And so here we are…What a year it was!
We’ve seen the illegal blockade of Qatar continue to rattle us and have some rebound effects on the country’s dining scene – some ingredients are harder to find (others easier) and we haven’t seen as many new openings as in previous years.
I’ve also found that while the market is more competitive (we are spending less and not going out as often) the dynamism of previous years is missing.
But my annual list of best dishes must go on!
It’s still been a creative and delicious year on the dining front in many ways. The Mondrian Doha was a late and glamorous entrant, sliding in just before the end of the year (and yes, they feature on this list).
Until around late September, this list sat at just six…but there were some strong late finishers.
If we have seen any theme in Doha’s new restaurant openings this year – it’s been comfort food. From burgers to Asian noodles and all the favorites in between. There were also some venues I expected to shine but just missed the mark this year. Disappointingly, there was no dish from W Doha or another favorite of mine Hakkasan Doha on this list. We didn’t really see the innovation we have come to expect from some stalwarts.
We have also seen bolter from last year, Mainland China, shut up shop and search for a new location.
Time to put up your feet, turn off the Netflix, grab a glass of wine or a cuppa and have a good, long, read. I’m not choosing a top dish this year, but everyone of these dishes has been memorable for all the right reasons.
Expect some old favorites, a couple of newcomers and some rank outsiders.
Without further ado…here are my top eats of 2017. Enjoy, indulge and add your own in the comments:
Yes, I’m a late comer to this place. Blame it on my aversion to crossing town on a weeknight. But this is worth the parking hassle. Sweet, spicy, creamy and a little tart. This loaded guacamole has us cleaning our plates, fighting over the last chip to dip and keeps us coming back for more.
2. Wagyu beef cheeks at Marriott Marquis
From their excellent Friday Big Apple brunch menu, the beef is fork tender, the sauce rich and deep and beyond moreish. A highlight from a brunch menu of stars (their seafood plate is worth the price of admission alone),.
3. Fat Elvis burger at 41 Degrees WS
Surprised? So was I. A juicy beef patty, surprisingly good jalapeno jelly and of course peanut butter (in the form of a lush aioli). Topped off with onion rings and a couple of rashers of (beef) bacon, this is a burger and a half. I’m all shook up…
For me, Nobu never disappoints and now, after more than a year on the bookes, the restaurant is revisiting some old favorites. Revamped and reimagined, this salad is in equal turns crispy and silky combines the sweetness of the lobster with a tart hit of kholrabi. Another winner from this almost flawless kitchen.
5. Turkish style eggs at Arguelina
If I had to choose, this beautifully simple dish would top the list all day every day. I first tried it at at event at the hotel and lobbied so hard they ended up putting it on the menu. A perfectly poached egg set in creamy yoghurt and drizzled with a terrifically garlicky oil. Served with toasted baguette, this is happiness in a bowl.
6. Confit of duck at Al Rayyan Hotel
While not strictly on the menu, this dish created by their head Chef Basha has been confit (poached in oil) and braised for 24 hours. The fat then rendered down to a crispy shell. Pineapple is a sweet and tart foil to the lushness of the duck meat. Argle. This hotel is doing some very interesting things with their menus and outlets – make an effort to check them out.
7. Mie Bakso at The Sizzlers Al Khor
Perhaps one of my biggest surprises of 2017 was this humble family-run eatery in a food court in Al Khor. Their Indonesian noodle soup with beef meatballs was comfort food personified. Proof that five star food doesn’t have to come from a hotel. Head north, grab a table and just enjoy the food – you won’t regret it.
Look! A dessert. This newish and very Instagrammable cafe blew me all the way back to my childhood with this light as air sponge. Leave some for me please!
9. Roasted octopus at Il Teatro
There is always going to be a touch of Chef Marco on this list. His 2017 Autumn menu did not disappoint. Braised then flash fried, this rendition is served with a creamy pea puree. a little challenging, very creative but a must for seafood lovers.
10. Avocado babaganoush at BulBul Streetfoods
You know how I feel about fusion food, but this works when it shouldn’t. Somehow the smokiness of the eggplant enhances the creaminess of the hipster icon aka avocado. Check this little city-based place out – it’s fun and has some innovative Lebanese-inspired menu items.
11. Qatari Smoked salmon on Qatar Airways
“She’s finally lost it”, I hear you say. But it’s true. Qatar Airways is serving up some wonderfully decadent salmon that has been smoked here in Doha by Ocean Fish. The salmon is flown here then smoked using Danish methods. I’ve tried it in the air and on the ground and it’s worth clocking up those air miles.
12. Hot chicken burger at Hudson Tavern
This one, housed at Qatar’s sexiest new hotel, snuck in at the last minute. Two juicy crumbled fillets drenched in hot sauce and sandwiched between a proper bun is all kinds of right. This restaurant and bar will be a sleeper hit in coming months as their burger-heavy menu is making all the right moves.
So there we are. It was long, yes but it was also delicious.
Around Doha’s resilient 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 2018!