Authentic Italian fare at La Cigale’s latest restaurant Discuss this article
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Italian chef Pasquale Procida was spirited to Doha direct from Capri to design the menu for La Cigale’s newest and most adeptly named restaurant. Our first impression on visiting, however, is that it is rather grandly over-spacious, which inhibits the atmosphere, as even the slightest sound reverberates across the cold marble floors and high ceilings. A large mirrored table dominates the centre and is adorned with a stunning array of beautiful pink flowers in a mélange of vases. However, rather than enhance the décor it manages instead to give an impression of dining in a hotel lobby, as do many of the tables, set out in uniform rows.
The style of the restaurant seems to trip between centuries, with angular white ceiling hangings and a large, mirror-panelled bar featuring funky bar stools, a little at odds with the wood-lined wall sporting framed oil paintings. Lighting is bright, and the background music adds to the mix and match, with Italian opera interspersed with 1950s tunes.
The menu is extensive, with temptations including fresh ravioli with beef bouillon, octopus salad and beef carpaccio to propel you on your culinary journey; the staff have a sound knowledge of dishes when pressed for further details on preparation and contents.
To begin, my dining partner opted for grilled scallops with red endives.As we made ourselves comfortable, a basket brimming with a variety of rustic breads was placed on our table. The bread tasted homemade and was quite delicious. This was followed by a (free!) serving of bruschetta, which was truly divine. The texture of the crunchy bread contrasted rather satisfyingly against the softness of the tangy diced tomato and large slices of soft garlic – an unexpected but welcome treat.
The parmesan tart with Sicilian arancini didn’t play second fiddle. It was robust and worthy of an entrée, arriving dressed for dinner complete with a chunk of milky mozzarella and a perfectly formed arancini swimming in a scintillating sea of bolognese sauce. It was surprising to find the tart with a soft underside, but it proved agreeable, the layers of eggplant dripping with melted parmesan. An ideal accompaniment, the fried rice ball was crispy, perfectly complementing the malleable tart. The scallops were a hearty, Italian-sized serving, accompanied by juicy cherry tomatoes, red endives and spinach in a somewhat watery sauce. Unfortunately, the scallops themselves seemed to be slightly overcooked, resulting in a vaguely chewy texture. The endives had been slowly cooked and were tender, almost sweet bundles of what can be otherwise bitter leaves.
Entrées were tough to decide upon, given the array of possibilities. Picatta veal with black truffle, or sliced duck with honey and orange sauce? Stuffed calamari or clam spaghetti with garlic? After much deliberation, I eventually put the waiter out of his misery and chose the grilled lamb chops with rosemary sauce. The four large chops arrived layered one on top of the other and surrounded by crispy wedges and perfectly cooked fresh spinach. They were chargrilled, succulent, and positively silken upon the palate, the flavour further enhanced by the incomparably delicious rosemary sauce. My partner’s shrimp risotto was ocean-bountiful; crowned with a huge, grilled crustacean and crammed full of tender shrimp and textured, creamy rice, it proved to be a true Italian masterpiece (unlike those canvases gracing the walls).
During our meal, the chef popped out to say hello and see what we thought of his kitchen endeavours. Although he spoke little English, and we spoke even less Italian, his enthusiasm for his art was evident, and we felt touched that he’d taken the time to approach us.
Dessert was a rich chocolate fondant in an orange sauce. Velvety smooth, it was the perfect consistency – gooey, sticky and lightly flavoured with orange. For any self-confessed chocolate fiend, this is nothing short of sublime and served with a refreshing orange sorbet and juicy orange segments in a light sauce, it was an assault of tangy freshness and rich chocolate decadence. Tiramisu is every Italian restaurant’s signature dish and so it demanded to be sampled. Served in a large glass, this tiramisu was certainly creamy, but lacked the required kick.
One thing Doha does not lack is Italian restaurants, so Di Capri is up against some fierce competition. But the quality of the authentic Italian fare is superb, so it’s definitely worth making the effort to visit. One thing to note is that the setting is a huge part of any dining experience, and Di Capri needs to improve its ambience: once word starts to get around and it gets busier, maybe that will help.
The bill (for two)
1x mint lemonade QR35
1x still water large QR28
1x still water small QR20
1x parmigina QR50
1x capesante grilled QR85
1x grilled lamb chop QR135
1x risotto venere QR110
1x chocolate fondant QR55
1x tiramisu QR50
1x café latte QR35
1x cappuccino QR35
Total (incl charges) QR638
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