When a certain degree of hype surrounds an event, an opening or similar, my natural born cynicism ratchets up a couple of notches.
There are some great examples of highly anticipated events just not living up to the forward hype. Notably:
- The second season of True Detective
- The iPhone 7
- The Whopperito
- Both of the Sex & the City movies
So when bloggers, “influencers”, the media and the general expat population recently lapsed into a rhapsodic trance about the opening of Evergreen Organics, the country’s first vegan restaurant, I was underwhelmed.
But…I was also kind of interested. So when my ertswhile collaborator and lighting expert Brooke messaged me yesterday about trying it out, I was interested enough to shake off my jet lagged haze and leave the Crime Channel for a couple of hours.
Evergreen is at The Pearl Qatar which for some is apparently the center of the known universe. For others who dwell outside the “capital” it’s a hike of ahhhh at least 20 minutes. The first positive sign for me came when they had free valet parking. I am a woman of simple means.
The interiors are all natural woods and lots of greenery and far less twee than I was expecting. A word of warning though, don’t sit near the coconut opening area. The guys are obvious still in the early days of opening and a little abstract with their technique. I copped two sprays of coconut juice during my visit, which made for many dirty jokes.
The staff are well trained and have been drinking the coconut kool aide as while I was waiting the waitress tried to sell me some Evergreen merchandise.
The menu itself incorporates smoothies, fresh pressed juices, salads and more interesting items like “tacos”, a veggie burger and “pasta”.
While I love a good streak, I don’t consider myself a voracious carnivore but I do love cheese. I was interested to see how they could replicate the flavor and texture of cheese in dishes like their ravioli.
So time for the rubber to hit the road. We ordered three savory dishes to share – raw tacos, the Garden Glow salad and raw Beet Ravioli. There was a fair wait between ordering and delivery of the food. It was noticeable to the extent that the waitress came and told us it would be at least another 10 to 15 minutes. We were there pretty early in the shift so perhaps there was a warm-up period.
Luckily Brooke and I had lots to catch up on. Namely the new season of Swamp Murders.
When they finally arrived, the plates were vibrant and colorful. The raw tacos comprised on a carrot and sunflower “chorizo” which brought a good texture to the dish. Contained in endive leaves, the “tacos” were topped with a cashew crema and a whack of jalapeno.
The garden glow salad was packed with roasted beets and my first experience of almond “feta”. The vegan feta managed a slight tang like the real thing and had the right texture to bring this dish alive.
But the star of the show for me was the ravioli – which were thinly sliced discs of beetroot encasing cashew cheese. I was worried this dish would be bland but the cashew cheese had just enough bite to cut against the beets. The “pesto” of dehydrated mushrooms and pistachio gave it a surprisingly almost meaty crunch.
We ended the meal with a vegan cheesecake which may not be sweet enough for most people but for me, was perfect. It also had the creaminess needed to pull it off, thanks again to cashew cheese and date syrup and an almond walnut crust.
In all, this was a delicious and well rounded meal. I didn’t miss my cheese in any way and made me more open to trying new types of non-dairy options.
But…there were a couple of missed notes – none of them food related incidentally. As I mentioned, the kitchen was slow to produce on the night we went, and while business was brisk, it wasn’t full.
Also, the prices are steep. For three dishes, a dessert, a juice, coffee and water, the bill sat at QR330. Salads hover around QR70 to QR80 meanwhile an avocado and cashew cheese toast QR45. Fresh pressed juices are QR50 each and their veggie burger QR85.
As my dining companion Brooke pointed out, a quality Caesar salad in a five star hotel would easily be upwards of Qr70. I’m a believer in the mantra that good food doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and I realise the processes involved with creating some of this food can be intricate and time consuming, but these prices may turn some people off.
The concept does, on occasion, drift into the realm of pretentiousness quite often inhabited by places like these. For example, the little tidbits on the menu about how their produce is (see above) “carefully foraged amid the swirling mists in a land that time forgot”…and the “Vegan Gangsta” motif is a bit too labored and had me rolling my eyes a couple of times. Yeah…we get it. Vegans are hard core.
Service wise, aside from the delay in the food arriving, it was friendly, knowledgeable (and willing to seek more information when not) and very laid back. I can imagine when the cooler months roll in, the outdoor seating area will be buzzing (although the view is nothing to write home about).
Finally, while not a negative, it should be noted that those with any kind of nut allergy would be struggling here. Nuts and seeds feature in many of the dishes and drinks and options would be limited so check the menu before you come.
As I said, I am hype-averse and I do love my dairy. But this restaurant, with its tasty, innovative and even witty food and well informed and friendly service, is showing signs of living up to the excitement it has generated. I would go back for the Beet Ravioli alone (after pay day though).
Qanat Quartier, The Pearl Qatar
Open: 5pm to 10pm (at the moment)