Al Shami Home Restaurant
Our quest for excellent, affordable Arabic food brings us to Salwa Road Discuss this article
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Doha is not short of Middle Eastern restaurants. With everything from shawarma stands to high-end eateries sprinkled like parsley all over the city, it takes a certain something to stand out. Al Shami’s reputation precedes it, from long-term expats and the Time Out team alike, who voted it the best Middle Eastern in the city at the recent restaurant awards.
When we walk in on a regular Tuesday evening, we find that the place is packed, with sweet shisha smoke wafting towards the majlis-tent-inspired ceiling. It’s a very Arabic atmosphere, and inviting simply because it’s not trying too hard. It’s not prefabricated ‘Arabesque’, it’s just what it is – a real Arabic restaurant, in Qatar, complete with knick-knacks and locals in national dress rubbing elbows with expats from all over
We seat ourselves at one end of the long tables and peruse the menu. It’s large, with sections for cold and hot mezze, mains, barbecue, seafood and so on. We decide to try a mix of the mezze options to start, and we don’t have long to wait before the waiter pops freshly-baked flat bread, still puffed and fluffy, on the table along with bowls bursting with hummus, mohammarah, moutabal and fattoosh.
Serving is a bit haphazard (this is not the kind of place for your best manners), with dishes turning up when they are ready. The hummus is mild and super creamy, smooth, with hints of garlic and lemon. The fattoosh is fresh and lemony, and more than enough for our whole table and probably the table next door as well. But our favourites, hands down, are the moutabel and mohammarah. The moutabal, a mixture of roasted eggplant, manages to get that smoky flavour straight out of Beirut without tasting burnt (where so many other restaurants fall short) and the mahummrah is spicy and zingy, making our tongues tingle as we basically lick the plates clean.
The bowls of freshly-baked bread keep coming, as does a slightly unsettling service – at one point there’s a near collision as someone reaches towards their plate at the same time the waiter swoops in, ninja like, to snatch an empty glass. But where the service might occasionally be a little aggressive, it’s also fast: we haven’t made it half-way through the mezze before mains arrives. We opted for chicken shish taouk and the mixed grill for two, and it’s sizzling on the table before we’ve barely made a dent in our starters. But it also smells fantastic – and we get the impression that once the table is heaving with food, the staff are content to leave us alone to linger over our meals as long as we please.
The shish taouk, with cubes of barbecued chicken, is juicy and moist even after spending time on the grill, and absolutely phenomenal dunked in the garlic sauce we ask for on the side. The sauce is thick, creamy and the sort of thing we’d very much like to have a vat of alongside every meal – almost eye-wateringly garlicky, it’s not for the faint of heart (or breath).
The lamb on the mixed grill as well is just right – barbecued, but not dry, it’s still tender, and can be pulled apart just with a fork. Also on the mixed grill are two kinds of kofta – chicken and lamb. Both are perfectly spiced, tangy and delicious, and the mixed grill is far more food than expected for that price; it’s easily enough for lunch the next day if we hadn’t decided to be gluttons that evening (it was so good, we couldn’t help being rolled out afterwards). After we scrape the last bits of hummus up, before we even contemplate the dessert menu (and whether the buttons on our jeans would survive such a trial), our waiter deposits a complimentary plate of small Lebanese sweets – sugary and buttery, they are the perfect miniature end to a meal that left us bursting with flavour. Then we get the bill and our heads nearly burst – all that food for under QR200.
Between the funky atmosphere, which was hopping with people from all over the world even mid-week, the speedy service, cheap prices and incredible food, there’s a reason this little restaurant-that-could swept the title of Doha’s Best Middle Eastern. As we’re leaving, we also notice the delivery menu – we have a feeling we’ll be having more of that mahummrah in the near future.
The bill (for two)
1x hummus QR10
1x moutabal QR10
1x mohummarah QR10
1x fattoosh QR10
1x shish taouk QR40
1x mixed grill for two QR110
1x large water QR2
2x soda QR4
Total (incl charges) QR196
Time Out Doha,
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