“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” Voltaire
One of our dinner destinations last week was Smoking Doll, the South East Asian restaurant that serves a specialised menu of traditional Asian fused cuisine, with a focus on Thai food. The restaurant chain has two aesthetic pleasing venues at Nation Towers and Reem Island here in the capital.
Now nothing is straightforward in our house. Dinner for three turned into four at the last-minute (the restaurant were very accommodating, thank you Peter), the other half had a touch of man-flu (which as we all know is the very worst kind), it was his birthday but he wasn’t celebrating and the teenager was at a party and needed picking up on route because she loves sushi. To cut a long story short, we all assembled at the Nation Towers branch for a family dinner and were wowed (if not a tad overwhelmed by the vast menu selection, with over a hundred dishes from appetisers, to sushi, curries, noodles, rice and everything in-between to choose from. Another thing you need to know is that the male folk in my family are not pleasant (in any shape or form) if they are hangry (so hungry that their lack of food causes them to become angry) so it’s always advisable to make selections quite swiftly.
Smoking Doll has brought a taste of the Orient to the capital, they have become well known for the use of intense flavours and taste combinations from sweet, sour, salty to spicy and even smoky designed to tantalise the taste buds of even the fussiest diner. We got started with some drinks and our server Peter made lots of useful suggestions, taking his advice we ordered two of the alcohol-free cocktails which had been concocted by Smoking Doll’s own mixologists. An aptly named Gentleman for the birthday boy that married crushed kumquat with lychee, Thai basil in homemade lemonade arrived in the tallest glass and was served with a cute little dish of tiny pearls of lychee caviar. A fruit based drink for the lady, a Rooi’s Temptation combining rooibos tea, cranberry juice, orange juice, sweet and sour mix and fresh fruits, so refreshing and served in an oversized fish bowl like glass. The teenager had her standard choice of iced tea and the eldest had a green tea with mint served in the traditional ceramic Japanese style Kyusu teapot, so cute.
Having seen so many dishes that I fancied in the appetizers section and based on the fact that everything is served for sharing (a concept that is incredibly popular here in the UAE) I ordered them all. So we enjoyed a selection of steamed and salted Edamame beans, salt and pepper crispy eggplant served with a tasty sweet tamarind sauce, some vegetable spring rolls with some of the bbq chicken variety for the meat eaters, Pandan Leaf wrapped marinated chicken and the other half had his favourite traditional hot and sour Bangkok Tom Yum soup with prawns, lemongrass and lime leaves. The eggplant was so delicious I may have forgotten about the sharing part, what can I say us vegetarians love our vegetable dishes!
A dedicated Sushi bar displays a line-up of fresh fish used for both the Sushi and Sashimi. The teenager opted for California Maki Rolls combining king crab, avocado with roasted sesame and tobiko and the table was presented with a signature dish of smoking eel sushi served in a glass dome and lashings of wow factor. With twenty curries (including a posh lobster one) to choose from it was a tough decision for the other half but he selected the Massaman curry of slow-braised beef short ribs. The eldest went for Thai Beef Salad that paired grilled tender flank steak with fragrant herbs, shallots, spring onion, toasted ground rice and chili-lime dressing and I had the vegetable Pad Thai with the added delight of crushed peanuts. At this point the menfolk departed leaving us ladies to indulgence in a divine dessert to share of grilled pineapple served with banana ice-cream (so good), crispy wonton and caramel sauce. See the full Smoking Doll menu here
So why is it called Smoking Doll? Self titled ‘Global Lifestyle Engineers’ Star Corporation who own Smoking Doll (and Leopolds of London, read about them here) claim the name is actually derived from a group of travelling stage actresses, The Dolls who worked in Siam (Thailand) in the early 1800s. The Dolls were a little bit edgy and controversial, an interesting name that’s certainly a talking point along. The striking coloured decor of black tables and orange leather sofas creates an impressive dark enigmatic first impression, I really liked the oversized fans that act as room dividers too. Abu Dhabi was the launch location for the Smoking Doll concept and the success and development of the brand here will see expansion to neighbouring Dubai next year at the new Nakheel Pointe on the Palm.
Along with its standard menu Smoking Doll now offers a new two-course business lunch option meals that guests can enjoy with friends and colleagues in the restaurant itself or to takeaway. The Business Lunch menu is well priced and available daily between (11am – 3pm) at AED 50 for two courses or 60 AED with the addition of tea or a non-alcohol cocktail.
Smoking Doll has upped its game by serving high quality food at a reasonable price with relaxed yet competent service. I would recommend you give this relative newbie on the Asian Dining scene a visit, sit back enjoy the ambiance and decide for yourself. My advice would be to arrive hungry so you can maximise trying lots of the different well presented and flavoursome dishes and take a sweater as it’s a little chilly.
Location: Second floor, Nation Galleria, Nation Towers, Corniche West
Opening times: Daily 11am-11pm
Contact: 600 560 603
Also at Ground Floor, Boutik Mall, Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi
I was invited to review this restaurant but all the views are all my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved. First photo and featured image used courtesy of Smoking Doll/TohPR.