Porcini

We try the new menu at one of Qatar’s old Italian favourites Discuss this article

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Our hopes are high when we walk into Porcini. It’s late on a Thursday night and, without a reservation, we have to wait a few minutes for a table to open up. The restaurant itself is warm, cosy and intimate, and perfect for this time of year: I can almost picture snow falling outside the window (if it wasn’t 20 degrees).

Porcini is one of those classic powerhouse restaurants in Doha: nestled downstairs at the Ritz-Carlton, it’s got old-world charm and a haute cuisine dining atmosphere. The service is the usual blend of Ritz-Carlton fawning, and the menus have barely touched our hands when bread appears on the table to nibble on. Multiple servers, even on a busy night? My, oh my.

But we’re not here for the bread basket. The new menu is small compared to a lot of restaurants in the city, whose menus can often be pages and pages of options. Since I’m feeling wintery, I go for the pumpkin soup while my dining companion chooses the scallops. They arrive quickly for a fine dining establishment. The soup is poured from a special jug at the table and while it’s creamy, it’s not the spicy rich pumpkin I was expecting: rather, it has a fresh, lemony zing. I just wish it had been steaming: somewhere between the kitchen and my soup spoon it’s gone tepid. My date’s scallops are another matter altogether; he’s initially frightened by them, topped as they are with a dollop of citrus foam and lying on an orange bed of pumpkin drizzle. But once he cuts into them he reconsiders his opinion that the dish is garnished with what basically looks like shaving cream. The scallops are cooked just right, with a springy give and the foam adds a fresh counterpoint to the pumpkin underneath. Both dishes are in the sweet spot of fine dining: fancy and special, but I still know what I’m eating and where to start doing it.

Next up is mains. Now, I have this small obsession with lasagna, I’ll admit. I love it, and I’ve been on the hunt for my new favorite lasagna spot for a while now. Lasagna is one of those dishes that, while simple, are remarkably easy to screw up. Thankfully, Porcini resists the temptation to dress the dish up as if it’s going to an exceedingly tacky prom: there aren’t any weird flourishes or exotic ingredients mucking it up. It’s still got a nice fine dining flair though, a bit like Chef Boyardee’s classier, wealthier cousin. It’s layers of perfectly cooked pasta and tomato sauce, several tasty kinds of cheese, and that’s it. Their one concession to reinvention (why must we reinvent food that’s already tasty? Why?!) is a streak of pesto across the top. It’s thick and hearty, and I only make my way through half of it before I’m about to burst. I ask our waitress for a doggy bag, but somewhere this message gets lost and our plates are whisked away with a flourish. But being the classy folk that they are at Porcini, our server doesn’t just apologise, he asks the kitchen to make me a quick half portion to take home.

My date is equally pleased: he opts for the Porcini risotto, the house specialty studded with truffles. But you couldn’t describe this dish as the belle of the ball. It’s a vaguely grey mush in a bowl. But what a tasty mush! Sometimes, appearances can be deceiving, and I’m glad they opted for taste over aesthetics for this particular dish. The risotto is perfectly cooked, not too soft with just the right amount of firmness. And they don’t skimp on the seasoning: there are truffles aplenty in those fragrant mounds of ricey goodness.

Full and happy, we go a little crazy on dessert. My date opts for the spice bread, a safe option. I, in a moment of food-reviewer madness, try the gorgonzola ice cream with figs. Yes, that’s right: I willingly ordered cheese flavoured ice cream. I figured it might be one of those ‘creative foodie things’. Alas, it’s not. It comes to the table and looks pretty, but once again looks are deceiving – but not in a good way. The spoon barely touches my tongue before I’m having second thoughts: this is certainly not one of the best desserts I’ve tried. I swallow only because you don’t sully the napkins at the Ritz with masticated dessert, no matter how you feel about them. It’s not the overpowering flavour of gorgonzola, it’s not the weirdly salty, bloated, uncuttable-without-a-knife-but-I-haven’t-got-one-to-hand fig, it’s not even the flavourless crackers the whole thing is sprinkled with. It’s the fact that this isn’t so much ice cream as frozen cheese that’s been through a blender. With salted fruit. What’s more, I’ve paid QR60 for and can’t seem to get it out of my mouth without the aid of a toothbrush. I’d expected a sweet and salty delight and I got something I had to control my face over to keep from offending the chef, or heaven forbid, inciting the waiter to offer to have another prepared for me.

My date is luckier however. Once we’ve pushed the cheese far, far away from our forks, we dig into a delightful bit of spicy cake, moist and simple. There’s easily enough there for two, and it’s a great wintery dessert: it literally smells like gingerbread men and sugarplums and I wouldn’t mind having the recipe for this one.

The bill (for two)
1x Scallops
QR95
1x Pumpkin soup QR65
1x Porcini risotto QR110
1x Lasagneta QR125
1x Water QR30
1x Cappuccino QR30
1x Espresso QR30
1x Figs and Gorgonzola
QR60
1x Spice bread QR60
Total (including charges)
QR605

By Time Out Dubai 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: The Ritz-Carlton Doha, West Bay Lagoon, Doha
  • Tel: 4484 8000
  • Travel: Al Istiqlal Street
  • Website

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