There’s a new Chinese in town with a familiar sounding name 1 Reviews
Going out for Chinese is always a harrowing mission in Doha. The quality ranges from passable to bad to atrocious. You might get a decent meal one night, but if you return to the same restaurant and order something different, you may end up with leftovers the stray cats stalking your garbage bin won’t touch. Yet somehow, Chinese food remains surprisingly popular in Doha, if the number of restaurants in town is any indication.
One recent addition to the mix is Chopstix at the newly opened Holiday Villa Hotel – not to be confused with the fast-food Chopsticks chain, or the Chopsticks at the Grand Regency Hotel. Originality in marketing is clearly not a strong point, but at least the location is promising. Holiday Villa is a Malaysian-run chain, and Malaysians certainly know how to prepare good Asian food.
Chopstix offers both Chinese and Japanese food, but on the night my dinner companion and I visited, the Japanese chef was ill. While this spoiled our chance to sample the teppanyaki grill – there is definitely a shortage of restaurants in town that are able to offer this – we took it as an encouraging sign that they weren’t going to let some untrained schmuck try to wing it. Most of the décor inside Chopstix is Chinese-ish – lots of dark wood and deep reds – so it would have felt odd to eat Japanese food there anyway.
As for the Chinese food, let’s get to the worst news first. We ordered a whole snapper steamed ‘tea chew style’ with red chillies, salted vegetables, black mushrooms, ginger, tomato and plum seed. However, the results were mixed. The fish itself was gorgeous and expertly prepared with careful balancing of all the ingredients, in what was clearly an inspired recipe. It had that slippery, moist and smooth consistency that the Chinese so love in their fish dishes. But a pungent, bad fish flavour and odour seemed to overpower everything. Maybe it just wasn’t the right day to pick this off the menu. A shame, as we really liked the description of it.
The meal had in fact started on a much happier note. We began with a dim sum dish called three treasures: a piece of tofu, plus okra and red chilli stuffed with fish cake. A warm, gingery sauce covered the three. It was as delicious a rendition of the dish as you’ll find anywhere. The ginger sauce in particular is worth licking the plate. Be forewarned: the chilli is hotter than a solar flare.
We had expected the ‘Chinese style’ fried noodles to be Cantonese-style crispy noodles. What arrived at our table tasted far more South-East Asian than Hong Kong. The noodles were soft and the marinated chicken in it was sweet, giving the dish a pad Thai-ish vibe. They had given us a side order of fantastic chilli sauce with our starter and a serendipitous addition of it to the noodles made the not-bad dish sing.
The lemon chicken – that most unauthentic of ‘Chinese’ foods – was thoroughly unspectacular, yet I oddly found myself wolfing it down compulsively. Human taste buds may realise that the batter is doughy and not crisp, but a few gluttonous neurons buried within your reptilian brain are hardwired to dig all that fat, sugar and protein. We heard from another table who ate the deep fried prawns. Again the batter was doughy; the rest of the dish was okay.
The service was willing but marred by the same language barriers that are pervasive in Doha. You get lots of smiles and ‘sirs’ and ‘madams’, but it’s hard for anyone to explain anything more complex. Given that the restaurant is in an international hotel, the level of impediment was a bit surprising. Another surprise for some might be that there is no alcohol served in the hotel. Of course, when you remember that Malaysia is a Muslim country, this characteristic makes more sense.
The prices are a refreshing departure from typical hotel restaurant prices. We ordered more than we should have thinking that the QR40-ish items were smaller dishes, when in fact, they were full size.
The reasonableness of the prices makes it easier to roll the dice on Chopstix. Given the state of Chinese food in the city, it’s as good a gamble as any. If you want a sure thing, you could pay more money for bad pasta at the malls. There’s enough skill on display at Chopstix to know they’re capable of good things. And maybe the bad fish dish we had was a one shot deal. Or maybe, like every gambling addict, that’s just the sort of thing we keep telling ourselves to keep us going out for more Doha Chinese dinners.
The bill (for two
1x Three treasures dim sum QR28
1x Whole snapper ‘tea chew’ QR90
1x Chinese style noodles QR32
1x Lemon chicken QR48
1x Mango juice QR12
1x Chinese tea QR12
1x Large bottle water QR26
Total (inc charges) QR248
Time Out Doha,
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