Some of the best and freshest Thai food in Abu Dhabi can be found in a working-class neighborhood of downtown, located in a small restaurant just behind the brightly-lit Bollywood cinema called El Dorado. Asian Garden may be a bit on the grungy side, but it’s a place you’ll want to come back to again and again for solid, tasty Thai at rock-bottom prices.
Asian Garden serves unpretentious, hearty food. Its one of the few places to order authentic Thai outside of hotel restaurants, and its menu also includes a section with Chinese dishes and Filipino specialties. This mix reflects the combined expertise of the restaurant’s two owners, a husband and wife team; he’s Thai and she’s Fillipina.
The food is high-quality and great value for the price, but portions can be on the smaller side. It’s best to order either an appetizer or a third dish for two people so that you’ll have more than enough food to sample.
The server will ask you to specify the level of spiciness desired for each dish ordered, and this will affect how many small diced fresh red chilis will appear in your food when it comes out. Asian Garden is ready and willing to set your mouth on fire if you opt to go the “very spicy” route, and will add large red chilies throughout.
The Kai Pad Krapao comes with thinly sliced strips of chicken glazed in a light, but rich, brown sesame oil sauce with sliced green beans, fresh basil, and red chilies. It’s spicy, light and full of flavor.
The Phat Khimao Kai provides a nice chewiness as a base for chunks of chicken cooked with herbs, celery slices, eggs, and basil.
The Nuea Phad Nam Mun Hoi, served in a thick sauce with tender thinly-sliced pieces of beef, is also delicious.
Asian Garden has been open in Abu Dhabi for over a decade, and it’s beginning to show signs of its age. The perpetually-dripping air-conditioner in the dining area was recently repaired (with duct tape) but the old refrigerator in the same area could use an upgrade. (Asian Garden does, however, also have another, newer outlet on the outskirts of the city and plans to build a third branch, according to restaurant staff)
Asian Garden is a solid option for delicious food that is off-the-beaten-path of most tourists. But go there for the food, not for the cleanliness or the atmosphere of the small dining area, which only contains four tables.
It’s the perfect place to go after rolling out of bed on a weekend morning when you’d rather not dress up for a fancy brunch but still want good food. Asian Garden also delivers throughout Abu Dhabi – just avoid the spring rolls and other fried dishes, and these travel less well than the others and are best eaten on-site.
Asian Garden Restaurant: see the menu
Address: Shop #2, Zayed the First (aka 7th or Electra Street) behind El Dorado Cinema, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Telephone: +971 2 676 3350