Review: Loi Krathong Festivities in Abu Dhabi

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.’  Buddha

Loi Krathong is the annual Thai festival celebrated throughout South Western Thai cultures. Loi Krathong is translated as ‘to float a basket’ and comes from the traditional making of krathong, small buoyant baskets fashioned from banana leaves decorated with flowers, a candle and incense. Traditionally krathongs are floated, whilst setting free bad thoughts and making a wish, on rivers, canals or the sea on the night of the full moon. The ceremony is thought to bring good luck, asking forgiveness from the Goddess of Waters, Phra Mae Khonkha for any mistreatment she has suffered over the past year. Loi Krathong is one of Thailand’s most important holidays, celebrated this year on 25th November and I have been lucky enough to attend two different celebrations at two of the capital’s best Thai restaurants.

Last week, South East Asian restaurant Sontaya (meaning sunset) at the St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort held a celebration evening embracing Thai culture and food in conjunction with the Royal Thai Embassy. After an introduction by the Thai Ambassador Mrs. Viphawan Benniman, a performance of traditional music and dancing by a folklore troupe Thep Sattha followed, floating candles adorned all the water pools to set the scene. Thai food was served in a five-course exotic dinner prepared by Chef Peter Peerapong. Before we were seated, we floated our own Krathong baskets in the beautiful pools that surround the restaurant’s pavilions, making a wish as we placed the baskets in the water, the many candle lit floating baskets made a beautiful sight and a perfect backdrop for dinner.

The evening started with drinks and canapes in the bar pavilion before the culture show and dinner. The food was very well presented but as a vegetarian I was underwhelmed by limited choice, my fellow guests however tucked into dish after dish of Thai specialties including Full Moon Night, a shredded prawn salad with organic egg, spicy caviar, prawn dust and lime dressing with fresh Thai herbs, Tantalizing Boat filled with grilled octopus, crispy tofu skin crab roll, toasted eringi mushroom and a spicy tamarind sauce and Rolling Free Range, a chicken roulade with pha-naeng curry sauce, cowslip flower and Thai basil porridge.

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The piece de resistance of the evening was the dramatic presentation on dry ice and stones of the To Floating dish, poached cod fillet in tom yum goong bisque with white fungus, ink dumpling with lime and chilli served in a tied package. Dessert was The Elegance of Flowers, a jasmine ice parfait with a beautiful mauve coloured butterfly pea flower sorbet, crispy rice berry, smoked meringue decorated with flowers.

Sontaya

Location: The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi · Saadiyat Island

Telephone: 02 498 8001

Website: www.sontayaabudhabi.com

Sontaya’s Loi Krathong Experience is available until 28th November – 6:30pm – 10:30pm

Price from: AED 300++ per person

Yesterday on the evening of Loi Krathong, the other half and I attended the dinner to honour the Thai event at Silk & Spice restaurant located at the Sofitel Abu Dhabi on the Corniche.

Silk & Spice offers the flavours of Bangkok prepared by Head Chef Kim Gates in a truly elegant setting, traditional sunken tables, carved wooden ceiling and a fabulous bar area set the mood perfectly. We were seated at one of the large sunken tables in this stylish venue which has been decorated with paper Thai parasols and carved fruit for the length of the celebration. A scented welcome towel and a little ceramic cup of lemongrass iced tea marked the start of the bona fide Thai culinary journey, delivered in the authentic kneel-down service style by our supple servers.

The food, and there was lots of food much to the other half’s delight, was beautifully presented and well explained by our main server, with the choice of spice intensity. Each course had a delicious vegetarian alternative which was a nice touch and well received by myself and a fellow guest. The dinner started with Nua Dad Diew, sun dried beef for the meat eaters while crispy tofu was the veggie option. Next up was Som Tam Goong Yang, Thai green papaya salad with green shrimp with the alternative of a tasty selection of vegetable tempura. The soup course was Tom Yam Ta Lay, a seafood sour soup with Thai herb or a clear vegetable soup for non-seafood eaters.

The masterpiece of the evening was the massive main course combining Massaman Gai, Thai Massaman chicken drumstick with Kaprao Ped, duck breast with basil and chilli and Phad Pak Choy Tao Hoo, stir fried Pak Choy with tofu served with jasmine rice from a traditional cone shaped basket. The chicken and duck dishes were substituted with asparagus and mushrooms dishes for the vegetarians. So much food consumed and still dessert to go. Bua Loy Khai Warn was a glutinous rice flour dumpling in coconut cream, sweet egg with mango and coconut flakes, a delicious end to a lovely, very filling meal

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Silk & Spice

Location: Sofitel Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road East, Capital Plaza Complex

Telephone: 02 813 7777

Website: http://www.sofitel.com

Opening hours : 6:00pm-midnight

The Loi Krathong menu is available until 26th November.

If you like Thai food then these restaurants both offer an abundance of traditional and modern Thai dishes on their menus. Your choice is whether you prefer dining in the romantic setting of floating pavilions at Sontaya or the elegant setting at Silk & Spice with views out to the Corniche and beyond. First world problem me thinks!

I was invited to attend these events. All the views are my own. Unless otherwise stated all photos on this page copyright Jo Brett 2015. All rights reserved.