Benjarong restaurant already has a huge following, both in its native Thailand and worldwide, for the quality of its food and overall general excellence. Marhaba had been invited to sample some of its delights at the Dusit Doha Hotel and we couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss is about.

The hotel is located in Al Dafna and as soon as you walk in you can see that this is something different – black and cream marble mixes merrily with lucky bamboo plants and silver accessories, and there are genuine smiles from the hotel staff. It’s all extremely luxurious but feels incredibly welcoming. There is a wonderful faint smell of lemongrass throughout the property, which happily continues as we arrive at our restaurant for the evening.

We were met by cheerful ladies Florie and Analyn, who exuded impeccable Thai warmth and hospitality, and who were wearing gorgeous traditional Thai clothing. Walking through the restaurant, we noticed the restrained yet beautiful interior design, with its soft lighting and furnishings in tones of browns and cream – a high-end restaurant, no doubt, but without any pretensions. The perfect ambience in which to enjoy some Thai food!

The menu is what might best be called adaptations of traditional dishes: contemporary twists on Thai food that still maintains its authenticity. The well-known salads, soups, curries and desserts are all here, but slightly tweaked for the discerning modern palate.

If you are in any doubt over what to order, amiable Chef Gina is on hand to talk you through the outstanding selection, and is ready to suggest a dish based on your own levels of heat – or will happily adapt it to suit you should you want more or less. There is a vegetarian menu and any other food concerns can be easily addressed.

This was exactly the impetus we needed, and eagerly followed Chef Gina’s suggestions. We ordered soups to start, the perennial favourite Tom Yum Goong, with succulent prawns, and Tom Sab Nua Tun, with slow-cooked spicy beef. Both were excellent, a delicious twist on those we’d had before, and Chef Gina had absolutely nailed the spice level. We were blown away with the intensity of the spices and seasoning – it was a total flavour riot in our mouths! These were great starts to the evening.

For our main courses, Chef Gina had recommended two of the house favourites – the catchy Mussaman Ka Kae by Poem of King Rama II (lamb massaman curry to you and I) and the equally tongue-tripping Pla Krapong Nueng Manao Gub Ka Lam Plee Muan (steamed seabass with cabbage rolls).

Now here is where Benjarong really sets itself apart from other Thai restaurants. The presentation and decoration of both dishes was sublime, and we took a few moments just to breathe in the aroma…a fabulous combination that will definitely make your mouth water.

The massaman curry features lamb shank that has been slow-cooked for 48 hours. The meat just fell off the bone and was deliciously tender, and fully complimented by the homemade sauce, with potatoes and cherry tomatoes and cashew nuts and herbs … so much going on, yet all married perfectly together, especially with the coconut pandan rice.

Meanwhile, the seabass was just as tasty – make sure you spoon up all the garlic, chilli and lime sauce which was zesty and zingy and zuperb (ok, not an actual word but you get my drift!). The cabbage rolls were juicy and we absolutely loved the use of microherbs and chilli strips. The dish was light yet incredibly satisfying.

We couldn’t resist having our favourite dessert to end the meal – Khao Niew Moon Mamuang Gub Mousse Kati, which as you all know is sticky rice with mango and coconut cream. It is typically just that, three basic components on a plate, and absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, at Benjarong it has been elevated to an entirely other level. Yes, the above three components are still there, but the dessert has been transformed with the addition of swirls of mango puree, small mounds of coconut mousse, sago, mint leaves, toasted sesame seeds and edible flowers. Wow!

For extraordinary food, excellent service and a beautiful atmosphere, you are strongly recommended to sit down at Benjarong. We predict the restaurant will be acquiring the same cult following in Doha!

The restaurant is open 6:30 pm – 11:30 pm. For reservations, call 4004 4444

Author: Sarah Palmer

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