First look: Thai restaurant DuangDy by celebrated chef couple to open at The Link

Fine dining venue serves bold and authentic flavours, with a hint of environmental activism

Opening to the public in February, DuangDy is located at high-end culinary hub The Link at One&Only One Za'abeel. Photo: DuangDy
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Thai cuisine is one of Asia's most famous cultural exports to the world. Simple yet complex, it is fresh and bold. And yes, there's more to it than pad Thai.

This is what husband and wife Duangporn Songvisava and Dylan Jones, who are both chefs, set out to prove when they opened their now-Michelin-starred Bangkok restaurant Bo.lan in 2008.

The mission continues in Dubai as they open a spin-off restaurant at One&Only One Za'abeel's culinary hub The Link next month.

At DuangDy, Songvisava tells The National, guests can expect “uncompromising Thai flavours” made by hand from start to finish. The venue will feature dishes seldom found outside of Thailand including nahm prik, a pounded chilli paste or sauce, which is served with fresh vegetables.

The Dubai venture essentially mirrors Bo.lan, which is known for its commitment to eco-gastronomy. It veers away from industrial-grade ingredients and only uses hand-pressed coconut milk and home-made curry paste, for example. The team also work closely with farmers and local producers.

Even the names share the same etymology – Bo.lan is the combination of Bo, Songvisava's nickname, and Dylan, while DuangDy is a portmanteau of Duangporn and Dylan.

“Like in Bo.lan, we strive for sustainability, minimal environmental impact and zero waste to landfill,” says Jones.

This penchant for using local produce could be challenging to fully replicate in the Middle East. The couple are aware of this and have been working with local partners to find the best suppliers.

“We understand that being in Dubai, there are limitations to what can be grown or raised, so when we do need to choose imported items, they must be of the highest standards,” Jones adds.

Many of the core ingredients used in Thai cooking, such as fish sauce and palm sugar, are sourced from the same suppliers as Bo.lan to ensure the same quality.

Sustainability is more than just a buzzword for DuangDy. In fact, despite not being open to the public yet – only hotel guests are allowed to eat at the venue at the time of publication – the restaurant has already started an upcycling programme to minimise its waste. Case in point: a craft cola that appears on the menu is made from used coffee grounds and lime zest.

“We have also started discussions with local farmers to hopefully give them our upcycled food waste for animal feeds or compost,” says Songvisava. “We are working hard in every aspect to find the most eco-friendly options, whether that be our menu covers or the ink used for printing.”

Bo.lan is a strong case study for the couple's focus on sustainability. They use solar panels, have a water filtration system and grow their own vegetable garden. They upcycle cooking oil, turning it into soap; convert fermented coconut husks into animal feed; and use lime peel as cleaning materials.

In 2021, Bo.lan shut down, with the couple citing Covid-19 difficulties. But last year, it reopened with a revitalised outlook on eco-gastronomy.

“Being in Dubai means we have new laws and regulations that we are dealing with.” says Songvisava. The duo are working with the authorities to ensure they can introduce the environmental practices they are used to at Bo.lan, she adds.

“Dubai is an evolving and sophisticated dining destination,” she says, but is still in need of a more authentic and elevated Thai-dining concept.

Something like DuangDy, she adds, “that captures the real essence our culinary heritage”.

Updated: January 26, 2024, 7:25 AM