For the last 11 months I have been carrying around a list on my phone. Well, I have a lot of lists on my phone. Most of them involve my dry cleaning, calling the real estate to holler at them and getting a multitude of documents stamped.
But this list has been ever changing, always updated and always on my mind – it’s my annual, much anticipated list of best dishes of 2016. It started as five dishes, blew out to 14 and now sits at a nice, round, 12.
I’ve eaten some excellent meals in 2016. I’ve also eaten some pretty good ones. And a couple I’d rather not talk about in polite company. But overall, it’s been a great year for foodies in Qatar – new restaurants, new concepts, new ideas, new looks. Also some old favorites with a refreshed sheen.
And now folks, it’s December 1. It’s time. To put up the tree, grab a glass of wine or a cuppa, put up your feet and have a good, long, read.
Without further ado…here are my top eats of 2016. Enjoy, indulge and add your own in the comments:
Butter Chicken at Kababs & Kurries
It may surprise you that one of my top dishes comes from a restaurant in a shopping mall. but readers of this blog know i have been a fan of this place for some time. It’s butter chicken is in a rich and deeply spiced brown gravy, a far cry from the over sugared and over wrought red concoctions we see in many places in Doha. This place is worth the trek to the “suburbs” (as some call it). Put it in your GPS and do not pass go.
Endamame Dumplings at Mainland China
My love of dumplings is well known but I had an aversion to this place because it’s located in the same building as my company’s HR department (don’t even start me). That said, initial worries aside, this Indian-Chinese chain has won more than a few fans with their well executed and frankly delicious dumplings and other classics. These dumplings are a surprise, the pastry is perfectly translucent while still holding its shape and the filling is both smooth with a little crunch. If this restaurant had a liquor licence, it would be rivalling some of the big names on the other side of town.
Lamb with Cumin at The Shanghai Club
A last minute addition to my dining rotation, this sleek and sexy dining room at the top of the Shangri-La Doha. The Chinese food here is authentic and not dumbed down for the Qatar market. This Chengdu-style braised Australian lamb with celery and cumin. I love Chinese lamb dishes and also their use of that great near and far eastern staple, cumin. Chengdu is known for its incredibly spicy Schezuan food, you know, the type with hundreds of firey chillis? This dish was off the richter scale hot – like whole chillis and garlic cloves hot. Like smack you around the cheeks with no warnings hot. It was also sweat-inducingly addictive and delicious. I’ve been back twice and ordered it both times.
Vegan Cheesecake at Evergreen
Yes, I am vegan averse. I love my surf and my turf. Call me old fashioned. I was dragged screaming to Evergreen mostly because of my distrust of pretension. But this cheesecake, made from a base of nuts, almost made me forget my animosity. It’s creamy without being cloying and the fruit gives it an edge. Honestly I haven’t been back yet, but I would for this cake.
Nobu’s Octopus Salad on Qatar Airways
OK, technically not in Doha and also not a restaurant. But this salad I ate on a recent trip to the US redefined plane food in my view. thinly shaved pieces of marinated octopus with a tart dressing and a tumble of crunch green leaves. This screams Michelin Star. I was the only one to order this on the flight. It was so good I had it for my second meal (it was a 14 hour flight!). I live in hope of getting it again.
Tuna Belly with Miso from the Omakase Menu at Nobu Doha
Speaking of Nobu. It took a long time for Doha’s outpost of the Nobu empire to open, nearly eight years in fact. It has been worth the wait. Innovative food, a stunning brunch offering and one of the best happy hours in town has filled this cavernous venue nearly every night. this dish isn’t on the main menu and was a special for their first anniversary. The Nagasaki farmed chu toro with karashi miso and asetra caviar was fatty, rich and salty all at once.Please Nobu Doha…bring it back.
Peach and Burrata Salad at Ritz Carlton Doha’s Picnic Brunch
Where’s the cheese? I hear you ask. patience people. It’s here and it is a thing of beauty. Cream upon cream burrata with fresh peaches, a dressing and some leaves. that’s it.No fancy plates. No decoration. Just the king of cheeses and some fruit. A memorable and healthy way to start a decadent brunch. by the way, do try this brunch if you haven’t. the menu changes weekly and the concept is fun and fresh.
Duck Curry at Spice Market Doha
It wouldn’t be a “Best Of” list without mentioning the always excellent Spice Market at W Doha. in my view, this is consistently one of the best restaurants in the city. This dish is a shout out to my man, AZ, who doesn’t eat seafood or fish but loves him some meat. We visit here regularly and recently tried this curry on a whim. What a surprise it was. Fruity yet with a kick of chilli, the duck was fork tender.
Som Tam Thai at Sabai Thai Westin Doha
Keep an eye on the Westin Doha. Come next year this may be the leaders in food and beverage in this city. A good place to start for newcomers is their excellent and always busy Thai restaurant. Their fresh and crunchy Som Tam Thai (green papaya salad) is packed full of flavor and an teeth clenching amount of chilli. Keep the water and white rice nearby. A perfect start to the meal, this is the best in the city. the rest of their menu is also traditional and crowd pleasing.
Cheese and Spinach Pie at Mykonos
Listen, this was always going to be a match made in culinary heaven. this restaurant has been revamped but the classics remain. In terms of location, service and good, solid food, it can’t be beat. This classic dish was both well executed and delicious. Flaky layers of perfectly cooked pastry separating a mixture of spinach and feta cheese.So popular was this dish that AZ and I actually fought over it. Proof that you don’t need gimmicks to deliver a surprise.
Chachapas at Toro Toro
Many long time readers know I have had a love/hate/love again relationship with this restaurant. But, like long feuding relatives, we have made up and I couldn’t be more impressed with the food that is coming out of the kitchen of this Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant. Case in point is their addictive Chachapas, which are Venezuelan pancakes. These sweetcorn pancakes filled with salty Halloumi cheese and topped with a sticky homemade tomato jam and they manage to be both sweet and savory.
OK folks. It’s here. My favorite dish of 2016. To be honest, there was daylight between this dish and most of the others.
Ayam Bakur at Elements at Four Seasons Doha
On the menu it reads simply as “Indonesian grilled chicken” but it’s so much more than that. I’m not going to do it justice, but its roasted chicken on the bone with a sweet and spicy soy laced sauce. Everything from its execution to its plating is well constructed and thought out. I have had this dish three times now and each time is consistently flawless. In my view this exemplifies how this restaurant has evolved to become one of the leaders in the city. It’s a dish that is clearly a specialty of the chef who cooked it but also an unusual choice for a menu in Doha. That’s what makes it so special and…my best dish of 2016.
So there you are. It’s been long. It’s been entertaining. It’s been emotional. It’s been tasty. Around Doha’s excellent and evolving food scene in 12 awesome dishes. Of course, it’s all based on my experience and opinion. You might think there is a glaring omission? Feel free to share in the comments below.
In the meantime – happy eating and bring on 2017!
*Disclaimer – some of these dishes may have been part of complimentary meals offered by hotels and restaurants. All of them were delicious.