Il Teatro

We try the new menu at one of Doha’s favourite Italian restaurants Reviews

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The night we decide to check out the newest offerings at Il Teatro, it’s the day before Ramadan. As such, we’re not alone in the quiet, elegant interior, but we still get in sans reservation. Despite having multiple diners in the restaurant, it still feels spacious and intimate, which is helped by dim lighting (dim lighting always helps). When the menu arrives, I’m feeling fairly secure that something good will be coming our way: after all, Il Teatro has long held a place of esteem with Qatar foodies.

Located on the lower level of the Four Seasons, it maintains the hotel’s elegance without smothering us in superfluous cutlery: it’s starkly elegant, without a hint of pretention to be found. While we peruse the new menu, we’re presented with one of my favourite parts of dining anywhere in the Four Seasons: the bread. I don’t know who’s baking it, but the rolls feel like they’ve been crafted by tiny elves who delight in thwarting the firmest Atkins believer.

For starters, we try the spin on risotto carnarol. Il Teatro was in fact the first ‘nice’ restaurant I went to, mere days after arriving in Qatar, and the first place I ever had risotto. But, not one to linger in the past, even if it was excellent, I leave the risotto to my dining companion and order the ravioli.

When it arrives, it’s presented in a long tray, gleaming with butter sauce. Now, I’m usually picky about my ravioli: reared on the delights of Chef Boyardee and a recent convert to luxe pasta, I find many butter sauces overpoweringly cloying. But these are tender and moist, bursting with flavour and spilling out cheese and rich aubergine filling, presented with a subtle sauce. Although at first it looked like a tiny portion, I felt afterwards that it was just right. The risotto too, by the contented slurps of my friend, is delicious – tender, but not mushy, with a firm texture.

For mains, Il Teatro has gone a little fancy, a little experimental, and I’m lured in by the guinea fowl with chocolate sauce. Yes, that’s right: poultry and chocolate, together at last. My friend opts for the slightly safer lamb chops, which on arrival smell delightful, but appear to be cooked unevenly – some are bright pink, some are well done, and few hit the slightly-pink he requested. He still enjoys them, but it unnervingly makes me wonder what my own main is going to be like.

My guinea fowl is less exciting than I anticipated, but is still a moist piece of meat, which mostly tastes like chicken, with just a hint of duck. Smothered in a rich dark covering that’s a little like a black mole sauce, spices and chocolate combined, I also found bits of orange rind. And that’s where things got weird. I’m all for innovative flavour combinations (I ordered the chocolate-covered bird, remember?), but I’m not so keen when these flavours start to mostly taste like one of those orange-filled chocolates people shun and leave abandoned in the box at Christmas.

As a result, I feel like I’m picking my way around my plate, making sure I’m not overwhelmed in any one bite by the many warring flavours of the dish. This is not the way I’m accustomed to dining at restaurants like Il Teatro (it usually involves gleefully scraping every remaining morsel from the plate). Next up is dessert. For fine dining, we’re full, but not overwhelmingly so: while he may have crammed an overabundance of ingredients into the dishes, the chef nailed portion size. We go for the chocolate fondant for my friend, and for myself the praline semifredio. When it arrives, mine is a nut-flavoured dollop of foam next to a frozen mound of what feels in my mouth like sorbet. Pleasing, but again, far too may things going on on one plate. The fondant, however, which comes served with lemongrass sorbet, is a revelation. Oozy and rich, the cake is lovely, but what really shines is the sorbet: for once, messing with ingredients has proven to be a good idea. Tart and light, it has a spicy finish and a palate-cleansing freshness that’s the perfect side
to dark chocolate.

Il Teatro is still a good place to dine: the atmosphere and service can’t be beaten. However, the chef needs to calm down, letting the food stand for itself, and stop making meat taste like reject chocolates.

The bill (for two)
1x risotto carnarol
QR80
1x ravioli QR75
1x lamb chops QR240
1x guinea fowl QR180
1x prailine samifredio QR55
1x chocolate fondant QR55
2x water QR80
1x caffè latte QR40
Total (incl charges) QR805

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: Four Seasons Hotel Doha, West Bay, Doha
  • Tel: 4494 8888
  • Travel: Diplomatic Street
  • Website

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User reviews:

Posted by: Fullmoon on 01 Mar ' 12 at 12:11

being an Italian this restaurant is the only real Italian in town, High end! Then there is Cucina, but it's everyday Italian cooking,
All the other restaurant are almost rubish!

Posted by: Wandering Gourmand on 17 Apr ' 11 at 20:26

I would have agreed completely with this review had I read it even a month ago, but I went there last week for the first time since December, and it's undergone a sea change in the food department. We were told that the restaurant has a new chef and what we were about to try was his first menu.

Starting right from the menu, it was an evening to remember.
The dishes on the are imaginative and inspiring, and the presentation is beautiful - and this will explain the 'contemporary Italian' part :-) We were really excited to taste things like guinea fowl with chocolate sauce and ostrich!

Then comes the taste. It is an explosion of flavour!
Between my 3 dining companions and I, we went through 10 dishes, in 3 courses (two of us skipped the pasta course). And the vote about the taste was unanimous. And there comes the 'real' Italian tradition, contemporary restaurant or not :-) In fact, we then did the very unfashionable thing of digging into each other's plates for a taste of all the dishes. If anyone noticed, they were careful not to show it! Even ostensibly simple dishes like the ravioli with aubergine and the tuna tartare turned out unexpected results - outstanding complementing of ingredients and taste. The foie gras with mulled wine sauce was to die for! The stars of the meal were probably the ostrich and the red snapper, the latter with a black couscous that was a real shocker in terms of taste. And the guinea fowl was so delicious!
Unfortunately, we didn't take dessert as we felt that our appetites just couldn't do it justice :-(

Having travelled in Italy extensively, I would say this is right up there with some of my best meals. In fact, we wre told, the menu will be further fine-tuned as they are still working out more imports of fine speciality products from Italy. So maybe on our next trip, we will have more surprises.
The only other 'downer' apart from dessert was that there's no more fried calamari on the menu. But then, to be honest, it has no place on a fine Italian menu of this standard. We'll just take those cravings to TGIF! :-)

It is a carefully thought-out menu, showing refinement in taste, fabulous pairings of flavours within each dish, beautifully-presented and absolutely uncompromising on taste. Combined with the elegant (yet not oppressively so) surroundings and the great Four Seasons service, it was a feast for the senses, and left us with huge grins on our faces. We didn't even begrudge the lighter wallets!
Bravos! We will be back, and this time we will even take dessert.

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