Let’s preface this review by stating I forgot how much I hated the parking situation in Abu Dhabi. I think it’s why I had nothing but love to Yas Mall when it opened. So, when I have made my third drive around in the maze under Boutik Mall (adjacent to Sun and Sky Towers on Reem Island), I questioned how badly I wanted to try Smoking Doll. Although I wondered about the name (it is fairly unique), from the website there was no discussion as to where it came from or why it is used:
Focusing heavily on Thai food Smoking Doll brings the east to the Middle East. Thai food is famous for its intense, character driven cuisine. The perfect harmony of Sweet, sour, salty and spicy seduces you with its complexity and keeps you coming back with its vast array of flavors, textures and fragrances. At Smoking doll we produce authentic Thai cuisine that is then presented on beautiful flatware in a modern style so you get the full impact of this amazing cuisine.
I will give credit where credit is due and say the fit out of the venue is quite cool. Done in blacks and reds, with ultra modern lighting fixtures and other bold pieces, the dining room seems a bit out of place in the hustle and bustle of the shopping corridor (walking out almost directly into Waitrose is especially jarring). Being August, it was too hot to enjoy the outdoor patio, but I’m certain it would be an enjoyable experience (when the weather is nice).
Having a brief look at the menu ahead of time, I debated a few of the appetizers, and in the end made a poor decision — yes, even we foodies are known to pick a bad dish now and then. Settling into an empty restaurant (it was nearly 3 PM), I ordered salmon tataki, Gyoza Nuea, and the Smoking Doll don. While I realize the restaurant focuses more on Thai (and maybe that’s what I should have tried), I wasn’t in the mood (but hey, it’s great the menu is diverse enough to offer a variety of Asian cuisines). To drink, I decided on a bottle of sparkling water (not Voss). Each of the dishes came out quite promptly, which I appreciated.
I first tried the salmon tataki, which was spiced with tagarashi and served on a crispy salad with spicy miso dressing. While approaching my levels of comfortability for heat, it was a delicious mix of hot and with the fantastic crunch from the accompanying salad, it’s a dish I would absolutely recommend.
While debating between the gyoza (AED32) and blazing prawns (AED45), had it been another day, I probably would’ve sent the gyoza back and asked for the prawns in place. However, I think I had been beaten down by my 15-minute adventure to locate a parking space, and so, took a few bites of essentially tasteless dough with equallly bland beef and put the top back on the basket, never to look at it again. Maybe the other gyoza on the menu are nice, but, given my experience, I wouldn’t be willing to risk it.
As a final dish, the Smoking Doll don was quite tasty. Again, the spice level was approaching what I’m comfortable with, but overall, it was a well crafted and beautifully presented dish. The blend of salmon and tuna sashimi, along with tuna tartare and (slightly) underripe avocado made for a cohesive bowl, and one I would probably order again. At AED65, this was filling enough to order as a standalone for lunch.
Full of fish, I requested the bill. When the total came back at AED155, it felt a bit high to me. Maybe I should’ve sent those gyoza back, or had them taken off the bill altogther…
Would I go back? While the parking is nearly enough to send me running, the price and particularly whelming dishes are just not enough to make a recommendation. However, as Smoking Doll does deliver, I think it’s the best and only option. Other suggestion would include somehow getting licensed — which would enhance the atmosphere quite a bit.
Have you been to Smoking Doll? Is there a dish I missed trying?