New pan-Asian restaurant has desserts that could bring you to tears Discuss this article

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The unveiling of an Asian restaurant incites a certain burst of excitement for Time Out Doha. As a cohort, we love our sushi, lo mein in-a-box and green curry to the max. Though, usually, not all at one go. Which is why the thought of a pan-Asian menu where Korean Jjamppong soup and Singaporean laksa noodles co-habit the menu initially worried us.

 Nevertheless, the concept has many a success story, making us only more curious to see how Hwang would pull it off. The answer perhaps lies in one big hotpot. Much of the culinary fusion brews inside the shabu-shabu offerings. This communal pot of broth cooks meats, vegetables and carbs in the centre of the table. Popular in many Asian cultures, it’s a DIY sort of dinner and at Hwang it’s one that includes sauces from Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and the Koreas.

 But it’s hard to judge the prowess of the chefs with such a dish (after all, we can’t very well blame the kitchen if we ourselves overcook the squid to a woeful rubbery state). So shabu-shabu aside, we embark on the mix-and-match a la carte route.

To start: satay and sushi. The barbecued sticks of shrimp, chicken and beef start the meal off well. The accompanying sauce is more peanut-butter based than the traditional chunky nuts coated with chili oil of Indonesia and Malaysia. Yet the seasoning is balanced and the spice level is set to scorch, earning our nod of approval.

 Less successful, though, is the assorted nigiri platter. We do not fault the sushi pieces themselves; the fish is fresh and the rice texturally pleasing. That they are served in a bamboo dim sum basket can either be interpreted as creative fervour or cultural faux pas, something we are happy to overlook. But the banana leaf used to separate the sushi from wooden basket raises eyebrows. There is a distinct flavour which is imparted onto the sushi. As a result, some pieces taste as though they belong more in an Indian thali than a bento box.

For our mains, erring on the side of caution, we choose dishes with a more Chinese flair that would come together harmoniously. We are rewarded with the duck breast. The meat is tender and sweet, having been marinated then chargrilled, and served sitting on a crunchy cocktail of Napa cabbage, carrots, scallions and orange segments.

 The hammour with teriyaki and peanut sauce, however, we would probably skip in the future, or at least ignore their accompaniments. The deep fried fish, served whole, is beautifully fragrant and flaky but the two dipping sauces don’t seem to marry well. It’s also topped with an onion salad that could do with more pickling time to tame its biting acidity.

On the other hand, what we could easily have again is the fried seafood noodles, a straight up rendition of a Cantonese favourite. Side dishes were also toothsome with the glazed bak choy refreshing while the assorted sautéed mushrooms tastefully balance out the proteins.

 As we continue to test and taste, it’s getting late in the evening and the restaurant is emptying out. We’re the last table left but the servers neither rush us nor give us any inkling of the time. It dawns on us how careful their pacing is. They had even asked earlier if we wanted our mains to immediate follow the appetisers or if we preferred a pause in between. A rather professional touch in our books.

When we stare at our table of empty plates, semi-clean from our efforts to mop up the food and last trails of sauces, we feel we may have over-ordered. Our original quest was to sample a few sharing plates from each section to a get a fair assessment of what’s on tap since Asian cuisine usually lends itself to rather manageable portions. But we failed to consider that the serving size would be more in line with the local (extremely generous) standards. Regardless, we stick to our obligation to try dessert.

And what a good thing we do for it turns out to be the highpoint of the meal. The banana tempura – a simple street food in Asia – is executed with elegance. The fruit is soft and semi-caramelised, then coated with a light, crunchy batter and sprinkled with almond flakes. Savoured with a mouthful of vanilla ice cream, it’s an easy ride to cloud nine.

The other surprise star attraction is the crème brûlée. This classic French custard is infused with screwpine leaf, also known as pandan, a plant native to southeast Asia and which adds a delicate fragrance that is the foundation to the region’s cuisines, particularly dessert. The edge of the crème brulee is eggy and course, a result of the rounded soup bowl it’s cooked in, we believe, but once we get passed it we reach a lustrous centre that’s so divine it’s tear-inducing.

And for a dessert to have that effect on is, it’s really saying something.

The bill (for two)
1 x assorted satay platter QR55
1 x assorted nigiri QR150
1 x grilled duck breast QR180
1 x grilled hammour QR155
1 x fried seafood noodles QR95
1 x bak choy side QR30
1 x mushroom side QR35
1 x pandan crème brulee QR35
1 x banana tempura QR30
2 x water QR60
1 x sparkling juice QR30
1 x cappuccino QR30
Total QR885

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.


  • Location: InterContinental Doha The City, West Bay, Doha
  • Tel: 4015 8888
  • Travel: West Bay
  • Cuisine: Asian
  • Times: Open Sun-Fri 6pm-11pm
  • Price: QR500+
  • Credit Cards Accepted: Yes

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