Compiling this list of best Doha restaurant dishes of 2019 was no easy feat. I ate widely and well this year. Fact is, 2019 was possibly one of the most interesting dining years I have had in all my time in Doha. New restaurants. New dishes and menus. Established places trying different things and pushing the boat out….
There was genuinely a lot to love about the food scene this year – the opening of Qatar’s first Scandinavian restaurant Snoull, the quiet rise of the restaurants at the Mandarin Oriental, new homegrown concepts like Boho Social and BAO Doha taking risks and putting themselves out there. And the re-emergence and re-establishment of restaurants like Toro Toro and CUT Doha, who found their rhythm with inspired and committed new chefs. As i said, narrowing down the list of best Doha restaurant dishes of 2019 was very tough.
But there was also older and established restaurants not living up to expectations and other new ones that flamed hard then fizzled like a dodgy fire cracker.
Again there is no entry in this list from W Doha. I have enjoyed meals at Paper Moon (where you will soon be able to have a glass of wine outside the confines of a hotel) and at their Ramadan tent, but the other outlets failed to shine for me this year – again. STK was a rising star in my books in 2018, but didn’t cement a spot this year.
I’ve also seen (and been on the receiving end of) some thin-skinned reactions to less than glowing reviews. These, in some cases, come from established, even ritzy places. While it’s galling for those of us who make an effort to bring you honest reviews based on our experience (and taking into account service and price) rather than just a million mentions and pretty pictures on Instagram of tables laden with food, ultimately it’s their loss. Let’s hope 2020 gives them some perspective.
2020 in Food
What am I looking forward to in 2020? The reopening of the Four Seasons Doha has many foodies (me among them) excited. I’m also camping out at the Mandarin Oriental for the opening of their Chinese restaurant – dumplings downstairs and Michelin star food upstairs. Swoon. There are also new cafes and restaurants popping up in and around the revitalized Musherib area which look the real deal.
I’m also looking forward to more independent restaurants opening and shining! Also, heads up, 2020 should see some chilling of the alcohol rules, so expect to be able to have a glass of wine with the pasta or similar sometime soon.
Finally, the here are the best Doha Restaurant dishes of 2019:
I’m fortunate to be able to visit many places and eat far and wide. I hope the list will inspire you to try some new things. So here it is, in no order, my list of the best dishes of the year – a mix of five star and neighborhood joints (because I am one of those bloggers who ventures outside the bubble in search of great food):
This is not on their actual menu but it should be. It’s part of the offering for the Mandarin Oriental’s signature restaurant on Wednesday night lobster night and it’a thing of beauty. Chunks of tender lobster meat in a spicy and creamy coconutty broth. Keep an eye out for Mosaic in 2020 – this place is seriously impressive.
Le Colonial at the Al Wadi Hotel is hands down one of the finds of the year for me. Serving breakfast all day until 3pm, these crepes are filled with smoked salmon and tangy cream cheese. I’ve been back several times just for this dish. Servings are generous, the coffee good and the staff well trained – added bonus is the lovely dining room and the view across to the Souq.
An Indian snack at a Scandinavian restaurant in the Middle East. Yep. Globalism on a plate. This restaurant prides itself in being famliar yet also adventurous and this dish is an example of their approach. A beautifully crispy onion fritter combined with a yeasty dipping sauce, it’s all the umami feels on a plate.
Korean food has a cult following in Doha so it was a matter of time before KFC popped up. The Qokio take on this classic is well battered and fried to perfection – my favorite is with the spicy sauce. It’s gooey, a little messy and a lot of delicious.
Finally a real Italian restaurant in Doha. This dish is about as far from the ubiquitous Alfredo concoctions as you can imagine. The hand made pasta is tossed in the almost silky sauce, which lands in a deliciously edible puddle on your plate. Argle…
This underrated bar at the Mandarin Oriental has some of the most underrated food in the city. Small plates brimming with new flavors and innovative ingredients. And you have to commend a place that puts a whole octopus tentacle on its bar menu. And what a revelation it is – braised then grilled and served on a bed of kale sauce, it’s as craveable as it is instagrammable.
A year of operation in the in big smoke and this place has grown in leaps and bounds. They introduced a few new items to the menu this year and one of the highlights is a big bowl of spicy comforting noodles – Mie Rebus. The dish is boiled egg noodles with a slightly sweet curry like gravy. A hug in a bowl.
It took a while but this place at the Oryx Rotana has found its groove again – serving up Spanish style food with no pretension. The braised beef – given a tang thanks to vinegar and a long, slow cook, are served with whipped potatoes. The perfect dish for a Doha winter.
It’s a daring feat to open a restaurant dedicated to fish and chips in a country like Qatar. But this place at the Radisson Blu works… the kitsch tartan and model railway aside, the fish is perfectly battered and the chips come with a little crisp. sides include mushy peas, curry sauce and tartare sauce and at QR80 for the cod and chips this place is a steal.
For a restaurant located on a suburban main drag, this place is setting foodie hearts a flutter. While the menu veers towards pan Asian, we are really there for a bao buns. And they don’t disappoint. The fluffy buns encase a variety of interesting fillings, the best being the crispy chicken version, festooned with a tangy slaw.
I may be biased, but this outpost of an Aussie cult cafe has the best smashed avo in town. Generous avocado mashed with feta and dusted with zataar and topped with two poached eggs. Add a flat white and I could be back in Oz. Sure it’s in a mall, but that’s part of the fun.
Possibly one of the best deals in town, the brisket is offered in unlimited quantities every Monday night as part of their More Meat at Prime (Intercontinental Doha The City) promotion. Braised for far longer than my attention span, the meat is fork tender and flavorful. The house-made BBQ sauce it is served with deserves it’s own entry.
Such is my love for these, it is possible that in a previous life I was in fact, Venezualan. These corn pancakes, known as cachapas (hope I spelled that right!), are stuffed with tangy white cheese, fried and served with a sweet tomato chutney. Cheese. Corn. Fried. What’s not to love? Special mention to Toro Toro and its sister restaurant Maya, perhaps two of the most improved and now most consistent operators in Doha.
It was hard to pink down just one dish at this outstanding restaurant, but the one I keep coming back to is the wagyu beef dumplings. It’s actually on their bar menu, but is prepared with the same care and flair as their other dishes. The dumpling casing is wafer thin and the meat cooked on point with a slick of chilli sauce. Two please!
Hakkasan is well and truly back in my good graces. their food is consistently excellent and the fact is it full every night proves this. They serve some of the best dumplings in Doha and this is a standout. Beautifully presented, the prawn and delicate scallop meat is allowed to shine and bathed in a glossy but light sauce. Just perfection.
La Mar just keeps delivering in terms of both food and experience. It’s easy to mention their range of ceviches again, but the dish I most enjoyed from the menu this year was a sweet potato and cheese filled ravioli from their Friday lunch. a true mix of colors and textures, with that Peruvian flair.
I’m a self confessed Nobu fan and frankly most things I eat there are instant classics in my book. But this dish, served at brunch, was a real surprise to me. The truffle adds a moreish earthiness to the dish and it’s topped with a soft poached egg. A perfect brunch dish but also a demonstration of how versatile and creative the Nobu team is.
This one slipped across the line at the last minute, thanks to its mid-December opening. Another Alain Ducasse joint, the menu is a homage to Qatari food and produce. This stunning dish is essentially hommous with lentils and herbs, topped with slow cooked camel meat. A beautiful combination of textures and favors and a worthy late contender for one of the best Doha restaurant dishes of 2019.
Is it 2020 yet?
So there we are, the best Doha restaurant dishes of 2019. Ready to go again in 2020?