The Vegetarian Perspective

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Busaba Eathai Dubai: The Balancing Act

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Busaba Eathai Dubai: The Balancing Act

Thai cuisine, like most Asian cuisines, is all about balance. Salty, sweet, spicy and sour are the four main components that must be kept in harmony to create a well-balanced, tasty dish. The chefs at Busaba Eathai, a recently opened eatery in the Jumeirah Beach Residence, always strive to keep this balance. The food draws from a mix of traditional Northern and Southern Thai recipes that have been given a modern touch, with small hints of Indian and Malay influences.

Busaba is a bit hidden away in a plaza near the Amwaj Rotana at one end of the Walk, but doesn’t get lost amidst the other restaurants and cafes that have popped up in the area.  When we arrive there for lunch, we can already see a sense of balance at play in the restaurant’s décor, making use of straight lines and neatly arranged tables to create an ordered, harmonious space. All the furniture is a uniform shade of brown, complemented by hanging pendant lights that emit a soft yellow glow, like fireflies in the woods.

Our server helpfully points out the vegetarian selection on the menu, even suggesting one or two items that can be substituted for vegetarian versions. We order a dish from each of the menu’s main sections along with some sides, which amounts to a hearty meal for three.

There's a nice selection of juices and mixed drinks that use a contrast of sweet and sour; sweetened syrups and fruits juices mixed with an element of citrus to balance the flavor. I go for the Vanduke, which is a lovely blend of orange and coconut that tastes a bit like an orange Creamsicle.

Our dishes constitute a snapshot of simple Thai cuisine: a curry, a salad, a pad thai, and a tofu stir-fry. These are accompanied by Chinese broccoli, fried with garlic and shiitake mushrooms for a very earthy flavor, and Thai roti. This last one is a surprise, as I’m more used to seeing roti in Indian cuisine. Though a little on the oily side, it ends up being nice and crisp.

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The Yam Sam Som is a vegetarian alternative to one of the regular salads, served sans shrimp, and is an extremely tricky balancing act. Pomelo adds sweetness, which pairs with the sourness of blood orange.  The flavors are sharpened with sliced shallots, and get a dose of heat from red chilies. This dish brings a lot of action to the taste buds with plenty of strong flavors vying for dominance. Ultimately though, it may prove a tad spicy for some.

Pad Thai Jay has an overall flavor that is best described as umami. Soy sauce, palm sugar and a sprinkling of crushed peanuts create a vibrant, sweet and savory mix that’s enriched by sautéed greens and salty rice noodles. A squeeze of lime adds a sour note to pull it all together. There is a play of textures, as french beans and bean sprouts add some crunch that complements the softness of courgettes and the noodles themselves.

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Butternut Pumpkin Curry is  essentially comfort food, with a smooth texture and a slight smokiness from the spices, especially turmeric. There’s a mild coconut flavor running through it, which also provides richness without making it too heavy. Chunks of pumpkin in the curry add just a hint of sweetness to the whole thing and a side of cucumber relish brings a touch of acidity to counteract the richness of the curry. Put all together, it is a treat from the first spoonful to the last.

Tofu is generally not a favorite ingredient of mine, and especially not silken tofu, which I find to be slimy and unappealing. However, the Tofu and Spinach Stir-Fry proves to be a very pleasant surprise! The tofu here actually lives up to the ‘silken’ adjective; it is melt-in-your-mouth-softon the inside with just enough firmness to hold it together.  The yellow beans in the stir-fry are a bit underdone, perhaps intentionally so, but they should probably have been cooked just a little bit longer.

We don't have much room left for dessert, but by this point, our food photography session has caught the eye of the manager, who figures out that we're bloggers and offers us a trio of desserts on the house!  For better or for worse, we decide to go ahead and indulge.  The Black Rice Pudding combines creamy coconut milk with al dente rice to create a dessert that’s not overly sweet and is relatively light. Thai Ruby, composed mainly of ruby water chestnuts, tickles the palate at first with a candy-like taste, but ends up being far too sweet. The pieces of jackfruit in there have a more subdued sweetness, but can’t compensate for the sugary taste of the dish. The Mango Sticky Rice is decent, complemented by toasted rice flakes that add some crunch and balance out the sweetness; the slices of mango are a bit overripe though.  I guess the desserts weren't worth the indulgence after all.

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Over the course of an afternoon, we experience a wide variety of flavors that complement and contrast each other in interesting ways. Busaba Eathai is a hidden treasure on the JBR Walk, and proves itself to be a tasty, well-balanced experience.

9/10stars

GRASSY SUMMARY
Veggie Friendly: ✔ Vegan Friendly: ✔
Pros: Good food, comfortable environment, friendly staff.
Cons: The desserts aren't that exciting.
Price: $$

Average price for 1 guest without alcohol

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