I have a confession to make. After four years living in Doha and blogging about food, I’ve become a little set in my ways when it comes to restaurants. I now have my staple favourites; those places that deliver excellent dishes and exemplary service on each and every visit (such as this gem), or that have such an extensive menu of exciting delights that you can’t help but return time and time again to try more (as we’ve been doing with this long-time favourite). At the beginning of the year I gave myself a bit of a reality check: before I got too stuck in my ways and ended up eating at the same six or seven restaurants for the rest of my days, I decided it was time to shake things up a little and return to my adventurous roots by exploring some of my less frequented spots around the city. Not only was I surprised to discover some hidden restaurant gems that I had either forgotten about or written off, but I rapidly realised that some of the best dishes in Doha don’t necessarily live on the menus of my aforementioned ‘top tier’ restaurants.
I thought I would share the results of my month of culinary adventures with you, so that you too can give some of these incredible dishes a try. I have a feeling that quite a few of them you will never have tried.
Best Mid-Shopping Snack: Macaroni Cheese with Braised Shortrib at Aimee’s, Doha Festival City
I chanced upon this gem of a find during a particularly long shopping trip, when I was so hangry that I needed to stop at the first restaurant that I came across and eat something that was quick to order but that would fill me up. The restaurant just happened to be Aimee’s, opposite Boots, not far from Monoprix, which is a cute little place with pretty crockery and pastel-hued decor.
When the waitress recommended the Macaroni Cheese, I conceded without even looking at the menu. Had I done so, it would have given away the fact that this isn’t any old Mac & Cheese, but the mother of them all, topped with shredded beef short rib which has been slowly braised in cola until it’s falling-apart-tender, sweet and melt-in-the-mouth. Add some crunchy panko breadcrumbs, and top with slightly salty deep fried onions, and you have the ultimate palate pleaser. Next time you’re feeling the shopping-induced hunger pangs at DFC, promise me you’ll give it a try!
Best Food To Share With Friends The Only Food I Will Share With Friends: Shabu-Shabu at Hwang, Intercontinental Doha The City
I really like Hwang, but I’d only ever visited for promotions in the past and had therefore never dipped into the standard menu. Boy, I was missing out.
For anyone that isn’t familiar with the Japanese dish, Shabu-shabu, allow me to fill you in. It’s a ‘nabemono’, or hot pot dish, comprising of thinly-sliced meat and vegetables, in a well-seasoned broth. The term is onomatopoeic, playing on the sound of the ingredients bubbling away in the pot. At Hwang, you can choose between beef, chicken and seafood, with delicious Udon noodles as the base. The dish is cooked on hotplates at the table, with each individual given their own tongs to add their meat into the pot. A variety of dipping sauces are provided so that the guests can then customise their dish according to their own tastes and preferences.
Not only is this a sociable and fun way to spend a mealtime with friends, but it is a delicious one. Just choose your friends wisely; you won’t want any food hoggers for this one!
Best Bar Snack: Crispy Fried Rice with Wagyu Beef at Nobu, Four Seasons Doha
Who else usually bypasses everything else on Nobu’s bar menu and heads straight for the Black Cod Butter Lettuce and wagyu beef sliders? Guilty! On the rare occasion that Mr Sunshine and I get a chance to go for a drink at our favourite place, I usually like to stick to the menu items I know and love because I just don’t know the next time I’ll get to enjoy them again.
This latest visit was different. We headed to the rooftop bar at Nobu for a spontaneous date night, and decided to go ‘off piste’ and order everything on the menu that we had never ordered before. These crispy fried rice and wagyu skewers were the highlights. Melt in the mouth tender cubes of steak, paired with little squares of rice that gave a satisfying ‘crunch’, my only complaint was that they didn’t come in a bigger portion as they disappeared far too quickly.
Best Comfort Food: Cheese Fondue at Belgian Café, Intercontinental Doha
I hadn’t had a cheese fondue since the last time I was skiing in the Alps, circa 2008, so when I saw that Belgian Café’s famous cheese fondue was back on the menu, I couldn’t wait to get myself down there to try it for myself. The ‘new’ Belgian (hey, I know it’s been around for a while but I don’t get out much these days!), located on the ground floor of the Intercontinental Hotel is everything that the old bar was not – bright, airy, spacious, welcoming to families and relatively smoke free.
I was happy to see that the main menu hasn’t changed too much from the old, but delighted to discover the additional Winter Indulgence menu which includes a whole load of cheesy goodness, from Gratinated Reblochon Cheese Tartiflette to Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Sauce. It’s all delicious, but the most satisfying thing on this menu is, of course, the fondue. Warming, gooey, comforting and delicious, it’s served with a platter of gherkins, silver onions, bread, beef and chicken ham, and poached pear for dunking. Hurry up and get yourself down there, because this hug-in-a-bowl will disappear from the menu on 28th February!
Best Appetiser: Black Pepper Shrimp with Sun-Dried Pineapple at Spice Market, W Doha
Another spontaneous date night for Mr Sunshine and me saw us heading to longterm staple, Spice Market. There was only one Appetiser on the menu which I didn’t think I’d tried before, so to continue with the trend we’d started, we chose it to share.
Let’s just say that we were pretty smug that we did. The black, sticky shrimp is marinated in a fragrant black pepper sauce, which is surprisingly sweet, with a tang of ginger and subtle taste of earthy fermented black beans. Paired with dainty pieces of sweet pineapple, this dish is a taste sensation, and two shrimp in, we were both wishing that we’d ordered a whole plate to ourselves.
Best Main Meal: Dol Sot Bi Bim Bab at Yee Hwa, Al Nasr
OK, I might have already talked about this dish here, but it’s so good that it’s deserving of a second mention. Since I was introduced to this sizzling bowl of goodness by some of my Doha besties last year, I’ve spoken to many people about it but thus far not one of them has tried it (and actually, most are yet to visit Yee Hwa at all…please change this if you are one of these people, for me!).
The famous Dolsot Bi Bim Bab is a tempting melange of chopped vegetables, rice, beef and egg, served with the restaurant’s special spicy Bi Bim Bab sauce in a hot stone bowl. When these ingredients are mixed together, the concoction is warming, comforting, moreish and delicious. You’ll be scraping that bowl clean.
Best Dessert: Quinoa Brownie at Anima Lounge, The Pearl Qatar
I have my blogger bestie, Flying Food Ninja to thank for this one. She discovered it a while back and now craves it so often that she often calls up Anima Lounge to get it delivered to her apartment all on its own (I think she has them on speed dial!). She knows that I’ve wanted to try it for ages, so she treated me to a surprise delivery the last time she was round mine as she had a feeling that it would sit well in my list of best dishes in Doha.
Now this isn’t your standard brownie, it’s more like a rich, moist chocolate cake. It is served with a silky dark chocolate sauce and vanilla icecream which adds a little decadence to the dessert, and it’s definitely memorable! Try it and you might find that you are adding Anima Lounge to your emergency contacts in your phone too – but it’s OK, it’s made from quinoa so it’s not a real dessert right?!
Best Smoothie: Green Detox at Dean & David, The Pearl Qatar
OK, this one’s not technically a dish, but unlike most green smoothies which I personally think look and taste like pond water, it’s thick and delicious and worthy of ‘snack status’ on its own. Yup, I’d never really enjoyed many green smoothies before I tried this one, but I was lacking in energy one day when I popped into D&D for a sandwich, saw them making this and thought ‘why not!’.
With a melange of delicious ingredients, including spinach, basil, grapes, mango and banana, this smoothie has less of a ‘leafy’ taste to it, and more of a sweet, wholesome taste. What’s more, it’s actually filling! The addition of the basil is genius and something I’m going to try to replicate at home. However, with Dean & David right on my doorstep, I have a feeling that I’ll be popping out for the real deal rather a lot in weeks to come…
Doha dwellers, what are your best dishes in Doha? Are there any hidden gems that I need to know about? I’d love to know your thoughts, you never know, maybe I will feature it in a part two of this series!
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