Smiling BKK: Thai Me Up
We Dubai-ites are secretive about our most unusual, quirky, off the tourist-trail hangouts and so the locals are going to haunt me for including this indie hole-in-the-wall Thai goth eatery – Smiling BKK (located near Jumeirah Post Office), but it’s too good not to share. (NOTE: A second Smiling BKK has recently opened which is more ‘politically correct’). (Another NOTE: I will talk about the Original BKK unless I mention otherwise).
To experience it, you need to have heard of it. Unlike Dubai’s endless round of five-star fine diners, the Smiling BKK boasts real charm and absurdity. The first thing that is hard to miss is the welcoming smile of a moustached Mona Lisa banner! Its interior consists of dangling coloured lights (44 at last count), black ceiling and walls (even the seats and tables are black!) give the place a gothic look, shelves stacked with paraphernalia such as a 1940s transmitter radio and countless blow-up safari animals, photos of customers mixed in with magazine shots of celebs – and a very deceptive mirror that makes you think the place is twice as big as it actually is.
The menu’s hilarious anglicised monikers will have you in splits. Some of the popular dishes on the menu have peculiar names such as ‘Fook Yu’ (noodles in Thai gravy with meat or seafood) and ‘Six Inches of Glory’ (sticky rice) ‘Shout Yourself This One’ (prawn cakes served with sweet sauce). (At the ‘Politically Correct’ restaurant these names have been blackened out, leaving only the Thai names and descriptors.)
They have magazine pages as paper mats, you get a strange bell-like apparatus on the side with tiny cymbals inside, which once I knew what it was for, enjoyed using it liberally – it was meant to call the staff if we needed them (The Politically Correct version, they give you noisy toy guns, so in this case ‘not so politically correct’), service is quick – well its a small place with very few tables and table bookings made, they need you to leave as soon as possible. I suggest you book a table here if you know you want to visit to avoid disappointment. (The Politically Correct version is bigger, and hence more relaxed).
Please note: the quirkiness of the original is translated into the larger ‘politically correct’ one so don’t fret if you cannot make it to the original. (Images below are of the Politically Correct version)
What we tried:
- Chicken in Pandan leaves: they need to get more spicy with some sauce offerings
- Stir-fried chicken with hot basil and chilli: I asked for it spicy, but I guess their version of spicy and mine was not the same – I needed to add a spicy sauce to give it a kick. (But for those with a more subtle palette – I think this would work for you)
- Veg fried rice – very good.
Smiling Bkk is Thai-owned and although I thought the food was so-so, its not the best Thai food I have tasted (according to me) but the experience and its reasonable price offers a Dubai experience like no other.
Smiling BKK has 2 branches in Dubai,
The Original: Drive down Al Wasl Road in the AUH-DXB direction. After you pass Safa Park, keep an eye out for the Emarat petrol pump on your right. Once it arrives, take the first right (which you’ll know is correct because this right is just before the post office), then take the first right again. You’ll basically be on the internal road parallel to Al Wasl Road at this point. You’ll pass a few villas and on the left will see some convenience stores including something called Kardoche Bakery. You’ll see a mustache-laden Mona Lisa in the alley next to these stores. Timing: 12pm till 12 pm. Telephone: +971 4 349 6677
Politically-Correct version: Al Wasl Square, opposite Eat and Drink restaurant. If you are driving down Al Wasl Road in teh AUH-DXB direction, it is just before Safa Park. Its a corner restaurant, and you really can’t miss the signage. Telephone: +971 4 388 4411