an invitation to Blue Elephant’s Dubai outpost. Situated in the Al Bustan Rotana (close to the airport), Blue Elephant Dubai successfully replicates the unique formula of Thai exoticism, firmly transplants the ambiance and unique decor (that made the London location so special) to Garhoud.
Though slightly smaller than the London branch, the decor at Blue Elephant Dubai is modeled in a very similar fashion. Waterfalls tumble over large boulders, creating rivers and waterways that meander across the restaurant floor. Tables are accessed via a network of small wooden bridges spanning tranquil waters filled with Koi carp. Lush vegetation adds to the jungle vibe and dining here feels like traveling to a small village in Thailand’s Golden Triangle.
Tables themselves are carved of dark wood and sit amongst the facade of a Thai wat, complete with tiled roofs and the signature chofa (sky tassel). Blue Elephant pulls out all the stops when it comes to ambiance and staff are just as focused on ensuring that diners have a memorable experience. A variety of Thai-inspired cocktails arrive at the table utilizing a full range of exotic fruits and look the part, perched amongst leather bound menus and golden knives and forks.
Tuesday and Thursday’s are ‘Mega Nights’ at the Al Bustan Rotana. An all you can eat buffet concept very similar to a Friday brunch and a great way to kick-start the weekend. It also means that you can eat and drink until your hearts content, without losing an entire Friday! This new culinary concept brings two of the hotels signature restaurants into a gastronomic journey of Asian flavors, meaning you can eat Thai from the Blue Elephant or cross the hall to Benihana for authentic Japanese cuisine.
Navigating the waterways and tributaries in search of food, Blue Elephant’s offerings resemble that of Thailand’s famous Damnoen Saduak (floating market), with bamboo baskets overflowing with fresh seafood – crab, mussels, shrimp.
Live-cooking of noodles and other wok items is available for those in search of a Pad Thai fix and are fully customizable, allowing guests to create their own South East Asian inspired dishes. Close to the bamboo bar, guests will find an array of hot appetizers – think Thai spring rolls, prawn crackers, satay and tempura.
Spanning the two restaurants are a number of small carts. These colorful wooden structures are home to the salads, main courses and desserts. Decked out like one of Bangkok’s famous street food markets, we certainly felt like we were back amongst the hustle and bustle of the busy Khao San Road, though thankfully the skewered scorpions and deep fried critters are missing from the buffet selection here.
Much like Thailand itself, the atmosphere is lively and colorful and the selection of food is actually a little overwhelming. As is usually the case with buffets, some food works better than others and we found the salads to be especially good alongside the Thai green and Massaman curries.
Exotic ingredients are key in Thai cuisine and one can expect the aroma of lemongrass, alongside hints of peanut and embellishments of dragon fruit and rambutan. We were lucky enough to order a number of items from the à la carte menu and can contest to their superior quality to those found upon the buffet. Most likely due to their freshly prepared nature.
Moving through into Benihana’s, guests are treated to a live teppanyaki shows with ingredients chopped and sizzled as part of the entertaining dinner theatrics. One of the biggest selections of sushi, sashimi and makimono rolls that we’ve seen in Dubai can also be found here. This Japanese eatery is more contemporary than Blue Elephant and appeared to be the more popular place to sit, judging by the throngs of hungry diners.
The most intriguing dish of the evenings had to be Benihana’s salmon ice cream. An item that resembles a soft serve cone but in fact comprises salmon and panko bread crumbs, wrapped in edible seaweed. The visually striking dish is a testament to the innovation of the culinary team and despite being a textural marvel, the nori was a little too much for us, making the dish somewhat dry.
Asian desserts often divide diners and despite the theme of the night, desserts were in no way limited. Offering favorites such as chocolate brownies and creme brûlée, albeit with a South East Asian inspired twist. We throughly enjoyed the coconut jellies and caramelized profiteroles, though the revelation of the evening came from the simple mix of black sticky rice and lychee. Perhaps not the most appealing dish visually but one that made up for this fact with an abundance of flavour.
With live-cooking of crepes and an almost luminescant matcha chocolate fountain, the selection of desserts almost rivals that of the savory creations.
Mega Night should definitely not be missed and things are about to get a whole lot bigger! By the end of October, Al Bustan Rotana will be adding a third restaurant into the mix, offering further Asian delights in the form of Malaysian, Indonesian and Korean cuisine.
Appreciating the fact that these twice weekly theme nights fuse together the best of South East Asia, we really enjoyed our nostalgic trip back to exotic Thailand.
Mega Night is held every Tuesday & Thursday from 7pm until late:
219 AED ++ (soft drinks)
249 AED ++ (selected beverages)
319 AED ++ (premium beverages)
We were invited to dine at Blue Elephant All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.