“Wow, this place does smell like Thailand,” was the first thing my colleague said as we met in the lobby of Dusit Thani Makati. The relaxing aroma softly enveloping the air in Dusit Thani reminds you of blossoming flowers in a zen garden. Thai, after all, the culture that which Dusit Thani is modeled after, is a culture tightly knit with Buddhism—a practice revolving on zen principles.
On the other hand, the large golden columns you will see standing erect in the lobby of Dusit Thani not only exemplifies elegance and luxury, but the pinnacle of that in true Thai tradition—royalty.
And that is why Dusit Thani’s Thai restaurant, Benjarong, is nothing less than a royal experience as well. A unique type of Thai porcelain famous for its beautiful, intricate patterns, the word benjarong literally means “five colors.” Known as a potter’s masterpiece, this elegant piece was reserved for royal use and ceremonials.
A restaurant which preserves the tradition of Royal Thai Cuisine, you will find that the dishes in Benjarong posses a harmony in taste, color, and texture achieved by blending herbs and spices that appeal not only to the palate but the senses, as well.
For starters, we were served the Por Pia Savoey (Thai spring rolls), Tord Man Gung (shrimp cake), and Tam Yam Gung (prawn soup) because what’s a Thai meal without the popular Tom Yum?
The spring rolls were quite a delight. Contrary to Chinese spring rolls that most of us are more used to, Thai spring rolls’ main filling are rice stick noodles. Each bite felt so rich and full. The shrimp cake, on the other hand, were deep-fried and sported a light curry flavor which is also very common in Thai food. I loved that the shrimp cake was golden and crunchy on the outside while the shrimp remained tender in the inside. But the star of the appetizers, if you ask me, was the Tam Yam Gung. This hot and sour prawn soup is the kind you crave at the end of a stressful day to relax the nerves. I love how it was a perfect balance of salty and sour—neither overpowering the other—all complemented by the hearty seafood in the mix.
For those who prefer to have salad for starters, Benjarong has the Yam Som O or pomelo salad—a refreshing dish, and the Yam Pla Duk Foo which is crispy fried catfish with green mango salad.
The Yam Pla Duk Foo, simply put, is like a green mango ensalada topped with shreds of crispy fried catfish, even more made special with cashew bits. Both sounded really appealing, and we didn’t know which one to choose, so we ordered both instead. And the dishes did not disappoint. Problem solved.
Thai cuisine features five main flavors—bitter, salty, sweet, sour, and hot. And those exactly are the served to us for the main course. The wide array of flavors available can appeal to any kind of taste, making the dining experience in Benjarong an even worth-while trip.
Here are the dishes served on our table, which are also some of Benjarong’s best sellers:
The dishes that caught my attention most were the Deep-Fried Lapu-Lapu in Tamarind Sauce, the Marinated Boneless Chicken in Pandan Leaves, another popular Thai food—the Phad Thai, and the Fried Rice with Shrimp Paste or, simply put is, bagoong rice.
All these, coupled with a refreshing drink of Thai Iced Tea and pleasant conversation with good company, can turn any simple night into a rather special one.
Capping our dinner off were, of course, arguably one of the most important parts of a meal—dessert. And what’s an authentic Thai dining experience without traditional Thai desserts?
There’s the Khao Niao Mamuang (Ripe Mango with Sticky Rice), Khanom Tako (Sweet Water Chestnut and Coconut Cream in Pandan Cup), and the Tub Tim Krob (Jellied Turnip in Coconut Milk with Crushed Ice and Syrup).
It is quite easy to notice—there is a resemblance here to Filipino traditional desserts. The Rice Mango with Sticky Rice is like the Thai version of our suman and ripe mango dessert, while their Jellied Turnip in Coconut Milk is akin to the Filipino all-time favorite, halo-halo.
Benjarong: A Taste of Royal Thai Cuisine in Dusit Thani Makati
It is also worth noting, that despite Benjarong being a 5-star hotel restaurant, the menu here is reasonably priced. Prices range from Php 200+ to Php 600+ per dish which are mostly good for sharing. The most expensive are the seafood, ranging from Php 300+ to Php 800+, but quality saefood always cost more, as with anywhere else. The important fact is, it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to taste authentic Thai Royal Cuisine here in Benjarong. Anyone can have a taste of Thailand.
After all, Benjarong, as it turns out, is not just a name of a restaurant. It is a rich cultural experience all by itself.
2nd level, Dusit Thani Manila
Epifanio de los Santos Ave., Makati City, 1223