Lemongrass Thai Restaurant has long been a family favorite. I’ve been a regular at their very first branch in Oud Metha (near Lamcy Plaza) ever since I landed in Dubai 9 years ago. This iconic restaurant with its trademark neon green logo and zen-like Thai-inspired interiors has since opened up a number of branches, and streamlined into food-courts with their ‘Lemongrass Express’ outlets.
Lemongrass also has a special place in my blogging history. One of my very first blog posts compared the Pad Kee Mao of three Thai restaurants in Dubai, and at that point in time, Lemongrass aced the lot (you can read this post by clicking here).
Hubby and I know the menu at Lemongrass by heart. Apart from their Pad Kee Mao, we have challenged each other to ‘extra, extra hot’ Tom Yum soup sans any drinks on the side. Throughout my pregnancy, I fulfilled my Thai cravings with weekly orders of their Green Curry. My daughter has been eating Lemongrass goodness since she was a mere fetus, and her very first ice-cream was their Pandan soft-serve. It was also Lemongrass that got my Hubby hooked into Thai cooking, and he has pretty much aced the Lemongrass Tom Yum soup at home.
However, somewhere down the line, it all changed. Perhaps it all started at an overbooked Valentines dinner at Lemongrass (we linked the weakened dishes to the rushed service). But then it happened again. And again. The Pad Kee Mao was just not the same, the Tom Yum missed its characteristic tangy hit, and before long our Lemongrass visits became far less frequent. The original chefs had left, and with them the perfectly balanced Thai flavours we had come to know and love.
Last weekend, we received a dinner invite to the newest branch of Lemongrass at Latifa Tower (Sheikh Zayed Road), and it brought back a whole load of fond foodie memories. Will the food be like it was in the good old days? Or is this branch yet another diluted version of the good old days?
Lemongrass on Sheikh Zayed Road might be well known to the residents of the block, but for transient passerby’s like myself, it can be easily missed. The long neon-green light-box can be seen on the front facade of Latifa Tower, but you have to walk down an alley to reach the restaurant entrance.
Inside, it is all to familiar. The restaurant’s trademark zen-like interiors exudes a sense of belonging and good times. The faces are new, but the staff are courteous and ever so friendly, and each greet us with the customary ‘Swadeeka’.
Lemongrass has introduced a separate menu for little ones, a first I’ve seen in the UAE. Do you know of any other Thai establishments with a kids’ menu? Do let me know! We didn’t order anything from this menu as my little girl is more than happy eating ‘grown-up’ Thai food. Being a family-oriented restaurant, the staff kept my tot busy with an activity sheet and crayons.
The menu prices have not changed much over the years, and Lemongrass continues to be one of the more reasonably priced Thai options in Dubai.
I am very happy to report that after the first spoonful of Tom Yum, both Hubby and I were on consensus about the fact that the good old taste of Lemongrass is back! The balance of sour, chili and sweet was spot on, and even my fussy 5 year-old had a bowlful all by herself.
When eating Thai, it is almost protocol to order a raw papaya salad on the side. However, at Lemongrass I highly recommend their Raw Mango Salad. Featuring finely shredded raw green mango, the salad is bursting with exotic tropical flavors accentuated with dry shrimp and Thai chili. Best of all, its light on the calories too!
Being back at Lemongrass, we had to reorder our old favorites. For Hubby, it’s Lemongrass’ Pad Kee Mao, and in my case, it’s their Green Curry Chicken.
Pad Kee Mao translates to ‘drunken noodles’, and legend has it that this fiery hot stir-fried noodles in deep, dark soya sauce has the ability to knock back sense into any drunkard. This noodle dish features a toss up of exotic Thai vegetables including baby corn, green pepper and eggplant, and the characteristic flavor of Thai basil reigns bold and strong.
However, my Green Curry was undoubtedly my favorite of the night. The base was sinfully creamy, and I believe they have used coconut cream instead of milk. This lends the curry an added oomph and richness which I devoured over steaming hot Jasmine rice. The gravy is so delicious that I really didn’t need the boneless bits of chicken.
Ironically I had eaten this very same dish at the Lemongrass branch in Al Ghurair Center two weeks back, and the flavours were miles apart. Perhaps they have different cooks? I think I’ll stick to the Sheikh Zayed branch!
Lemongrass is very proudly authentically Thai, and a tent-card on our table showcases three of the restaurant’s head chefs. Lemongrass currently offers three limited edition dishes created by each chef. Ofcourse we had to try one.
We had the Ped Ob Yod Pak by Chef Prajak. This is a beautifully presented Thai fried rice served in a pineapple half. The rice has taken on a curried flavor, and is tossed with seafood, chicken, raisins and pineapple. This fried rice is nothing like the conventional Chinese variety you might be accustomed to. It is a cusp between a fried rice and a pilaf, and is a substantial meal on its own. Do try it out before its taken off the menu!
Another old favorite we revisited was the Lemongrass Pad Kaprao. This is a spicy dish of stir-fried beef. It has an oyster sauce base, and is brimming with the sharp hit of Thai red chili.
As you can tell, we love chili! Even our mocktails had Thai chili in them 🙂 This is a Thai variation of lemonade featuring sweet basil and Thai red chili (the Thai name escapes me, just ask for the drink with the chili in it!).Promise this is more sweet than hot. The flavor of chili is there, but very subdued in a foreground of sweet basil-flavored lemonade.
As always, we tend to get overexcited when eating Thai and tend to over-order. We had quite a bit to pack up (and raid the fridge the next day!), and therefore decided to share a dessert between the three of us.
I would usually go for the Tab Tim Grob (a traditional Thai dessert featuring ruby red water chestnuts in sweetened coconut milk), but I was feeling adventurous and decided to go for the Coconut Custard on Sticky Rice. I was expecting a custard in the gooey, drippy sense but this is more like a sweet coconut-flavored omelette on rice.
It is an interesting dessert, satiatingly heavy yet not overpoweringly sweet. It has a hint of saltiness which I loved, but we really struggled to finish this deceptively small looking platter after our gluttonous over-ordering. I would suggest this after a light lunch, with a scoop of Pandan soft-serve Ice-cream on the side.
Overall, I am delighted to have rediscovered an old favorite. The flavors we enjoyed 9 years ago are beautifully, unabashedly back in the new Sheikh Zayed branch. I can only hope that the brand works at streamlining their deliciousness, and that there is more uniformity across the branches. For now, I vouch for Lemongrass on Sheikh Zayed Road (Ground Floor of Latifa Tower). I will definitely be back for more!
Call 04 3276237 for details, and table reservations.