Neo

Some of the finest sushi in Doha on Salwa Road Discuss this article

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Short of sushi Doha is not. With so many options, from high-end restaurants to night clubs all offering rolls of raw fish, it takes a lot to stand out. When we enter Neo, located on Salwa Road, the setting doesn’t immediately jump out and grab you. But that is actually what sets it apart: it’s laid back, relaxed, and you feel like someone should start up a chorus of ‘Where Everybody Knows Your Name’ as the door swings shut. It’s minimalist chic, yes, but it also has the distinct feel of a neighborhood meeting spot (something that’s brought home when we bump into three random acquaintances while we’re waiting for our meal).

The menu itself is pretty diverse, which is a fine line to walk for a sushi restaurant. Neo manages to maintain its Japanese cred, even with French onion soup and pizza lining up next to nigiri on the menu. While this might offend the purists, we sort of liked it: it’s somewhere you feel you could bring even the fish-phobic, and where anyone might be able to find something to eat. Moreover, it’s not trying to be authentic: the selection and kinds of sushi are meant to appeal to an international audience, and they’re not afraid to mix in something yummy just because it’s not how they do it in Japan.

It might be 30 degrees outside, but it’s still technically winter, so we were lured in by the cold-weather cuddly-sweater appeal of the tomato and basil soup to kick things off. With visions of canned soup dancing in our heads, we were pleasantly surprised; thick and yet with a light texture, it’s not a cream based soup, served in a rustic jar-style bowl, which actually tastes like tomatoes. Mopped up with pieces of thick crusty rolls, presented in a tall mason jar, it’s a nice alternative for the sushi-scared. Plus, that big bread jar is a bonus, as the wait staff tend not to hover: a blessing when you’re relaxing with friends and not feeling rushed, a curse when you’re doing the please-serve-me flag dance with your hands.

But fearing the raw fish we are not (or at least I’m not), and it’s onwards to the uncooked goodness. On offer are mixed sharing platters of different sushi and sashimi, but since my dining companion is a sushi noob, we opt to each order our own rolls. At first, the prices seem steep – a portion of six pieces of maki costs QR48! But when it arrived, we were suddenly feeling like our eyes may have been bigger than our bellies. Each thick hunk of sushi was almost impossible to eat gracefully in one bite. There will be leftovers, and with three rolls each, it looks like Neo will be feeding us for at least another day.

For my slightly-fearful friend, the Philly maki roll, a mix of smoked salmon and cream cheese, was a graceful way to try sushi without the commitment. Unlike many other versions of this popular Americanised dish, the smoked salmon is tender, not dried out, and in the right proportion to the cream cheese. Same goes for the avocado maki, a vegetarian roll that still feels hearty and flavourful. Myself, I have this thing for unagi, or eel, so I went for the rock ’n’ roll maki, one of the house specialties. It’s basically a California roll, topped with a piece of barbecue-sauce-soaked eel. Thick and delicious, it’s like a little piece of fishy heaven.

I also gave another of their specialties, the playboy maki, a whirl: this one includes bits of tempura shrimp, as well as cream cheese and more traditional sushi fillings, all rolled up and topped with more tempura ‘chrunchies’, as described by the menu. This one has become my new obsession, the thing of dreams and salivating cravings: it’s sushi… and yet it’s crunchy. Next to the smooth cream cheese it’s like a Japanese version of a taco, if a tacos were rolled in rice. My dining companion requests some too, but asks to substitute vegetable tempura. That’s no problem, and the waiter even asks her which vegetables she’d prefer. Either way, it’s delicious.

But the roll that has Neo taking top billing in our sushi-loving hearts is the spicy salmon. Every sushi restaurant has a version of this, but Neo’s is the perfect mix of spice and fish, giving you a hot kick, but not so much heat that you want to skimp on the wasabi (and one must never skimp on the wasabi). Rolled up in soft rice that’s sticky without being tough, we’re both sad that by this time we’re so full, we can’t finish the plate.

It’s worth soldiering on, however, for the chocolate fondant and frozen chocolate mousse. The fondant is good, with a nice creamy texture, but the mousse is the truly interesting part. Presented in two rolls and encased in a hard chocolate coating, resting on top of a salty black pepper shortbread cracker, it’s gorgeous if slightly ungainly to eat. The frozen mousse results in a texture that’s like double churned ice cream, and the cracker gives a sharp edge to it, if only we could manage to break off a chunk with our spoon without spilling it in our laps. But all in all, Neo was a hit, and we have the doggy bags for lunch the next day to prove it.

The bill (for two)
2x tomato and basil soup QR64
1x rock ’n’ roll maki QR48
2x spicy salmon maki QR80
1x playboy maki QR48
1x Philly maki QR44
1x avacado maki QR28
1x chocolate fondant QR35
1x frozen chocolate mousse QR35
1x water QR14
1x cappuccino QR16
1x Earl Grey tea QR32
Total (incl charges) QR444

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: Nasr, Doha
  • Tel: 4432 2539
  • Travel: Salwa Road
  • Cuisine: Japanese
  • Times: Open daily noon-11.30pm
  • Price: QR200-350
  • Credit Cards Accepted: Yes

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