Doha’s favourite Thai restaurant has had a menu makeover 4 Reviews
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We’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Isaan. With a team of staff that hail from Thailand, décor that wouldn’t look out of place in a funky downtown Bangkok eatery, and a menu offering authentic Thai food, the Grand Hyatt Doha’s signature restaurant seems to have all the ingredients for success. When we heard that Chef Wachira had added a handful of new dishes to his a la carte menu, we booked our table before the print had even had a chance to dry on the new menus.
For those who haven’t been, Isaan is pretty big. In fact, almost an entire side of the lobby level at the Grand Hyatt is taken up with this open-plan restaurant. Tables, both inside and outside on a pretty terrace with views over the hotel pool and the Arabian Gulf, are nicely spaced out, while soft lighting and sheer curtains which hang from the roof manage to provide intimacy despite its size. There are three open kitchens, which give you a clear view of just how much work is going into preparing and making your dinner, and smiling staff hover all around the place eager to refill your cup with complimentary green tea, or offer you some fluffy rice out of a large bamboo basket.
The food here is served in small portions, like a Thai-style tapas, and they recommend having three or four choices per person. We asked the waiter to point out all of the new dishes (there are nine, including two desserts), and ordered four of them, plus a couple of the classics that are Thai food staples. Rather than bringing all the dishes at once, the waiters bring them to the table as and when they are ready, which made the experience much more laid back and leisurely.
First to arrive were the por pia goong (shrimp spring rolls) and the mee krati. Although delicious when dipped into the sweet chilli sauce, the spring rolls weren’t what we thought they would be. Instead of being a mixture of vegetables, rice vermicelli and little prawns all wrapped up in a crispy roll, they were simply whole king prawns deep fried in batter. Something obviously lost in translation. The mee krati – minced chicken on a bed of rice noodles and garnished with a peanut curry sauce – was so moreish that when we realised that our chopsticks were scraping the empty bottom of the bowl, we couldn’t resist ordering another round.
Next to arrive at the table was the hoy heel pad cha, scallops cooked in chilli, garlic and green peppercorns, another of Chef Wachira’s latest additions to the menu. Scallops are not something I would usually choose, finding them, more often than not, to have a somewhat rubbery texture. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I tucked into one of these juicy little morsels to find that they were more melt-in-the-mouth than jaw-achingly chewy.
Given the nature of the beast, we were looking forward to getting our tastebuds tangled around a few spicy delicacies, but when we tucked into the newly introduced yum nuea yang, a beef and oyster mushroom salad drizzled with lime juice, we found it to have a lot more than just a ‘kick’. Although too much fiery attitude can overpower the flavour of food, in this case, even though our lips were tingling and our tongue was on fire, we still managed to polish it off.
Last to arrive were the Thai classics, which have actually been on the menu since Isaan first opened, but which most Westerners secretly believe no Thai meal is complete without. The green curry with beef was flavoured to perfection, with lovely tender slivers of meat simmering in a sauce that was creamy but not sickly, with just the right amount of spice. The red curry with duck, however, was sadly not in the same league. It’s true that duck is known for being quite fatty, but you can usually remove enough of the fat and still be left with plenty of succulent, tasty meat to eat. However, this dish was mainly little pieces of duck fat floating in a delicious red curry sauce. The fatty meat was a disappointment, although we persisted with the dish, scooping out some of the red sauce.
Luckily, under the guidance of our waitress, we had ordered just the right amount of food to still have room for dessert. Our waitress strongly recommended the black bean ice cream or i-tim tua daam, which is a new sweet on the menu, and we also opted for the other recent addition, the tab tim kob nam kati, which translates as water chestnut dumplings in a candle-smoked syrup. To be honest, neither sounded particularly appetising, but one of them at least turned out to taste better than it sounded. I don’t know who came up with the idea of making black beans into an ice cream, but it really works. There were little flecks of bean dotted throughout the dish, which was surprisingly, but deliciously, sweet. The chestnut dumplings on the other hand weren’t quite as enjoyable. The dish was a bit sickly, with gelatinous lumps of what looked and tasted like maraschino cherries and glacé fruit mixed together. The coconut cream that the dumplings were drenched in was also found to be a little overwhelmingly sweet.
Overall, however, this enduringly popular Thai really does have our hearts and, fatty duck aside, Chef Wachira has come up spicy trumps with all of his new dishes.
The bill (for two)
2x Aqua Pana QR64
2x spring rolls QR120
2x curry noodles QR60
1x scallop chili QR65
1x beef mushroom salad QR40
1x beef green curry QR35
1 x red duck curry QR35
1 x black bean ice cream QR25
1 x water chesnut dumplings QR25
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