Seoul Food – Review of Yee Hwa Restaurant

You know those moments. Where you have been living in a city for a long time (let’s say eight years) and you think you know everything about it. Every nook and cranny. Then, you discover something new and you shout it from the rooftops and everyone else is like “Um yeah. Thanks Scoop.”

That happened twice this month. The first time when I discovered Chillis did home delivery. When the delivery guy came to my door with a bag of deliciousness, I commented on how I was surprised he found my building. The delivery guy shot me a withering look and said: “Yes Madam. Everyone orders from us here.” Boom.

The second time was with the discovery of Yee Hwa Korean Japanese Restaurant.

This was borne out of a craving for sushi and ramen and a desire not to venture too far from my hood. I hit the Zomato Doha app and it literally led my direct to their doorstep via their google maps integration.

I arrived just after 12pm and there was already a scrum for tables. The clientele was predominately Korean, which made me happy and relieved.

The extensive menu run the full range of sushi, sashimi and Korean and Japanese favorites including noodles, tempura and bulgogi.

I settled on tempura maki rolls, the kimchi pancake and the spicy seafood soup.

Settling in

Settling in

My adventure that day was a solo one and big thanks to the waiter for handling this well. When I looked around the restaurant I saw several other lone diners happily slurping away.

Like all Korean restaurants I was served up a selection of freebie side dishes including the ubiquitous kim chi (spicy fermented cabbage). Now I love a side dish so I had to restrain myself.

The restaurant has it’s own sushi chefs and everything is prepared to order, so be prepared to wait between dishes.

You had me at side dish

You had me at side dish

My sushi rolls were fresh and as promised, crispy inside. I wanted to take home a vat of the special sauce they were served with but it wouldn’t fit in my purse.

Note the sauce

Note the sauce

When the kimchi pancake arrived, it was the size of a large pizza. I looked around the room and no one was judging me for this. I managed two pieces before asking them to pack it up to take it home with me for dinner. It was a little greasy as I expected, but was also tasty, with the sour tang of the kimchi offset by the added vegetables.

The  spicy seafood soup was the recommendation of the waiter, who knew his audience. It was more a vat than a bowl of soup. I regretted instantly wearing white that day, but it was filled with noodles, prawns and squid and soon had me wanting to drink from the bowl. It also cleared my sinuses.

The soup of my dreams

The soup of my dreams

I was done within an hour and as I was leaving, I noticed the restaurant was heaving and there was a line of hungry patrons waiting.

Everyone in that restaurant was in on the secret. And finally, I can say that I am too.

Finally.

The Details:

Yee Hwa

Ground Floor, Doha Downtown Hotel Apartment,

Al Kinana Street

Al Nasr, Doha

Phone: +974 44419898

The Goan Rate – 48 Hours in Goa

A trio of chaat at Grand Hyatt Goa

A trio of chaat at Grand Hyatt Goa

Sometimes a gal just has to get out of the city. And at just three hours away from Doha, with its European heritage, spectacular beaches and yes, tasty food Goa is the perfect quickie escape.

I gathered up the gang and headed to Goa last weekend, in search of good food, cheap spa treatments and a dust free environment. Goa is one of those destinations that can truly surprise you. It’s kind of India Lite.

This was my fourth trip to Goa and unbelievably my 12th to India. They should give me residency or a lifetime supply of dosa anyway. Fresh off a 5am flight and a sprint to Immigration to avoid a charter flight of Russian package tourists, the first thought in our minds was food. And lots of it.

Mum's Kitchen

Mum’s Kitchen

Goa is unique in an already cosmopolitan country. The sole Portuguese outpost in India for 500 years, you can still see the European influence in its food and architecture. Our initial culinary stop was Mum’s Kitchen, famous amongst locals and visitors. The helpful waiter lured us into trying the firey Goan version of the Vindaloo (spelt Vindhalo in Goa).

Quite often hot and spicy dishes find their actual taste overwhelmed by the heat. But this was different. You could taste the layers of flavors including the smokey paprika.

Fried cauliflower at Mum's Kitchen

Fried cauliflower at Mum’s Kitchen

Goan cuisine take its influences from its history and location. Unlike other areas of India, you will find beef and pork but also seafood, coconut and fruit like pineapple.

Beef croquettes

Beef croquettes

Roadtrip

Roadtrip Goan Style

Goa is so laid back it’s almost horizontal and is one of the country’s most tourist friendly areas. The Portuguese influence is everywhere – from the food to the crumbling churches and street names.

Of course there was samosa

Of course there was samosa

It can be hard believe you are in India…

Panjim

Panjim

We missed a trick and visited on the edge of the monsoon, the weather was humid and we even saw rain. But this didn’t detract from the fecund beauty of the place.

Our hotel, Grand Hyatt Goa ensured we were well fed, watered and ferried around the city in good time. We were invited to dinner at the pan Indian restaurant Chulha on our first night. With a menu that spans the length and breadth of the country, our instructions were “bring us everything”.

Chicken and cashew in gravy

Chicken and cashew in gravy

And they did. Highlights of the feast included a chicken braised with cashew nuts and figs, which was moreish and creamy.

Chicken marinated in cream

Chicken marinated in cream

A grilled chicken dish, marinated in cream was also a favorite. Perfectly cooked and highlighting everything that is great about Indian food – fresh, clean and full of flavor.

Tandoori Jingha

Tandoori Jingha

The heaving table

The heaving table

Silenced by the food, the table also unanimously endorsed the tandoori jingha – or tandoor prawns spiced with cardomon, the selection of breads and the daahl.

Sev Puri

Sev Puri

And of course, there was cheese or more specifically, paneer done tandoori style with yoghurt and spices.

Paneer to my heart

Paneer to my heart

Sweet silver lining

Sweet silver lining

A table of savory fiends, we were even tempted by the selection of Indian desserts.

The view from here

The view from here

I haven’t traveled much this year for many reasons. I did feel myself missing home or Doha on several occasions. But I was glad to get out of the city for a couple of days with good friends. Who can ask for more than that?

History in my hotel

History in my hotel

Street art in Panjim

Street art in Panjim

Shisha, cocktail and a view

Shisha, cocktail and a view

Channel Surfing – A Look at the Al Jazeera Cafe

Every once in a while I find my natural born cynicism  undergoes a forced correction. I’m a journalist. It’s inbuilt.

It happened recently with PF Changs Doha and yes, it’s happened again.

A week ago I received a truly interesting invitation to a preview of the Al Jazeera Cafe.

If my eyebrows could have arched, they would have.

Qatar, where I have lived for eight years is the home to the Al Jazeera network which broadcasts news in English and Arabic.

I thought the invite might be a once off for one of their programs and being at Katara cultural village, I knew it wasn’t in the network’s notorious cafeteria. At least I might get a good coffee.

But upon entry to the purpose built cafe at the foot of a giant pigeon tower, it soon became clear that this was more than just a once-off event. They were extending the brand beyond news into a cafe/restaurant concept.

The sleek interior

The sleek interior

Mohammed Al-Rumaihi, Manager of enterprise at the Al Jazeera Media Network said the plan for a cafe had been brewing since 2007. And now, at Katara in partnership with Aspire Katara Hospitality, it was a reality.

Unlike other TV networks, Al Jazeera sits on a compound, is difficult to access and a little bit mysterious to many. So, the network decided to bring Al Jazeera to the people. They have moved their in-house museum containing many important items from the network’s rich history which are now on display. There is also a studio where programs will be broadcast, an interactive area, and of course, a restaurant with live streaming of all Al Jazeera’s channels.

“It’s a little bit of news and a little bit of food,” said Samir Ibrahim, Director of Sales and Distribution.

A taste of the menu

A taste of the menu

The Blog Up in Lights!

The Blog Up in Lights!

The iPad Menu

The iPad Menu

The restaurant’s menu runs the gamut of Arabic and international cuisine, with some organic and locally sourced products included. It is presented on an iPad style menu which also doubles a live stream TV.

Selection of salads

Selection of salads

I was one of a group of local bloggers and social media fiends invited  to explore the concept and the menu. I was, as usual, entering with my natural cycnicism. But I left a fan. the food itself was fresh, well presented and thoughtful. Care had been put into some unique touches like the fresh bread was presented on a Himalayan pink salt slab and served with organic olive oil from Spain (the homeland of the chef).

In the pink (salt)

In the pink (salt)

The starter of a selection from the salad menu was fresh, clean and well prepared. the highlight was the soft smoked salmon.

12 hour slow cooked beef

12 hour slow cooked beef

But the main, mine being a 12 hour slow roasted beef cheek, was one of the best dishes I have had in Doha this year. It was literally fall apart perfection with a sweetly moreish sauce.

You had me at mac and cheese

You had me at mac and cheese

Sides included mashed potatoes, vegetables and this mac and cheese which hit the spot. Al Rumaihi said the menu was carefully devised to showcase some local products (including organic honey produced not far from Doha) as well as international ones like mineral water from Poland.

Al Jazeera presenter and fellow Twitterati Kamahl Santamaria giving us a tour

Al Jazeera presenter and fellow Twitterati Kamahl Santamaria giving us a tour

Al Rumaihi told me there were plans afoot to extend the brand and concept to other locations with London being the first cab off the rank.

The wall of frame

The wall of frame

I entered this event thinking I had seen it all when it came to restaurants and dining in Doha. Again, I really shouldn’t be so judgmental. For a news junkie like me (the news ticker is always moving), this is what my fellow food blogger Gerald described as “like Disneyland”.

But this is also a truly unique concept and one that will appeal across the spectrum of nationality and age.

The Details

the Al Jazeera Cafe

Shakespeare Road, Katara Cultural Village (near the falcon hood)

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Facebook Page

Website: Al Jazeera Cafe

*Life on the Wedge was a guest of Al Jazeera

Just Leave it Brie

*Warning this post contains bad puns about cheese.

I am a bit of a conservative when it comes to my cheese. The more unadulterated, the better.

The only exception being truffle brie.

On a recent supermarket spree, I found two new hybrid cheeses – a truffle Moliterno and a bruschetta brie.

Wine and cheese Wednesday

Wine and cheese Wednesday

For me, the Moliterno was the more successful hybrid. Unlike most truffled cheeses (where the cheese is added at the last minute before sale), the wheels age for about six months before being infused with pure black truffle paste, so that the cheese develops a very particular character and depth. The vein of truffle is part of the cheese, not an addition.

Moliterno is a ewe’s milk cheese from the Molise mountain range in the south of Italy.

Bruschetta Brie

Bruschetta Brie

Buschetta brie on the other hand, is a novelty cheese. It’s cut in half during the process and filled with a tomatoey paste. Served at room temperature on the verge of gooey it was moreish and tasty.

But, I prefer my cheese to be free of de-brie.

You know I had to go there.

Wok This Way – Review of PF Changs Doha

“So, what did you think of your first experience at PF Changs?”

It was the 64,000 Riyal question and one every food blogger dreads. Especially when posed by the man he founded the restaurant himself. Both Phillip Chiang and his international marketing director had me in a spot.

Since opening two weeks ago, the Doha branch is serving around 1500 customers a day with people waiting up to an hour for a table (the only thing I would line up for is an ABBA reunion and that ain’t happening until Annafried says so). There have been some social media reports about poor service and spotty food (addressed by the team at our dinner and fairly branded as opening “teething problems), but yet they keep coming.

The restaurant sits in the consumer space also occupied by fellow cult outlet, The Cheesecake Factory. Insiders call it “Casual Plus” – causal dining but with more class and a higher price tag. Better ingredients and a better experience.

Such is the cult following that PF Changs generates that there have been social media postings for months updating people about the progress of this outlet.

There were even some starry eyed bloggers among the brethren seated at the media event I attended.

Only I remained a skeptic. An aggressive skeptic at that.

Then…that question.

My fork was posed mid-air over something called “Banana Spring Rolls” (more of that later).

“Look,” I said. “I wanted to hate this place.”

I honestly did. I was prepared to take it down. I have an aversion to chain restaurants and I had this pegged in the same box.

I explained that all my North American friends spoke of this chain with messianic fervor. And in that true “travel tosser” way, explained I had visited China, eaten some awesome food and also being from the Asian influenced city if Sydney, I kinda knew what good Chinese food was.

But…

But…

The chicken lettuce cup - their biggest seller

The chicken lettuce cup – their biggest seller

We were given a tour of the menu including their most popular items. The chicken lettuce cup (the food snob in me says it’s San Choi Bow, but hey when in Rome/Los Angeles/etc) is worldwide their biggest seller. Served with three dipping sauces including a chilli hit. Phillip (as he likes to be called) said customers have tended towards spicier foods in recent years and the sauce added the heat I also required.

The star attraction for the night was Dynamite Shrimp which the team admits is a Middle Eastern phenomenon. Since opening 11500 servings of this dish have been produced.

From my perspective it ticks my culinary boxes – sweet and savory, seafood and deep fried. And, served in a martini glass.

Dynomite

Dynomite

I could have done with a little less sauce, but in terms of taste and serving size, this is a winner.

My other standout dish was the dumplings – which come with meat, seafood or vegetarian. I consider myself a bit of a dumpling expert (a four day trip to Shanghai being my only qualification) and these passed muster.

Pass that dumpling NOW

Pass that dumpling NOW

Other dishes included a pretty tasty Mongolian Beef, which is a sweet, soy-glazed flank steak wok-seared with scallions and garlic. I didn’t admit that I had used a rip-off of this recipe to make something similar at home recently.

I asked Phillip Chiang if they used MSG and he emphatically said no and they also make every effort to source ingredients that don’t use this additive.

The food kept coming

The food kept coming

The Kung Pao chicken (which I have only ever had in the US) was described as spicy Sichuan chili sauce with peanuts, celery, scallions and red chili peppers. For me it was heavy on the peanuts and light on the spicy.

Meanwhile the Pad Thai (the chain bills itself as pan-Asian) was tasty, the noodles cooked well and pretty close to accurate in terms of flavor. I was also pleased to see they didn’t fall into the trap of swamping it with gluggy tamarind paste and calling it Thai.

I don’t really do dessert, but I do do ice cream (that’s another post). I passed on the Great Wall of Chocolate (I’ve been to the actual Great Wall of China, chocolate may have helped deal with the hordes of tourists) and sampled the previously mentioned Banana Spring Rolls. These reminded me of the battered and deep fried bananas of my Australian childhood. that’s a great memory.

One banana...two banana

One banana…two banana

Back to that “gotcha!” moment every food blogger hates.

I put down my fork, moved the banana spring rolls closer to me so no one else got to touch them, and made an admission.

“Actually,” I said. “I have really enjoyed my first PF Changs experience.”

Admittedly it was a media event in the private dining area and at that point I felt like an engorged Beluga whale after having sampled 10 different dishes.My only issue (and this was so which much of the menu), is that they could dial down the salt quotient. I woke this morning with a raging thirst (for water as opposed to for vengeance).

But the food, I have to admit, was well presented, fresh and yes, even tasty. This isn’t food that pushes boundaries, rather it’s comfortable and accessible.

As I left at 830pm on a Monday night in Doha (past this old woman’s bed time), there were several people patiently waiting to be seated.

That speaks volumes.

The Details

PF Changs Doha

Opposite Food Court, Villaggio, Al Waab, Doha

Tel: 44528541

*Life on the Wedge was a guest of PF Changs Doha

Fine Dining Doha Style

I know I sound like a broken record/tired old expat when I say that Doha’s dining scene has really skyrocketed since I arrived eight years ago.

But it has.

When I arrived we had a handful of five star hotels and few independent dining options for those who like something more challenging that a drive-thru burger. That said, there has always been excellent Arabic and South Asian choices at all price points.

In recent years, we have seen Alain Ducasse’s Idam open as well as a branch of Guy Savoy’s empire open (then close). We have also seen other dining options like French bistro La Varenne and its sister steak restaurant The Anvil Rooms open their doors as well as organic venture The Chef’s Garden at Qatar Foundation. Another “big night out” favorites includes the always special Spice Market at W Doha and Il Teatro at Four Seasons Doha. More recent spectacular entrants include Hakkasan Doha and of course, the greatly anticipated Nobu.

In recent years there have been two stalwarts on the fine dining scene –  La Mer at the Ritz Carlton and Gordon Ramsay Doha. Both still deliver in terms of taste and elegance and I wanted to pay tribute to them while also hopefully opening them to a new audience.

One the challenges facing chefs in fine dining in Doha has been access to ingredients. Both outlets negotiate this by establishing strong relationship with suppliers but are also benefiting from Qatar’s increased access to the rest of the world (thanks Qatar Airways). Their chefs also know how to work around the occasional shortages.

I visited La Mer again recently at the invitation of the fabulous Ahlan Qatar who hold regular blogger dinners. Regular readers will remember I have already been treated to their new Blind Tasting Menu and it was a pleasure to return and try other dishes.

Duck confit at La Mer

Duck confit at La Mer

Canadian chef William Khala, the restaurant has revamped La Mer’s menu and dare I say, given it a daring twist. This duck confit was everything it promised to be – soft, gamey meat topped by a crispy “crackling” on a bed of mixed grains (quinoa included).

Scallops and cauliflower cous cous

Scallops and cauliflower cous cous

Khala plays with flavors and textures unlike any other chef in Doha. His scallops with a caulflower “cous cous” being a case in point. Cauliflower is not the most flavorsome of vegetables, but like the cous cous it emulated, it takes on board the flavors its accompanies.

On any given night, the restaurant with a stunning view plays host to hotel guests, foodies and even couples celebrating big events (the rose petals on the table a giveaway). The menu is mix of the daring (like the duck confit) and the familiar while the staff are charming and knowledgeable.

Not too far away from the Ritz, one of the first of the newcomers brigade to take the plunge into this potentially lucrative market was Gordon Ramsay Doha at the St Regis. One of the outposts of the Ramsay empire that now stretches to Hong Kong and beyond, it opened in a blaze of publicity generated by the presence of the (alarmingly charming) man himself.

I have visited the restaurant several times, but had always filed it under the “special occasion” food file. That special occasion rarely coming (cough).

Nobody does a special event better than the St Regis. I was invited last week to try a special menu for their Champagne Supper, which was a one off event with wines to match. Guest Chef Davide Degiovanni, Head Chef for Gordon Ramsay’s new venture Union Street Café in Borough, London.

The life of a food blogger can be charmed and I am the first to admit that and being able to try this before the event was a true privilege.

Starters included dried parmesan skins – the rind is air-dried until it become a salty, crunchy piece of deliciousness.

Dried parmesan rind

Dried parmesan rind

Saffron risotto with asparagus and gold leaf.

Saffron risotto with asparagus and gold leaf.

Remember my comment about living a charmed life as a food blogger? This was one of those moments. Gold leaf on a risotto. Creamy, al dente, and did I mention the gold leaf?

Veal, currants and pine nuts

Veal, currants and pine nuts

Ramsay is at heart an Italian-trained chef and his restaurants reflect that. This veal dish being a case in point. Just on the edge of rare, with sweet and moreish savory notes.

While this was a special menu and event, it was good to be back at Gordon Ramsay Doha. The dining room, with a little too bright to be truly romantic, is still one of the most gorgeously decorated in Doha. And the service and experience (from the private entrance to the best sommelier in town delightfully over-the-top atrium where you can have pre dinner drinks) is unmatched in Doha.

Eating and dining well doesn’t always have to be about gold leaf and golden touches. I’m just as happy with a burger and a pint as I am with a seven course tasting menu. For me it’s all about the company. but every so often, it’s nice to take that company somewhere special. And when those times come around, these two restaurants should be top of your list.

The Details:

La Mer, Ritz Carlton Doha

Phone:  +974 4484 8506

Email: rc.dohrz.leads@ritzcarlton.com 

Gordon Ramsay Doha
St Regis Doha
Phone: +974.4446.0105 
*Life on the Wedge was a guest of both Ahlan Qatar and St Regis Doha

Living La Vida Loca at El Faro

In my next life I want to be a flamenco dancer. There is something about the combination of fierceness, amazing red frocks and being able to dance in high heels that really appeals to me.

I have always loved Spain and visited Madrid twice in recent years. I even bought one of those stunning fringed Spanish shawls, determined to channel my inner Flamenco dancer. I’ve worn it once and nearly decapitated myself when it got caught in the door of my car.

But I love the Spanish combination of pragmatism and  love of life and food. And their sense of humor. This is the country that gave us surrealism.

Spanish Chef Raul Cob Ferrer, head chef of El Faro at Kempinski Marsa Malaz and I have been corresponding with each other on Twitter for some time. Like many of my online relationships, we don’t always understand each other, it’s not always in English and I don’t speak Spanish. So it’s been interesting.

Chef Raul’s twitter feed is a lively mix of food and fun and he’s well worth following  @elcabanyal128

When the team, including Chef Raul, invited me to an exclusive menu tasting last week, I had to say Si.

First things first – El Faro (which means the lighthouse) is hands down the best looking restaurant in Doha. Taking all the design flair the Spanish are famous for, a truly beautiful space has been created. The centerpiece is the Picasso-esque mural on the wall of the main dining room.

El Faro interrior

El Faro interior

It is like no other restaurant in Doha – with every area reflecting a very specific design aesthetic – including the main dining area, tapas bar, bar area and even the bathrooms.The atmosphere is complemented by a background soundtrack of some crazy Spanish pop.

Brooke channeling her inner flamenco dancer. This is actually the ladies' bathroom

Brooke channeling her inner flamenco dancer. This is actually the ladies’ bathroom

Now – the food. My sidekick Brooke and I were treated to a selection of the menu presented by Chef Raul. The menu runs from tapas through to paella and other traditional mains.

Traditional Spanish bread. You smash the tomato into the bread. You won't eat bread the same way again!

Traditional Spanish bread. You smash the tomato into the bread. You won’t eat bread the same way again!

Being led by the chef, we started with a selection of tapas washed down with very generous glasses of house made Sangria.

Sangria nights

Sangria nights

The highlight for me being the Spanish version of frito misto, or deep fried seafood and three different types of croquetta (deep fried potato patties with fillings including cheese) and pattas bravas with a spicy sauce. And, of course, the cheese.

Trio of Spanish cheeses

Trio of Spanish cheeses

The Spanish cheeses includes the king of cheese – Manchego. But also two I hadn’t had before. Idiazabal is a pressed cheese made from sheep milk and hails from the Basque region. It is aged for a few months and develops a nutty, buttery flavor but if aged longer, it becomes firm, dry and sharp and can be used for grating.

The second new cheese for me was Mahon, which comes from Minorca on the Mediterranean coast. Depending on age, it’s soft to hard and made from cow’s milk.

Fried seafood with saffron sauce

Fried seafood with saffron sauce

Back to the menu itself. You can just order a selection of tapas from the menu and leave contented.

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

Tapa the World

Tapa the World

But my main reason for being there was to try the paella. Chef Raul sent out two types – one a traditional seafood paella thhe other replacing the rice with vermicelli noodles.

Sticky lobster paella

Sticky lobster paella

Using vermicelli noodles is common in Valencia, in Spain’s sun-drench south.  Fideuà” is a very popular traditional main course similar to paella. Cooked in a pan, it is made with noodles and seafood cooked in fish broth. Fideuà is quicker and easier than making “paella,” and is as colorful and flavorful as well, making it a perfect dish for warm weather. It’s soupier and wetter than a traditional paella.

Paella but not as you know it

Paella but not as you know it

Both are perfect for sharing with a group. As I said, both paella were soupier than I have tasted elsewhere and as is the tradition in Valencia, the seafood is served in the shell so those looking for what they think is a traditional paella should be prepared.

I had been very excited about visiting this restaurant and I am glad I waited.

The service was impeccable and knowledgeable (when I asked the origin of the cheeses, they knew and even wrote the names of them for me to research on my own). The space itself,as I said before, is easily the most stunning in Doha. And the food – well, as a Spanish friend of mine told me this week – it’s the real deal.

As for that dream of being a flamenco dancer. Maybe after a few glasses of sangria (but have you seen my feet?)

The Details

El Faro

Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl, Doha

Open for dinner only (at the moment)

Phone: +974 4035 5011

Email: restaurants.marsamalaz@kempinski.com

*Life on the Wedge was a guest of El Faro but views are my own.

Sashimi with a kick

Turning Japanese – A Review of Nobu in Doha

Many years ago, in what seems like another lifetime in a galaxy far, far away, I was a newspaper editor.

This was pre-Instagram and pre-Snapchat (yes Virginia, there wasn’t always a Whatsapp).

Actually it was 2008 and I remember putting on the front page a story that the famous Nobu restaurant would open in Doha within the next 12 months. Well, as is the way with anything you really want, we were made to wait. And wait. And wait…

Finally, in a blaze of glory, Nobu has opened its doors in Doha and I have to say, it was worth the very long wait. Almost as long as it took me to write this review.

Let me be upfront about this I have been several times now and been a guest of Four Seasons Doha however this review is based on the food.

The restaurant itself is a marvel of smooth lines and curves and has what is possibly one of the best views in the city from the rooftop.

Dinner and a view

Dinner and a view

The venue has 134-seat interior dining area, two private dining rooms, a 10-seat sushi counter, two inside bars and a 38-seat rooftop lounge that encompasses both indoor and outdoor seating options. The main dining area is a little too bright and lacking in atmosphere for me, however this may improve when the restaurant is full.

2015-04-16 20.18.05-1

View from the roof bar

View from the roof bar

2015-04-16 22.50.45-1

Lacking in atmosphere but I hope this will change

Dining room lacking in atmosphere but I hope this will change

Another interior

Another interior

Service wise, as I said, I was there as a guest each time. But I found the staff knowledgeable and passionate about the concept and the food itself. That can make all the difference.

Now…the food. As is the case with Nobu, Japanese fusion is the “genre” – fresh, clean flavors.

Apologies for the blurry photo – lighting was a challenge. Highlights from the starters include Nobu Stye Tacos with a range of fillings including wagyu beef or lobster which are mini tacos with an asian bent as well as Nobu Wagyu Beef Sliders, which uses a spongy tofu bun instead of bread.

Get me started

Get me started

When is a bun not a bun? When it's tofu.

When is a bun not a bun? When it’s tofu.

My standout dishes from each visit also included what Nobu does best – sashimi. Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeño and a Whitefish Sashimi with Dry Miso both taking the diner on a rollercoaster of flavor with the silkiness of the fish and the citrus ending in the case of the yellow tail.

Sashimi with a kick

Sashimi with a kick

Hands down the best dish for me was perhaps the most inventive. Lobster and Artichoke Salad with Dry Miso was a tangle of noodles and flavors.

Tangle of flavors

Tangle of flavors

Other highlights included the traditional tempura which was light, clean and the batter crunchy. And of course the world famous miso black cod which is served with lettuce and should please even the most aggressively gluten free amongst us.

The signature cod with miso

The signature cod with miso

The seafood shy amongst us (I have one in my life) will be well served by the selection of Wagyu beef. I always think that Wagyu is a bit overrated and over priced (sacrilege for a food blogger I know) as I find it too rich, but two dishes – Wagyu Anticucho (with a Peruvian smoky chilli powder) and flambe style may go some way to change my mind.

Tempura vegetables

Tempura vegetables

King Crab claws - plump and juicy

King Crab claws – plump and juicy

Hmmm steak

Hmmm steak

Those who know me know I am no dessert fiend. I did try them (the cheesecake being a stand out) but the true heart of the meal was the starters, which showed the most inventive and interesting flavors.

As a dining experience, Nobu will set new standards.

The sense of arrival you get from literally driving the entrance through to the cocktail bar and then the food were excellent. I have heard reports about people waiting a long time for food – the place has only been open a matter of weeks so I expect this will be ironed out (although as someone pointed out they have had seven years to practice).

In my eight years in this country I have seen fine dining evolve from a hotel buffet through to more sophisticated offerings like Hakkasan DohaLa Mer at the Ritz CarltonThe Anvil Rooms and others. We waited a long time for Nobu to open. It’s early days but so far it seems it was worth the wait.

The sense of arrival

The sense of arrival

The Details:

Nobu Doha

Four Seasons Doha

Open daily for dinner and lunch

Reservations: Tel.(974) 4494 8888

Nobu Doha Website

*Life on the Wedge was a guest of Four Seasons Doha but this review is based on personal opinion and experience.

Peynir and Dear – The Simplicity of Turkish Cheese

The great thing about traveling to a place you have been to several times is you know where to find the good stuff. On my recent trip to Istanbul, I headed straight to Spice Market (via 100s of traders telling me they know how they can help me loose weight) and to my favorite cheese shop which is buried deep inside this tourist attraction.

Cheese is an art in Turkey

But first – breakfast at the Grand Hyatt Istanbul

This shop has dozens of different cheeses, meats and other goodies. You can even buy bread rolls to take on an impromptu picnic.

My haul this visit included some new cheeses to be covered in their own posts. But I managed to pick up an old favorite.

Salty, creamy, tangy whats not to love?

Salty, creamy, tangy whats not to love?

Beyaz Peynir is a salty, white cheese made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. The cheese has a slightly grainy appearance and is similar to feta.

Beyaz peynir is produced in a variety of styles, ranging from non-matured cheese curds to a quite strong mature version. It is eaten plain, for example as part of the traditional breakfast served in Turkey, used in salads, and incorporated into cooked foods such as their famous “pizza” called pide.

Peynir is apparently from the Persian word for cheese, but savvy cheese lovers will also note that there is a well known Indian white cheese called Paneer which is quite similar.

I had mine for a Friday lunch with olive oil, fresh grape tomatoes and some basil from the last dying days of my herb garden.

Salty and simple

Salty and simple

As I said, one of the best things about traveling can also be about familiar experiences and rituals. It can also be about coming home. But that’s another post.

Checking the Emotional Baggage

*This post does not mention cheese or food (for once)

Regular readers of this blog and my other social media rantings (I shouldn’t be left unsupervised) will note I haven’t traveled much this year.

Work is partly responsible for this grounding. The other reason is entirely voluntary.

We all travel for different reasons. Some people travel for the sake of it. Others to explore new culture and experiences. Some just to show off.

I have always said I travel to sooth a restless mind. I think finally, well into my fourth decade, I found a way to do that without picking up and packing up every weekend.

This is not to say I don’t have a busy summer schedule ahead – Goa, Chengdu and the US all feature heavily. A friend recently said how relaxed and happy I was Iooking. She may be right.

In other words, I found a reason to stay still, enjoy my life and those I have allowed into it. Yes, I have checked my emotional baggage.

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