About a week ago, the yearly change of seasons started in Qatar. This isn’t as tangible and the leaves changing color. No, in Qatar, the daytime temperature drops below 40 degrees. When that happens we all collectively lose our minds and start doing wacky things like sitting outside at night.
It was a balmy but bearable Monday night and when we arrived at Mykonos at the Intercontinental Doha and overtake by this collective weather induced hysteria, we made a beeline for the outside terrace. Along with others diners we wanted to take advantage of the first days of the brief winter. I’m glad we did as it gave me a chance to take in some of the physical changes to this old favorite.
In the old days (like seven years ago), I remember Mykonos opening. It was a revelation – clean and fun Greek food with a stunning setting. In my view it lost its way a little as Doha’s dining scene grew and it dropped off my radar. That said, I have Greek friends here who have been fiercely loyal for many years. This visit was at the invitation of the hotel to get my views on the menu.
Boasting perhaps the best outdoor seating area in the city, Mykonos has had a refresh of its decor as well as its menu. The fountain is gone and comfy couches have been installed. The look is fresh and relaxed and even, as AZ* noted, “a little bit like Greece”.
On arrival, welcome drinks and a too tempting basket of bread and dips set the scene. The tzatziki, that staple of Greek mezzedes, was garlicky, rich and thick and quickly demolished with the freshly made flatbread.
A striking thing about the Mykonos menu is its simplicity. There is no flowery language or overwrought and pretentious descriptions. The item is listed (eg “Lamb Chops” as are the ingredients. There should be more menu honesty in Qatar’s restaurants.
We followed up with eggplant rolls stuffed with anari cheese. Cypriot anari is one of my favorite cheeses, it can be used in sweet or savory dishes as it can take on any flavor and hold its own.
In this dish it was rolled in eggplant and topped with a rich tomato sauce and basil. My fears of this being a little too rich were dispelled as the delicate cheese showcased the deftness of the seasoning of the sauce.
One of the stars of the night for both of us was the traditional cheese and spinach pie. Flaky layers of perfectly cooked pastry separating a mixture of spinach and feta cheese.
So popular was this dish that we actually fought over it. Less of a success was a fairly average salad, the Cretan Dakos salad. This is a circular barley rusk topped with feta, capers and tomatoes. It wasn’t bad, it was just struggling to shine compared to the first two dishes.
The mains however brought everything back on track. AZ and I have to carefully negotiate our dining terrain as he doesn’t really eat seafood and likes his meat well done to the point of cremation. We found common ground by sticking to the meat dishes.
These lamb chops were a revelation. Served medium to keep domestic peace, the rosemary and yoghurt sauce was surprising as it was delicious. The eggplant puree smoky and addictive, this is a stunner of a dish.
As you would expect with a Greek restaurant, they also had a selection of souvlaki.Our chicken skewer was perfectly seasoned and tender, with the chef using the flavorful thighs to ensure it was juicy. The potatoes had the traditional hint of lemon and were so good I wanted to put them in my purse and save them for a snack later. I didn’t. I brought along a vanity clutch purse, so it was too small. Trap for young players.
We also enjoyed their traditional moussaka – which is layers of potatoe, minced meats and an oozy bechamel sauce. It came at the end of our meal and while tasty, was a little salty. That said, if it was all I had ordered, it would be gone in 60 seconds.
Both AZ and I share an ambivalence to dessert and sweets, but can be tempted by a cheese cake. This version was a step above the usual Doha offerings – erring on the side of savory with its anari cheese filling (see my point above), crumbly almond base offset by a sticky fig topping. There was a stand-off for the final bite (I won).
Service was attentive, knowledgable and clearly passionate about food. It made such a refreshing departure from the robo waiters in many hotels here. The atmosphere was both relaxed and chilled. There were couples on date nights like us, groups of friends and couple of families. All enjoying the novelty of a warm and bearable early October evening.
The Verdict: This is well executed, thoughtful food. It relies on good cooking not gimmicks to deliver excellent food. No trickery. No foams. No food served on planks of wood. Mykonos is an old favorite, with an updated look and a refreshingly honest approach to delivering flavorful and memorable food. If you haven’t been for a while, I urge you to go back.
Al Isteqlal Road, West Bay Lagoon
Phone: +974 484 4444
*Editor’s note: Astute readers of this blog know that I rarely refer to my handsome sidekick in love and life. This blog is about my food experiences and my occasional rants and I deliberately keep my personal life at arm’s length. Yes, this is his first “appearance” and there will be more to come, but he really needs to work on his lighting skills.
*I was a guest of Intercontinental Doha for this meal. Opinions are my own and thisinstance of AZ who has many, many opinions about many, many things.