On my first visit to this restaurant, waiting for our meals, our table stopped chatting mid sentence as we watched a very Qatar tableaux unfold outside the picture window.
We sat in wonder as watched the hotel’s iconic and magnificent falcon, called Shang, I believe, exit the building with his handler. The falcon wasn’t ushered into a high end luxury car as we expected, rather a humble older model Toyota Camry and driven off into the night.
It was a truly Doha moment.
The falcon, which resides in hooded majesty in the hotel’s lobby, is one of the unique touches this hotel has created to set itself apart in a very crowded market.
Steakhouses are a growth industry in Qatar with at least 19 covering all budgets already grilling and another handful on the way to opening. In my view, JW’s Steakhouse at Doha Marriott and Prime are two of the best exponents of what is a tried and true formula.
That formula is pretty simple – quality steaks, a selection of sides, excellent service and sometimes some music.
Fuego at the Shangri-la Doha has, until recently, been an omission on my carnivore list. I’m a late adopter of this hotel’s offerings, and in each case, to my detriment. This steakhouse is focussed on Argentinian and South American beef. They take their beef seriously in Argentina – about as seriously as I take my ABBA obsession.
Eating beef is a sport in Argentina. The country has the highest consumption of beef in the world which is an impressive dedication to high protein living. In Doha, thanks to good trade relations, we tend to mainly see Australian and USDA beef both on sale and in restaurants. Argentine beef is grass fed which is kinder to the cows(because they are eating their natural diet, grass-fed cows don’t typically require supplements, hormones, or antibiotics) and the environment (grass growing usually requires less energy and pesticides than growing grain). It has a lower fat content which means it has to be cooked with skill.
But back to Doha and the task at hand. I found myself eating at Fuego twice in the course of a 10 day period – a rare feat for me. So, in another rare feat for a Doha blogger, I am able to give a an actual review of the menu. Imagine!
The menu itself is long and broad, like the Argentine Pampas.
For those confused by the extensive al a carte, there is the option of a Argentinian Madness, which “mixed grill” for QR400 which includes a selection of starters, and unlimited cuts of meat (beef, lamb and chicken) plus sides.
On the main menu, starters include a selection of the iconic empanadas – which are meat or cheese encased in pastry. Think of it like a South American samosa.
The Argentine version features stewed meat, while an Italian take includes sausage and Mozzarella. Meanwhile a Qatari version is stuffed with slow cooked chicken and topped with an unnecessary piece of gold leaf (geddit?). The pastries themselves have a good ratio of meat to pastry but in this case, I would have just appreciated the original version.
Another starter of grilled Provoleta cheese was more of a success. This cheese, similar to the Italian cheese Provolone, is grilled until the top is crisp and served with bread and chimichurri sauce.
If beef is the greatest export from Argentina since Maradonna, chimichurri should be classed as a close second. This sauce doubles as a marinade and an accompaniment to all cuts of beef. An emulsion of oil, garlic and fresh herbs, the vinegary finish is the perfect accompaniment and this version doesn’t disappoint.
A starter of a striploin cured in sugar and salt then air dried for 24 hours is proof that this is more than a humble steakhouse. It’s rich and lush thanks to the fat content in the beef, like a non-pork version of the Italian prosciutto. This was part of the restaurant’s new initiative to showcase unique “Special Dishes of the Week” – demonstrating the chef’s flair and comfort with the ingredients.
The mains are both familiar and the new (for me anyway).
A tamale, a corn husk filled with a corn “stew” (or mesa), goat cheese and mushroom is sweet, savory and moreish. I haven’t seen this dish on any other menu in Doha and I have to say I would like to eat more of it. Not a pretty dish, what it lacks in Instagrammable looks, it makes up for in flavor.
The steaks (known as La Parilla) themselves are as expected – rich, well seasoned and cooked to perfection. A tenderloin is beautifully presented but the herb and spice rub and chimichurri lifts it. Tenderloin is one of those cuts of meat that is not especially exciting, because of its lack of fat and marbling but in good hands at Fuego, it is smoky and silky.
A Kobe fillet, with the perfect amount of marbling, is the star of the show. Rich and smoky, the fat is rendered enough to infuse the meat with a unique flavor.
With the exception of their addictive double cooked fries (crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside), the sides were a disappointment. A broccoli and cauliflower offering failed to impress and a mushroom pot lacked some earthiness. But the potatoes…another story.
My first visit saw us order the Argentinian Madness menu mentioned above which is great value, but you need to come with an empty belly and a desire to induce meat sweats. I didn’t choose this for the second outing for this reason – it’s too much for a mid-week dinner.
The room itself is large and intelligently designed with separate areas for smaller tables and a larger space for big groups. The open kitchen, which you must walk past to enter, is a nice addition rather than a distraction.
Service is friendly but unobtrusive which is rare in Doha. The wine list is heavy on the South American reds, much to my delight, but I can also suggest their spicy and hearty bloody Mary.
As I said earlier, the steakhouse market in Doha is crowded and in many instances, generic. Fuego’s menu is well executed and overall, gives the diner the experience want – meat, meat and meat. But like the falcon in the lobby, you can also expect something a little unexpected.
Fuego at the Shangri-La Doha
Phone: (974) 4429 5295