New Italian restaurant at the Renaissance Doha hotel 2 Reviews
Choose three entrees, three main and three desserts for QR85 from noon-3pm (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday)
Order any one of the pizzas or pastas along with a side dish and one soft drink for QR45 from noon to 6pm (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday)
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The Renaissance Doha and Courtyard Marriott are still so new the paint has barely dried, but they’ve already got some of their nine venues up and running. In the two hotels connected to each other and City Centre mall, Cucina is tucked away near the entrance to the mall. Entering you immediately forget you’re in a hotel, and almost in a mall: it feels like a well decorated independent restaurant. Full of wrought iron, wine barrels and giant wheels of parmesan cheese, we smell it before we sit down at the table. Maybe because it’s still so new, the place is mostly empty on the weeknight we turn up; there’s a large group in the smoking section, one or two couples, and us. There are more servers than customers on the floor, and we’re not quite sure how much that has to do with the attentive service we receive. Knowing the Marriot brand however, we want to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The staff are attentive and help us wade through the full menu. We especially love the wine recommendations on the bottom of each page: while my dining companion is a vino veteran, I’m still sipping my way through, and getting recommendations to go with each kind of food is incredibly helpful. With nooks and crannies as well as large group tables, I’m beginning to suspect this was planned as an excellent first-date tactic: you can look like you know wine, without, you know, knowing wine. My friend opts for the Insala Rucola for starters, a mixture of salad greens and a tart lemon dressing, while I ask our friendly South African waiter for recommendations. After teasing me about having the salad come with the dessert (oh, how we love jokey waiters), he recommends the Insala Cucina, a mix of greens and Portobello mushrooms topped with a balsamic dressing.
The starters arrive on the heels of the generous bread basket, and our waiter wasn’t wrong: my salad is flavourful and filling, and with so much Portobello swimming around amidst the lettuce, this could easily be a hearty lunch. My favorite however are the chunks of parmesans topped with the tart dressing. That’s right, chunks. Not sprinkles, not shavings, solid, delicious hunks of cheese. The dressing is heavy on vinegar, low on oil, which is how I like it but may not be for everyone. My friend however, isn’t so happy with her salad. A mix of greens, pears and walnuts, the lemon dressing is incredibly tart; we both agree that though good, they could have used one less squeeze of lemon to make it really perfect.
Both of us clean our plates however and just in time: the mains are out in a hurry. We’re hoping this isn’t just because the restaurant is new and relatively empty. If they continue with this speed, this would be a great stop before the cinema on our future Thursday night adventures. While they have a whole range of pasta options, we’re drawn to the pizza—in the corner of the restaurant lurks a large wood burning pizza oven, and we can’t resist. My friend goes for a simple margherita pizza, and I opt for the lasagna. Both served in either the single or group portion sizes, we already like the idea that you could make this family style. I’m a firm believer that you can judge an Italian restaurant by its simple dishes best, and we’re not disappointed when the pizza arrives. Large without being mammoth, it’s served on a wooden pizza paddle that’s cute, but not so easy to cut the food on. The crust is crispy and clearly home-made, without being burnt: whoever is running that oven knows their stuff. My friend is particularly impressed with their cheese-sauce-basil ration. They nailed it, which is trickier than it seems. My lasagna is also good. Served in a circular dish, it’s large but not enough to feed me for lunch the next day (drat). They haven’t messed around: it’s layers of cheese, meat, pasta and sauce and that’s it. No fancy flourishes and that’s what makes it tasty. A little saucy, it’s a dribbly mound of cheese with al dente pasta and tangy meat.
After mains we have room for a little something sweet, but alas, half their dessert options are unavailable. We go for the torta caprese—a spicy chocolate cake with ice cream. When it arrives it’s a rich, almost fondant like mound, with just a hint of chili to give it an interesting burn. We’re torn on the spice though: I want a bit more, my friend wants a bit less. Either way, it’s a change from the usual cloying desserts, and something different in our chocolate.
My first thought while leaving is that Cucina would be a great place for families: adult fare and lovely atmosphere, kid friendly options. Plus, with a winding layout, staff could easily put kids and families on one end while leaving space for uninterrupted intimate dinners over candle light. We’re also just hoping they have a takeaway option for that delicious pizza.
The bill (for two)
1x Insala cucina QR45
1x Insala Rucola QR55
1x Peach Ice Tea QR20
1x Large water QR15
1x 7up QR15
1x Margherita pizza QR32
1x Lasagna QR45
1x Torta caprese QR50
Total (incl charges) QR277
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