Everyone loves a theme – especially me. In fact, I am hooked on them (almost as much as bad seafood puns).
I’ve been sampling some new (and old) restaurants lately and a theme emerged – seafood. Qatar is a country that loves its seafood – helps to be surrounded by it and its history is a seafaring one. Most menus (steak houses excepted) here are seafood heavy which suits me just fine.
So, in keeping with my theme (see what I did there), here is a wrap of a handful of seafood menus on offer around town and even offshore.
Pier 12 Raddison Blu Doha is a venue I shamefully haven’t visited in eight years in this city. It sits at the “formal” end of my dining scale – the waiters were all but wearing white gloves. In terms of experience, this is where the underrated hotel wins – they know how to treat a guest and I loved the attentive service.
The menu was extensive and had my Dad flummoxed from the start. But the waiters were helpful and we were able to negotiate some dishes that encompassed their strengths. There is also a small “fish market” where you can choose your fish or shell fish and have the chef cook them for you. My father chose the scallops from here which were served old school in the shell.
Highlights for me where US style crab cakes that were filled with chunks of the sweet meat and a tartare dipping sauce. The exterior had just the right amount of crunch for me. The only let down for me came later when I realized that the tartare sauce was identical to that served with my main course, some variety would have been nice.
My main of fish and chips hit the spot – meaty and perfectly hammour fillets encased in a light and crunchy batter. Again with the previously mentioned tartare sauce which was perfect in context here.
Admittedly I didn’t touch the mushy peas which in my view are an English affectation that should be banished to the dustbin of history along with colonialism.
My Dad’s main was perhaps the only disappointment of the night. he enjoyed the chunks of seafood in a tomato sauce but it was soon apparent that the chef hadn’t combined the pasta and sauce properly. Served in a bowl the size of my bath tub, around half of the pasta was clumped together untouched by the sauce which is something I would expect for a home cook. Weirdly I also noted cauliflower in the dish along with some beautifully cooked prawns. That said my father ploughed on and declared the dish tasty.
Aside from this misstep, the meal and the service was very good. This is honest and dependable seafood styled in an old fashioned but fundamentally enjoyable.
Across town, The Pearl Qatar continues to reinvent itself. Since opening up to “mid priced” family restaurants, the place is adding new dining venues by the week.
Balmesan is a truly Qatari creation and its clientele prove this.
Again, this place boasts a massive menu encompassing Arabic and Western styles before taking a weird detour into Thailand.
We visited on a pristine Winter’s Saturday amidst my Dad’s grumbling about not being able to have a beer with lunch. We were both utterly confounded by the menu and probably made a few mistakes.
The menu includes a fair few dishes combining seafood and cheese. Now I love cheese, but it doesn’t always go with morsels from the deep (mornay excluded, that stuff is awesome). But apparently it’s a thing in Doha.
The seafood chowder we shared was a little bland but had a juicy crab leg. Sadly my one mussel was not cleaned properly and still had the beard intact which made me question the rest of the dish which also had a liberal sprinkling of mock seafood.
I should have steered clear of mussels but I do love them. A mussel mornay style starter had promise but the filling was actually chopped up meat from the mussels. Lebanese style seafood kibbe also caught my eye but were dry and needed a sauce.
We had better success with our mains, a whole baby sea bass chosen from the seafood market housed inside the restaurant, was stunning and topped with an Egyptian style tomato and onion sauce. And prawns in a butter and lemon sauce were beautifully grilled and not swamped in the sauce.
With a prime position on the boardwalk with unlimited people watching ability, this place has potential. It’s pedigree (same owners as the cult restaurant Little Sailor) is excellent and their service is impeccable. It’s only been open a couple of months and the day we visited nearly every table was full. They have the recipe for success, they just need to adjust the seasoning.
Our next seafood adventure takes use 30 minutes off the coast of Doha to the Banana Island by Anantara resort. I’ve written about how much I love this place before and wanted to make a visit for lunch in winter. To get there you have to take their boat which leaves the Doha Port every 30 minutes. You must have a hotel reservation or a booking in one of the outlets. It’s QR200 for the boat and QR100 can be used as a dining or activity credit.
I was keen to get back to Q Lounge as I had enjoyed both the food and the ambience. With a view over the pool and out across the water, it can’t be beat. The day we arrived the resort was heaving the in-house guests and 350 from the “mainland” – mostly Saudis.
Q Lounge has a new-ish Turkish chef and he has maintained the high standards. While my starter of calamari was fine (maybe a little over-breaded and cooked), the seafood BBQ for two was exceptional.
Served Arabic style on a charcoal grill, every peace was perfectly cooked – the hamour fillet juicy and even the Oman lobster had flavor. The chef said all the seafood was sourced from the Arabian Gulf and at QR470 for two was very good value.
Special mention has to be made about the chips. While the skinny fries were meh, we were served some hand cut, thrice fried chips. Crispy to the point of crackling on the outside and fluffy on the inside, I would take that boat ride back right now for these alone.
Back on shore and back into my usual turf (and surf), W Doha‘s Spice Market has introduced a weekly Asian-inspired Hook and Catch menu which is a family seafood feast for the senses. Literally.
Boasting some unusual takes on seafood including a crispy fried soft shell crab and a braised Omani lobster with pineapple curry, the dishes are served family style.
Also on the menu is their famous salmon sashimi which is one of my favorite dishes in Doha (I have a few) – a umami explosion of crispy, salty, sweet and aaaaaaaah.
Other highlights include a whole butterflied crispy seabass which you eat with your hands by stuffing into lettuce leaves with herbs and dunk into a perfect dipping sauce.
The special menu (which even includes dessert) is QR250 per person (minimum of two people) and runs every Wednesday night at Spice Market. It’s probably one of the most innovative yet accessible set menus on offer in the city at the moment.
OK folks, yes I know this was a long post. But listen…it’s a theme! There is literally something for everyone – old school, seafood with a view and even those with a taste for adventure. You’ll be hooked.
*Life on the Wedge was a guest of W Doha, Raddison Blu Doha and Balmesan but views are my own except if they are Oprah’s because she’s awesome.