The dining experience at Saffron, Banyan Tree Doha at La Cigale Mushaireb’s signature Thai restaurant, preserves the Thai values of connection that create harmony among a variety of authentic and indigenous flavours, as OHLALA’s Emille Loyola-Artigas discovered.
Thai food is known for its balance of many flavours in one dish: spicy, sweet, sour, salty and bitter – as well as the textures and aromas. The reliance on freshness as part of the dining experience and how the changing of the seasons plays a role in the selection of dishes. By satisfying the senses: sight, taste and smell, the creativity makes Thai food an experience unlike any other. We were so thrilled for days leading up to our dinner at the new Saffron restaurant, Banyan Tree’s signature and award-winning eatery. A walk through the exquisitely designed lobby and 24 levels up takes you to an elegant reception, tranquil environment and an enchanting aroma that fills the air. Welcomed by our charming host and ushered to our table, we were immediately drawn to the spectacular views of the Doha skyline, which you can marvel at from all angles in the restaurant. The menu is a collection of Thai staples, each dish enthusiastically presented to us by Milk, a member of the Thai team at Saffron, who knows all the dishes on the menu by heart. Our orders taken, we were served with Thai chips and dips, along with creative signature mocktails. Thai food is traditionally spicy blending all the flavours in a dish – we requested a medium heat level. There was an unexpected ‘amouse bouche’, served before our starters. Crispy crusted shrimp spring roll, came with the refreshing Miang Kham (a bite-size wrap), a delightful pair of small nibbles promptly primed our palates for the next course. Stunningly presented, the Khong Wang Ruam arrived at our table, a selection of freshly prepared Thai appetisers, with crispy rice noodle wrapped prawn, grilled tender chicken breast satay served with a dreamily tasty sauce, sea bass rice noodle roll and, our favourite among the ensemble, the Pomelo Prawn Salad.
The most memorable in the appetisers queue was the Gai Thod Bai Makroot; fried and impeccably spiced chicken with kaffir leaf, flavoured with pepper and herbs, with a scrumptious crispy skin yet very tender inside. Although it comes with cheese and chilli paste dips, it is perfect on its own. Yum Ped Nahm Tok, for our salad, was spicy grilled duck salad, served with roasted rice powder and chilli-mint dressing immaculately complemented with fresh seasonal vegetables. We paired it with Som Tum Puu Nim, mildly spiced papaya salad artistically matched with portions of very tasty and crispy soft-shell crab, the epitome of a classic dish with an innovative twist that simply works. The Thai gastronomic journey is not complete without soups, and our favourite was the Tom Yum Goong, the traditional spicy prawn soup with lemongrass and galangal. It was the best version we’ve had of this, from presentation to its divine aroma and distinct flavour. Chef Porntip Eurmanan explained the meticulous preparation that turned this into a masterful creation. The soups are served in a bowl and kept warm with a tealight candle and not very far away awaits our Tom Kha Gai, featuring chicken and infused with a flavoursome combination of galangal coconut broth, coriander and kaffir lime leaf. Like a theatre performance, every move had its immaculate timing. The dishes were perfectly orchestrated, and the restaurant and kitchen were flawlessly in sync. Next to arrive was the pineapple sorbet, a refreshing taste to prepare our palates for the next course.
The world’s much-loved Thai main courses are on the menu. Meticulously arranged, was Phad Kaprao Nua, a stunning spread of soft and juicy wokfriend Australian beef tenderloin, served with hot basil and chilli, it’s easy to appreciate that it is one of the favourites from the menu. Next came Goong Thod Nahm Pla Waan, which is fried tiger prawns blended with the vibrant taste of sweet and sour tamarind sauce served with coriander salad, and then the aromatic flavours of Gaeng Kiew Waan Gai, the gently braised chicken curry, with the chicken so tender and infused with flavour, complemented with eggplants and sweet basil leaves, pedantically prepared for over four hours, served with crispy fish and boiled eggs. Our favourite from this course was the Khao Pad Saffron, the wok-tossed saffron rice, mixed with seafood, classic crispy shrimp and vegetables. The subtle yet enchanting taste blended impeccably with Gai Phad Med Mamaung Himmapharm, the wok-tossed chicken cashew nuts in a heavenly melded sweet chilli paste and oyster sauce. After the savoury ensemble, your palates will certainly crave for some desserts, and what could be better than Saffron’s version of mango sticky rice, or the Khao Niew Mamuang and I-tim Kati. It’s an immaculate essence of sweet mango, sticky rice with just the right hint of coconut served with a scoop of creamy coconut ice cream. The perfect end to an exceptional gastronomic experience.
For more information or to make a reservation, please call Saffron at Banyan Tree Doha at La Cigale Mushaireb on 4410 3310 or WhatsApp 3992 0808.