When I first arrived in Dubai in 2001, Dusit Thani Dubai had just opened along Shaikh Zayed Road. There were very few hotels on that stretch then, and Dusit Thani Dubai stuck out like hands in prayer. I was awestruck by its design—iconic and symbolic all in the same breath—an architectural nod to the traditional Thai greeting.
More than a decade later, the hotel still stands proud; keeping up with the times to rightly maintain its five-star status. It held new surprises—a giant bookshelf near the entrance is actually a secret door to a modern Japanese-inspired bar. The rest of the hotel is unmistakably oriental. The reception at the ground floor feels like a royal Thai courtyard where orchid flowers float from a giant centre fountain surrounded by seating areas.
“Sawadee kha,” a smiling room attendant greeted me in Thai before leading me to the elevator, which took us the to the 32nd floor and to my room—an extra spacious executive suite that had a view of the Burj Khalifa.
Dark wood panels feature heavily in this hotel’s interior design—now a luxury for even some modern, five-star hotels—from the well-polished wooden handrails in the lobby to the furniture and trimmings in the room. There’s nothing glitzy, but the overall vibe is comfortably understated yet elegant.
A single orchid flower that sat at the bottom of a small fishbowl welcomed me as I settled in the work desk in the room. I set up my laptop on the desk and connected it to the high-speed wifi access. The big living room with a view of the Burj beckoned, but so did the bedroom area, which was separated by sliding doors on both sides of the room.
From there I had a beautiful view of Shaikh Zayed Road and DIFC. No such view in the en-suite bathroom but there’s a stock of L’occitane products, though. I made my way back to the inviting bed and almost immediately fell asleep. It felt just like home.
What to do
I like how everything is within reasonable walking distance from the hotel. There’s a metro station nearby and the Dubai Mall and the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) are about a five- to ten-minute walk away.
If I wasn’t in the mood to exercise my legs, I could hop on the hotel shuttle bus for a free trip to Dubai Mall, Mall of Emirates, Dubai World Trade Centre, DIFC, Zabeel Mosque and Kite Beach. I was told I could also ask the concierge to arrange a personalised visit to the Miraj Islamic Art Centre or have a guided shopping experience at Dubai Mall’s Level Shoe District (how perfect for the Dubai Shopping Festival!). I ended up not going out and went for a relaxing Swedish massage at the hotel’s Namm Spa instead. The pamper session was exactly what I needed after racking in hours at work.
Where to eat
Food is something of an adventure in Dusit Thani Dubai, which houses the award-winning Thai restaurant Benjarong. From the ambiance to the food—Benjarong got everything right.
The amazing interior is the closest I can imagine to stepping into a traditional Thai home—with a steep ceiling and some ornate decorations on the wooden wall panels. And as if the décor didn’t provide enough wow factor, the kitchen came up with even more amazing, authentic offers.
My favourite Tom Yum Goong was cooked and served faultlessly here with just the perfect blend of hot and sour, as was the phad kee mao po tak, deliciously stir-fried, slightly battered prawn, calamari, mussel and fish finely seasoned with lemongrass, chili and sweet basil leaves. As my guest and I were enjoying the food, a live music duo played traditional Thai music that kept us entertained without really taking away our attention from the food. That basically sealed the deal for us.
Across Benjarong is PAX Ristorante & Lounge, where I enjoyed lively views of Shaikh Zayed Road. The food and the ambiance offer a piece of Italy in Dubai. Don’t leave without trying the super creamy zuppa di funghi el olio al tartufo (wild mushroom soup with white truffle oil) and the delightfully tender and flavourful millefoglie di filetto, or fillet medallions topped with creamy truffle sauce served with porcini mushroom and potato puree.
Then there’s The Californian, which is open for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Breakfast is a busy affair here, with a lot of people coming for the buffet. Of course, the best part of dining at Dusit Thani is the Friday brunch, when the 24th floor—where all its restaurants are located—is set up to become one giant buffet hall, with about 200 dishes and live cooking stations on offer. At the centre of all this is the well-stocked seafood and sushi counter, with different kinds of sushi, unlimited king crab legs, prawns, lobster, mussels and fresh oysters.
I admit I threw my diet out of the window and made several return trips to the seafood counter that day. I couldn’t help but share my new food find with my friends, who didn’t take long to join me at the buffet. There’s just something so homey about Dusit Thani Dubai you just want to share the experience with friends.
Telephone: 04 3433333
Address: 133, Shaikh Zayed Road