Layali

Upscale middle eastern food at impresses in Doha Discuss this article

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More used to the low-key charms of other Middle Eastern spots, we’re a little self conscious that we wore flip flops when we first enter Layali. Stuffed with plush benches and glittering lights, it’s posh. Along with the décor also comes higher prices: this is not the place for a cheap mezza and kebab.

The stakes are high for good mezza in Doha: with more places offering up Lebanese dishes then we can count, it takes something a little more than lush surroundings to impress in Qatar. The menu itself is huge, and, like most Middle Eastern restaurants, doesn’t come with descriptions of the dishes, instead sticking with simple names. This is confusing, as aside from the usual suspects, there are variations and dishes we’ve never even heard of. Thankfully, our waiter is patient and takes us through the menu, nicely ignoring the verbal butchering going on when we try to pronounce anything.

Eventually, we just point and make our selections. While we wait, out comes a huge platter of raw vegetables, a basket of freshly baked pita bread, and a plate of what turns out to be lukewarm mashed potatoes. The table is split on whether or not we enjoy the potatoes (I’m all for mashed potatoes in any form or temperature, my dining companion is a little uneasy), but we both agree: we mostly just want to slip the tomato, lemons, cucumbers and head of lettuce into our handbags for later. It’s not long before the first wave of our dishes arrive, and we realize a)why the tables are so large and b) we may have been a bit overzealous in our ordering.

The big selling point for Layali is it doesn’t stick with the basic offerings. Instead of plain hommos, we go for the hommos bairouty, which is essentially hommos with loads of extra garlic. It arrives topped with chick peas and begging to be mopped up with the bread; it’s lovely and tangy, with a nice garlic hit that walks that fine line between being intensely garlicky and making our eyes water. We also try a twist on mutabal, a smoky eggplant spread. Our waiter recommends the mutabal imbratou, a spicy version, and we give it a whirl. Now, I’m picky about my mutabal: often, it just tastes burnt. This, however, is fantastic and I would come back just for a big bowl of this. Smokey and creamy, it has a nicely zippy burn at the end from the spice. It’s a different twist on a classic, and both my friend and I agree its one change that is for the better.
The same can’t, alas, be said for what they’ve done to the mohammara. Correct us if we’re wrong, but basically every other mohammara we’ve ever had has been spicy and almost smooth. This take on the red pepper spread is more like chopped tomato and pepper acting as a delivery system for pine nuts. Whole, unchopped pine nuts, studded with walnuts. It’s like they skipped a step and forgot to combine it, and despite it tasting nice if you close your eyes and chewed, the texture is just wrong. In fact, my dining companion can barely be convinced to try it, it looks so bizarre.

Thankfully our opening act marathon isn’t over yet—we’ve also got cheese rolls, deep fried tubes of cheese, these ones not too greasy or salty, batata harra, spicy diced potatoes, and fatoush. The fatoush is a bit greasy for my tastes, with little pools of oil, but my friend laps up the batata harra, which are perfectly cooked and a nice counterpoint to the more spicy dishes on our plates. But what really makes us essentially drink a bowl of tahini with a straw is the falafel. Chickpea balls they may be, but these are delectable: not too greasy, even though they’ve clearly been fried, with crisp outsides and soft, nicely seasoned insides. No bland goop of chickpeas and grease here, these are what falafel should be.

We’re not done yet though, and even though our stomachs and the table are heaving with food, our meat is shimmering on the horizon. We go for the chicken shish taouk, the lamb kabobs, and one of their kofta variations. Again, they have more versions of this dish than just which animal you want ground up in it: the one we go for includes cheese. When it arrives, it’s savory and a bit salty, with a slick of cheese included that makes our mouths happy but our arteries hate us. A little greasy, this isn’t the dish if you’re on a diet, but it’s good in a guilt-inducing way. The chicken shish taouk is nice and tender, gentle seasoned, but what we keep popping in our mouths despite imminent fullness is the lamb. It’s soft and tender, nicely spiced and clearly fresh, and some of the nicest lamb kabobs we’ve had.

Next time we come though, we’ll fill up on the mains and not leave space for dessert: we try two Lebanese traditional dishes, the mafroukeh and the meghli, and both disappoint. One is a bland, gelatinous brown pudding, the other is a puddle of sweet, congealed pistachios topped with shaving foam. We’d gladly trade all of that for a little bit more of that lamb, with maybe some of the hommos on the side.

The bill (for two)
1x Hommos bairouty QR30
1x Mutabal imbratou QR30
1x Fatoush QR23
1x Cheese roll QR24
1x Falafel QR23
1x Batata Harra QR23
1x Kofta QR72
1x Shish Taouk QR72
1x Lamb kabob QR92
1x Mafroukeh QR36
1x Meghli QR22
Total (including charges) QR447

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: 4431 0005
  • Travel: Salwa Road

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