Sometimes you need to work on the basics first before you add all the bells and whistles.
Elements replaced a personal favorite of mine – Nusantao. Four Seasons has struggled with this location for as long as I have been dining there. It was previously a nondescript all day dining restaurant before being transformed into Nusantao. Which despite a long and confusing menu, still managed to deliver flavor and the only version of Hainan Chicken I was able to find in Doha.
What it lacked, was atmosphere.
Elements, as seems to be the trend in Doha now, has an elaborate backstory. It’s name is based on the elements – fire, earth, water and air – and this underpins everything from the menu through to the cocktail list. Sometimes I feel that if you have to spend a lot of time explaining your concept, you may lose people.
That said, Elements manages to keep me interested.
Some elements (see what I did there) are familiar – live cooking stations and the Sushi bar being the most obvious.
Elements seems to have tackled the atmospheric shortcomings and come up with a solution to keep all diners and drop-ins happy. Aside from the open dining room and show kitchens, there is a cosy bar area as well as more casual and relaxed outdoor seating which has proved wildy popular this winter.
The bar itself is a work of art – borderline hipster mixologists conjuring up a great selection of cocktails using gins and vodkas procured from around the world. You can sit a long table or choose the inside and outside couches.
With its dark colors and designer touches, it’s a deeply sexy setting for dinner or just drinks.
A roving tapas trolley feeds the hungry between drinks – it has a selection of mini bites – dumplings, spring rolls, a delightfully spicy Larb and tuna tartare among others – from the menu and is a excellent idea. although my advice would be to make these part of the deal for happy hour as well.
Now for the food. The menu, like it’s predecessor, spans the continents and cuisines. Doha is not the place for a compact menu – you need to be all things to all people. At Elements that means seafood, Indian, Arabic and Asian. it’s easy to get lost in the menu, my advice is to stick to one cuisine style for each course.
We had some hits and misses with the starters. A soft shell crab wrap with green ful mash and picked greens was a little confusion rather than fusion and too dry to be interesting.
Wasabi prawns with macadamia nuts, seasonal fruit and caviar was also confused and the very sweet sauce jarred with the rest of the dish.
But a perfectly crispy spring roll and a selection of succulent dim sum brought me back to life. This includes a truly great Siew Mai stuffed with steamed chicken, shrimp and topped with a sliver of unctuous black truffle.
Now this is where the food at Elements really took off for me. Their Asian inspired food, led by a Chinese chef, is frankly among the best you will have in this town. A braised sea Shanghai style bass with Chinese vegetables could have been bland, but soared because of a delicate mix of flavors and textures.
Black bean scallops – scallops steamed with tofu and Chinese greens was so good would make you regret any previous experiences with so-called black bean sauce. This is not your suburban take-away.
Grilled lamb chops with feta and pomegranate brings you back to the near east and more familiar territory for some diners. They were succulent and grilled to a perfect medium rare and served with braised eggplant. This is the lamb dish other restaurants should aspire to emulate.
I’ve been to Elements several times now, one evening at the invitation of the hotel, another to their grand opening and other times with friends for drinks and snacks. This is why I have waited to write my review – I wanted to give it time to settle.
It’s a fine line to traverse – it’s essentially an all day dining restaurant catering to hotel guests and the general public. How do you cater to both crowd yet also reinvent yourself to keep pace with the increasingly demanding Doha dining public?
While a couple of the starters failed to light my fire, the mains, the sexy bar set-up, the impeccable service on all visits and the atmosphere more than make up for these.
As I said at the outset, you need to get the basics before you add the sparkle. Elements seemed to have hit on the right combination – injecting atmosphere in a space that lacked it and finding a balance between the familiar and the little bit daring.
Elements at the Four Seasons Doha
Tel.(974) 4494 8888
*Life on the Wedge was indeed a guest of the Four Seasons for dinner as well as their opening. All photos are my own. All opinions are also my own. Seriously.