Misk, City Center Rotana

When I arrived in Doha the one thing that everyone talked about was Friday brunch, a staple of expat life. At my first brunches I stood in awe of the huge amount of food, beautiful presentation (I have been known to get teary at pretty desserts and angry when people cut into them!) and the free flow of drinks – all this for about 300QR seemed like a good deal. However, as prices in some places have shot up to over 400QR, my opinion on these huge brunches has changed slightly. On reflection the myriad of dishes were mostly things I didn’t eat, the inconvenience of walking half a mile in heels to get a prawn and the after effects of weekend long hangover, I kind of stopped loving huge Friday brunches. I wanted something smaller in size and price, more personal service and to leave knowing I wasn’t going to spend Saturday on the sofa with a box set and McDonald’s take away. Don’t get my wrong, Friday brunches are lots of fun, some of my best Doha memories involve brunch antics, I just don’t want to do them every weekend. I started to investigate Friday lunches which were, dare I say, more civilized? This search led me and some friends to Misk, the Lebanese restaurant at City Center Rotana where their Friday Sofra (Sofra meaning lavish feast) takes place and the food is served to your table in courses, the menu below is a sample.

On arrival we were surprised we were the only patrons, Olive Oil across the corridor was much busier but we were warmly greeted into the beautiful styled restaurant.


Menus were brought and the concept explained – a selection of hot and cold mezze would be brought for the table to share then we all would chose a main course each. The cold mezze were delicious, we loved the traditional middle eastern shanklish salad, vine leaves and moutabel but the fattoush salad divided opinion as some of us felt it was too acidic and sharp, others thought it was spot on.

Soon the hot mezze arrived and we tucked into wonderful feast of pastry deep fried with rakakat, spicy potatoes, baby fried fish with tahini, prawns and liver. Again, one of the dishes – the liver – divided opinion as I found it a little too sweet with the lemon and pomegranate but others loved it. At this point we had to have some self restraint as we still had our main courses to come. Look at how cute all the little serving dishes are!

The staff were excellent and told us to just let them know when we wanted our next course so we had a little break! As the main courses are individually ordered they took a little while to arrive and they were brought to the table very hot and fresh. The lamb chops were tender and cooked perfectly, they’d been well prepared with the bones trimmed and cleaned. The koftas were well seasoned and juicy, a perfect match with the garlic sauce.


By now we were all so full, craving a coffee and something sweet to end the meal. Soon dessert arrived – a selection of Arabic desserts. I’m not a huge dessert fan and as I don’t like nuts, honey or sugar syrup I do struggle to find any Arabic desserts I enjoy, but I did like the authenticity of the platter. I think it may be nice to have an option of fresh fruit as a lighter way to end the meal. The staff brought the youngest member of our group ice cream which she loved and was a nice touch!


By the time we looked at our watches 3 hours had flown by and we’d all had a thoroughly lovely time. We enjoyed the food, the service and, despite the fact we the only diners, it didn’t effect the atmosphere in fact it felt like private dining!

In terms of value for money I felt it was fantastic. The soft drinks package is 145QR and with beer/wine/araq 245QR – coffee/tea is priced separately. The total cost for 5 people for the Sofra lunch plus coffee was 1005QR. So, if huge buffet style brunches aren’t for you, then check this smaller, cosier, Sofra instead. It’s particularly family friendly (there is no children’s entertainment however) and great for groups who love sharing good food in a pretty setting.

Misk - City Centre Rotana Doha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Benihana, Amwaj Rotana, Dubai 

Some people may scoff at the fact I’ve never been to a teppanyaki restaurant before the same way that I scoff at those people who’ve never eaten a Parmo, a gastronomic delicacy of the small seaside town in which I was brought up. So, when on a recent trip to Dubai I was invited to dine at Benihana I jumped at the chance. We were asked to arrive at 7pm for ‘dinner and a show’ and didn’t have any idea what to expect! We were warmly greeted and shown to the lovely outside dining area where we ordered drinks and perused the menu.


Benihana started out as a small New York restaurant in the 1960’s and is now a worldwide franchise with 2 outlets in Dubai both at Rotana properties. At the Amwaj Rotana there are 3 teppanyaki tables –  each one seating 9 people – a large indoor dining area and a lovely outdoor terrace. We were told we’d be dining with a family of 4 and so once we’d ordered we were shown inside.


I opted for the Benihana Special (beef tenderloin and lobster) Greg chose the Benihana Combination ( beef sirloin, chicken and shrimp) and once we were all seated we were brought our miso soup. The staff were fantastic and didn’t even bat an eyelid when I dropped my iPhone into my soup sending it flying and creating a mess, I was simply offered a fresh bowl! The soup was lovely – with a good balance of tofu and seaweed, a light, tasty way to start our meal.


Next we heard a few ‘wows’ and we saw our appetiser heading towards us. The presentation of the Alaskan crab was as stunning as its delicate taste which, along with a selection of sauces and dips, was an absolute winner. While we were tucking into our appetizers our fellow diners were also eating theirs, it was very well timed and organized by the staff.

Then Chef Fernando burst onto the scene – the show was about the begin….

Then the teppanyaki station was lit, we all stepped back a little at this point!

Chef checked on allergies and it transpired that one person was allergic to shellfish so it was agreed the shrimp and lobster would all be cooked at the end which was fine with us. Throughout the show Chef chatted to us, made jokes, interacted with other staff and answered my many questions about the food! I get the impression that the banter is matched to the diners so in an adult only group it may be a bit more risqué! The first course of vegetables were crunchy with a wonderful garlic butter. The fried rice started with Chef recreating a diners face using only an egg!

We then gave our preferences for how we’d like our steak cooked with mine being cooked last as I prefer medium rare. The steak was mouth wateringingly good with a hint of salt and pepper, soy and garlic – it just melted in your mouth. The chicken, shrimp and lobster were equally good and the portion sizes were more than adequate.


By now we were full and the show was over but not the meal as we were shown outside and presented with a wonderful bento box of desserts. Consisting of banana and chocolate spring rolls, chocolate cake filled with yuzu creme, fried ice cream, Japanese  mochi and fresh fruit we had a pretty good go at finishing it all!

I know that some people may be skeptical of such a glowing review as I was a guest of Benihana but we genuinely had a great time. While we were there all the teppanyaki tables were full and I could see everyone was having fun and their service and food replicated ours, in fact the family who shared our table said they were regulars. I would really recommend Benihana for groups of families and friends of all ages and for couples. I think this concept would work so well in Qatar too, if Benihana did open in Doha I’d definitely be reserving a table!

To reserve a table and check current promotions

https://www.rotana.com/rotanahotelandresorts/unitedarabemirates/dubai/amwajrotana/dining


To check out the menu

https://www.zomato.com/benihana-amwajrotana/menu

 

Benihana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Time for Thai: 5 Thai restaurants in Doha

During the summer we spent almost a month travelling around Thailand and fell in love with the food. I will always remember our first evening in Bangkok, finding a little cafe and feasting on all of this for about 30QR!

Since we came back to Doha we have tried a variety of Thai restaurants so I thought I’d look up the 5 top rated ones on Zomato and use that as a basis for our research. Here’s a brief summary of our findings!

Sabai Thai at the Westin Hotel, Fereej Bin Mahmoud (Zomato rating 4.2)

Food: We had the 3 course business lunch which is available every day except Friday. All four of us agreed the food was well executed and tasted authentic. We were asked what level of spice we would like (I opted for ‘less spice’) therefore you can tailor the food to to suit your palette to some extent. The business lunch was served like a bento box with the starter, main course and rice arriving at the same time with dessert served afterwards.The food was lovely and fresh bursting with flavour and the portion size was perfect for lunchtime.

Service: welcoming, friendly and professional throughout.

Price: 65 QR for 3 courses with a soft drink /90QR for 3 courses with special beverage. On the a la carte menu starters 40-70QR, mains 70- 140QR, desserts 45- 50QR

Summary: A beautifully designed restaurant perfect for couples, families and groups who would like authentic Thai food with excellent service. I would definitely go back and try the Friday brunch /a la carte menu.

My rating for Zomato: 5.0




Baan Thai, Muaither (Zomato rating  4.2)

Food: We opted to share a selection of salads, appetizers, mains and desserts between 4 of us. We were asked how spicy we’d like the food and we opted for medium however we didn’t find any real heat in any of the dishes so if you like spicy food you may want to emphasis this. We were served the salad and appetizers first followed by main courses. The food arrived quickly and we could watch it being prepped and cooked through the large window at the back of the restaurant.

Service: Welcoming, friendly and relaxed throughout.

Price: 3 appetizers, 1 salad, 4 mains, rice, noodles, 3 desserts, 4 soft drinks, 3 coffees 425QR

Summary:  Overall the food was fine but nothing exciting. We felt there was no real distinction of flavour in any of the dishes, nothing made my taste buds dance, some dishes felt more ‘western’ Chinese than Thai. In terms of value for money it was average. I can see why it’s popular with people who live in the area especially as a take away but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat there.

My rating for Zomato: 3.5

Isaan at the Grand Hyatt, West Bay (Zomato rating 4.4)

Food: Greg opted for the Ba -mee (noodle) menu where you can select 4 dishes for 100QR whereas I chose a starter and main from the a la carte menu. We were asked how spicy we would like to food and we asked for just a little spice which was perfect.We asked for all the dishes to be served at the same time and they were brought to our table when they were ready. The food arrived quickly and we could watch it being prepped and cooked at the 3 open kitchens. The food tasted very authentic, perhaps better than some of the food we ate in Thailand!

Service: Welcoming, friendly and relaxed throughout.

Price: 4 dishes from the Ba – mee menu, 1 appetiser, 1 main, 2 desserts, 1 wine, 1 whiskey, 1 bottle of water 398QR.

Summary:  Overall the food was superb, each dish was a delicate balance of flavours with good quality ingredients and it was all freshly cooked. We liked the complimentary chicken amuse bouche and the lemongrass and ginger tea. In terms of value for money we thought it was excellent, especially the 4 dishes for 100QR. We would definitely go back here especially to the brunch so we can try a larger selection of dishes. In fact I’d drive there just for the mango with sticky rice!

My rating for Zomato: 5.0



Jasmine Thai in Souk Wakif ( Zomato rating 3.9)

Food: We opted to share starters and mains and again asked for ‘not too spicy’. Our starters were brought just a few minutes after ordering which suggested they weren’t made to order. Our mains were took slightly longer but lacked heat and a punch of flavour.The mango on the dessert was past it best and the coconut sauce was watery.

Service : Welcoming, friendly.

Price : 272QR for 3 starters, 2 mains, rice, 1 dessert and 3 soft drinks .

Summary : Overall the food was fairly disappointing. The starters did not seem very fresh (the papaya in the som tam salad was very limp) and the although the main courses were better they didn’t ‘wow’ us. The dessert priced at 60QR was a let down as the mango was past it’s best and the coconut sauce was watery. I felt the food was quite expensive and serving dishes with 1/3 of the plate filled with lettuce, cucumber and tomato was a waste. For a Thursday night the restaurant was fairly quiet and lacked atmosphere.

My rating for Zomato: 3.0


Thai corner, Al Muntazah ( Zomato rating 4.0)

Food: We actually rung up and ordered delivery which came within 30 minutes. We weren’t asked about spice levels but luckily chili sauce, spices and peanuts came on the side, there was no heat in any of the dishes apart from the salad.Everything arrived warm and well packaged and the portion sizes were adequate. The food was quite tasty and the papaya salad was crispy and crunchy. The food wasn’t too greasy but the noodles were a little stodgy.

Service: The order was placed very easily and the delivery arrived within 30 minutes of ordering which was good for a Saturday night.

Price: 119QR for fish cakes, egg fried rice with chicken, pad Thai with prawns, beef in oyster sauce, papaya salad and delivery.

Summary: Overall a pretty average takeaway. I didn’t feel the dishes had a huge amount of distinctive flavours apart from the papaya salad and the oyster sauce was fairly watery -I did enjoy the fried rice. I would probably order from here again if I wanted Thai food delivered quickly at a reasonable price.

My rating for Zomato: 3.5

So overall we have eaten a wide range of Thai food in the last few weeks, some better than others. Where do you go in Doha to get your Thai fix?!

*Please note I was a guest of Sabai Thai and Isaan but all opinions and photos are my own*

Sabai Thai - The Westin Doha Hotel & Spa Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mamig, Katara

In my opinion Mamig at Katara definitely has kerb appeal – beautiful gardens with water features, an outside shady terrace and a large glass conservatory on the top floor. The inside is equally pretty with potted plants, an eclectic mix of soft furnishings and a wonderful view across to the Pearl and West Bay – it is certainly enticing. We have been a couple of times for a snack and enjoyed the food so when choosing a restaurant close to home with easy parking we opted for Katara and Mamig. I was a bit worried when we arrived as the said kerb appeal has been replaced by construction workers and scaffolding, it also looked empty. However, we spotted a hostess at the front and she confirmed that it was open despite the building work.

We were shown to the elevator and then to a table by the window. This area used to be an open terrace but now it has been enclosed with windows which can be fully opened to let in the sea breeze.Menus were brought quickly and we ordered drinks and decided to share a selection of appetisers as the Armenian/Lebanese dishes really lend themselves to this. On the whole the appetisers were a hit. The hommos with soujouk was creamy and not too acidic, the mama ganouj was smoky with a lovely burst of sweetness from the pomegranate, both were generous portions. I didn’t try the rekakat with cheese but it looked delicious and everyone agreed it was better than the cheesy dough sticks that they had expected. I was a little disappointed with the gedouz patates as I have had these before and loved the combination of the crispy potatoes with a chili kicked but this time they didn’t feel very fresh or crispy, the kick of heat was also missing. Another hit was the basket of soft, fresh bread, it was quickly devoured and we had to resist ordering more. The deep fried morsels of bread at the bottom of the rekakat basket were perfect for mopping up bits of mama ganouj and hommos so do not let them go to waste.

After a suitable time our main courses were brought over. The awasal kebab listed as beef on the menu, is actually tender, succulent cubes of marinated lamb. It was similar to the havov kebab which was marinated, cubed chicken and equally good. The yerevan kebab was spicy minced meat served with a cooling yoghurt dip. All of these dishes were hot and freshly cooked, the quality of the meat was excellent and it was beautifully tender. I was not quite so happy with my marinated boneless grilled chicken. I thought that it would be chargrilled with crispy skin but the marinade had made the skin soggy and chewy. It was difficult to remove the skin and the marinade did not add much flavour, I also found it quite fatty. The portion sizes on all the dishes were good as the meat was served alongside salad and fries.

I was surprised how quiet the restaurant was at lunchtime on a Saturday as other times we have been it has been packed. Maybe this was due to the cycling or the fact it doesn’t look open from a distance due to the building work. I have to say, please do not let the construction work put you off as we were not effected by it at all. Throughout our meal the service was efficient but not overly friendly, this was at odds with the bright, friendly welcoming decor, which was a shame. Would I go back?…..probably. I think I was unlucky with my chicken dish and I know the potatoes can be much better however there are other places in Katara I would also like to try. Mamig is a very pretty restaurant with a lovely view and I can see why its popular especially with families and overall the food was enjoyable. We paid 560QR for 4 appetisers, 4 mains, rice, water, soft drinks, a mocktail and a tip which I felt was reasonable .

 
Mamig Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

 

Pink Lady Charters, Porto Arabia

At first this may not seem like a food post but bare with me, all will be revealed! People who know me are aware I have had a rubbish couple of weeks so an invite to join a group of fellow bloggers on board a private yacht for a few hours was warmly welcomed. Pink Lady Charters operates from Porto Arabia and is staffed by an all female captain and crew which allows groups of women to charter the yacht and relax in complete privacy. We boarded at about 3.30pm and immediately headed away from the Pearl out into the Arabian Gulf towards West Bay.

We all went to explore the yacht and were blown away by the space and sheer luxury – how the other half live!!

As we sailed along the corniche towards the MIA the views of the city were awesome.

Bianca our Captain explained that the yacht can be hired for numerous reasons – corporate events, private parties, family occasions, baby showers, hen dos, or as a romantic trip for a couple. They can even arrange for beauty treatments on board. The longer you hire the yacht for the more cost effective it is and it accommodates a maximum of 12 people comfortably.

So here is the foodie bit and the part that interested me the most. At the moment there is a promotion whereby you can hire the yacht for 4 hours for 5000QR for up to 12 people. For this you can bring your own food and drinks on board, plug your phone into the music system and party away. After a couple of hours the yacht will drop anchor and you can swim or visit a beach. I love this idea, I think it would be perfect for a party, everyone brings a dish and some drinks, and as it would work out at about 410QR per person I don’t think its outrageously priced. The weather at the moment is absolutely perfect for being on the water.

We all had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Sailing back to the Pearl as the sun set was spectacular. I am looking at my calendar to see when I can plan a party or maybe arrange for the next bloggers pot luck to take place on board …….!

Please note, despite the name men are allowed on board the yacht but no ‘all male’ bookings are allowed.

More information can be found at http://www.pinkladycharters.com/

* I was lucky enough to be a guest for the afternoon but all photos (apart from the one of the lounge area!) and opinions are my own*