Burj Al Hamam

The Pearl Qatar gets another restaurant – this time its first Lebanese Reviews

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The Pearl seems to be a development modeled after a line from the baseball movie Field of Dreams: ‘Build it, and they will come.’ Luxury condo towers rise from the desert shore, but the marina, shops, and cafés still await the hoped-for throngs of visitors. Not so for the Burj Al Hamam, the newish Lebanese joint at the Pearl. It opened November 11, and within days was receiving a steady flow of customers.

True to its surroundings, the restaurant exudes a modern, luxurious vibe. Plush blue and aubergine-coloured chairs sit below high ceilings lit with chandeliers. The tables are set formally with tall wine glasses and multiple forks and knives.

The restaurant is saturated with contradictions. Lebanese food has become commonplace in many parts of the world, but is rarely served in such sumptuous, Western-style surroundings. Burj Al Hamam, like other restaurants at the Pearl, can serve alcohol. But what kind of wine goes well with hummus? Even the table settings are perplexing. Is the outside fork for the mezze, and the inside fork for the mains? We couldn’t get good answers. It feels as though the restaurant is aspiring to a sort of Western-style sophistication, but instead comes off as it being insecure about its Middle-Eastern roots.

The abaya-clad crowd at the restaurant seemed unfazed by the cultural contradictions and cutlery conundrums, and simply dug into the food with their hands. And why not? The food hewed closely to traditions, even if the utensils did not.

There are dozens of cold and hot mezze to navigate through on the menu, as well as a selection of main courses. All of what my dinner companion and I tried was well-made from quality ingredients, although some dishes are certainly better suited to more adventurous palates. You probably can’t go too wrong ordering the hindbeh: dandelion with fried onion and lemon. Really, when don’t fried onions taste good? Tart lemon added a nice, sharp contrast.

On the other hand, the tamak bil samak, billed as baked fish with sesame oil extract, might come as an unpleasant surprise. Don’t expect a baked, whole fish to land on your table. Instead, you get a bowl of fishy mush with onions. Not everyone would find it unappetising. My dining companion imagined it would make a tasty fish salad sandwich if you spread it on toast. I didn’t find the pasty texture to be very endearing. Likewise, I thought the bemieh bil zeit to be cold and slimy. My dining partner had a higher tolerance for slime. All mezze come with fresh pita bread that’s hot and puffy with steam.

It’s handy to have a good grasp of either Lebanese cuisine or the Arabic language if you dine here. Otherwise, a lot gets lost in translation, as English-speakers don’t appear to be the targeted clientele. The menu advertises a fish display offering seafood ‘cooked your way.’ I was led to a room with various fish and crustaceans on ice. Our waiter didn’t have a clue what the specimens were in either Arabic or English.

I suppose a degree in ichthyology would be handy too. I pointed out two fish (that I later guessed to be a snapper and a pomfret) and asked for them to be grilled. ‘No grill,’ our waiter replied. ‘Only fried.’ It seems that ‘my way’ means deep fried.

The pomfret – if indeed that’s what it was – was the winner of the two fish we ordered. It had a milder flavour, and a nice, fluffy texture. The snapper, we think, was riddled with small bones. There wasn’t a lot of fuss with either. Both seemed to have simply been dunked in the deep fryer.

Fortunately, the prices at Burj Al Hamam are downright reasonable – surprisingly so given the lavishness of the décor. Most mezze ring in under QR30, eliminating some of the sting out of using the trial-and-error approach to ordering. Given the pronounced language barriers at the restaurant, this will doubtlessly be the tactic many diners will take.

If you follow this approach, you may find yourself at the end of the meal with a pile of food you wish to take home. And then you’ll be surprised to hear from your waiter, ‘No take-away at the Pearl.’ Our waiter’s accent was strong, so I wasn’t sure if I heard him right the first time he said it. But, indeed, there is apparently some rule about taking food home from the Pearl. We could only guess that it has something to do with maintaining some sort of appearance of luxury that can only be accomplished by wasting food.

There are enough of these unsolved, cross-cultural confusions to make a meal at Burj Al Hamam from being an entirely comfortable affair. If you know the cuisine, you’ll have a smoother path, and there surely is good food on offer. Well-made, traditional Lebanese food is clearly what’s drawing people here. But diners should be prepared to endure a few frustrations to enjoy it.

The bill (for two)
1x hindbeh QR24
1x tajen samak QR25
1x mouhamara QR26
1x bemieh QR22
1x lentil soup QR25
1x sultan QR21
2x fried fish QR60
1x water QR14
Total (incl charges) QR217

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: The Pearl-Qatar, Doha
  • Tel: 4495 3876
  • Travel: Porto Arabia, The Pearl Qatar
  • Cuisine: Arabic, Lebanese
  • Times: Open Sun-Thu noon-midnight, Fri-Sat 9am-1am
  • Price: QR350-500
  • Credit Cards Accepted: Yes

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User reviews:

Posted by: Ali Akin Gol on 11 Oct ' 11 at 07:57

Good feedback

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