Doha’s dining scene has received a fresh injection — of talent, innovation and imagination — and it’s foodies who are benefiting most from this renaissance. Thanks to a slew of new openings (many helmed by celebrity chefs) and established outlets upping their game, the city’s culinary collective has taken on a second life of its own, with plenty more to come ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Experience this rejuvenation for yourself with a tasty tour of some of the Qatari capital’s newest culinary hot spots.
New restaurants are not the only ones shaking up the food scene in Doha. While it’s lauded as one of the city’s top reservations, Nobu hasn’t been without trial and error.
Chef Andrew Bozoki won over a tough crowd by incorporating local flavors into the eatery’s traditionally Peruvian-Japanese-fusion cuisine. As a result, we are seeing more variety on the menu.
The vegan options, in particular, have quite rightly earned plaudits. The much-loved rock shrimp tempura is given a new-age makeover with cauliflower replacing the seafood. The tofu antichucho steak (served on skewers) looks exactly like its meaty counterpart.
Locally grown seasonal desert truffles (foraged from the sand dunes after the yearly rainy season) also stand out on the menu, when available.
La Mar Doha by Gaston Acurio
It’s always a risk introducing a new cuisine to an established and somewhat formulaic market, but this Peruvian restaurant at InterContinental Doha has won a solid fan base in a short period of time. With a sun-drenched, purpose-built dining room, a well-priced menu and a more casual approach, this concept has found a sweet spot.
The subtle cuisine is a heady blend of Spanish, Chinese and Japanese influences — many recipes combine chili with soy sauce, citrus and cumin and it is seafood heavy. The list of cebiches and tiraditos (raw fish cured in citrus) takes up almost an entire page of the menu, featuring different ingredients like sweet potato, avocado and quinoa.
You also see the addition of cheese in some seafood dishes — scallops that have lightly kissed the grill are served in the shell with a creamy béchamel sauce.
But the mains are where the flavors of Peru shine. Opt for lomo saltado, a steak-and-fried-potato stir-fry bathed in a surprising mix of cumin, vinegar and soy sauce.
Richard Sandoval is no stranger to the Doha dining scene, with Toro Toro and Zengo already flying his South American fusion cuisine flag. But Maya is a different proposition, offering real Mexican food rather than pre-packaged Tex Mex — a rarity in this market.
His enchiladas, tacos and fajitas all make appearances on the pared-down menu at Maya, but there is also guacamole made with hunks of avocado and fresh tuna, given an Asian edge by the inclusion of ponzu (a soy-like sauce). Another star item is the roasted salmon with black mole sauce — maybe not so daring for other parts of the world, but a real diversion for Doha.
More substantive dishes like braised lamb barbacoa tacos, imbued with a deep smoky flavor and given a kick by a fresh slaw, are also a must-try.
U.K.-based chef Jason Atherton has slipped quietly into Doha without much fanfare. His new venture occupies a stunning location on a manmade island within Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Marsa Malaz Kempinski, The Pearl-Doha.
The Mediterranean-inspired menu is composed of small plates, a raw bar and more traditional offerings. Burrata (still a bit of a novelty in Qatar) is given a luxe twist with the addition of almost syrupy 25-year-aged balsamic. And in a nod to local tastes, a pinkish rack of lamb comes with a silky eggplant puree.
While the food is faultless, the relaxed terrace overlooking The Pearl Qatar is what sets this restaurant apart.
The latest branch of this U.S.-based chain of steakhouses opened at The Ritz-Carlton, Doha in early 2019 and immediately found its reservation books and funky bar area full to the brim. With sweeping 180-degree views of the West Bay skyline, a pink-mohawked in-house DJ and a dining room populated by cozy booths for two, four or more rather than tables, this is not your grandparent’s steakhouse.
While the menu keeps faithful to its carnivorous DNA, there is a distinctive twist. USDA beef comes in a variety of cuts with a selection of sauces, sides and toppings (smoked bacon and blue cheese, anyone?) that deserve their own menu.
You will find well-executed classics like wafer-thin beef carpaccio elevated by a truffle dressing, and a well-fried soft-shell crab encased in a brioche roll.
The bar area is its own ecosystem — mixers and cordials are made in house and the staff is among the most knowledgeable in town. If you can’t get a table, at least let the bartenders entertain you.
A recent menu revamp has seen chef Ben Small buck the small-plates trend in favor of family-style dining. His 49-ounce tomahawk steak — cooked to a buttery medium rare — comes with your choice of side and sauce. (Considering the dish’s size, a warning stating how it should be consumed by four or more people could also come from the kitchen.) A whole lobster cooked Szechuan style — bathed in chili and the distinctive Chinese pepper — is lip tingling and meant to be shared among three to four people as well.
Vegans and those with intolerances are well catered for — a fully vegan mushroom soup (made with housemade almond milk and mushrooms from a local farm) is velvety and almost makes you forget the lack of animal product.