Nude still lifes and cheeky menu items hint at a Khao San Road dive thousands of miles east. A Thai chef is fast at work prepping “Purple Rain” red curry in Smiling BKK’s open kitchen and top-40 music videos blare from an overhead television set. Though Dubai’s worst kept secret of an underground Thai restaurant, the crowded Al Wasl alleyway the eatery is sandwiched within sets the stage for a fringe eating experience seldom seen this far from Bangkok.


A couple shakes of a tambourine on each table signals waiters and with their arrival too arrives steaming portions of stir fried crab and “Tom Yummm” soup. Smiling BKK serves a loyal customer base one of the world’s most recognised culinary fixtures, though with a number of quirks which offer interval from the fussy Eastern hotel fare found elsewhere. While the menu is at once inexpensive, variant, and up to par, encountering a mustachioed Mona Lisa on the front door, Van Gogh replicas inside, and a lava lamp-worthy collection of decorative hues is worth more than the price of Pad Thai.



SMILING BKK - Entrance

Shop 1, Block 1, Al Wasl Square, Al Wasl Road, Dubai, UAE