Time Out Says
Walking towards the restaurant in Souq Waqif, we have high hopes. The outdoor area is decorated in the same woven furniture as the patio area at the Corniche, with the same coloured lights and pounding soundtrack drifting from its speakers. But once we push through the doors, it’s like we’re on another planet. It’s like walking into a Marie Antoinette dollhouse. Crystal chandeliers, ornate chairs and tables, and marble glitter under the rather industrial lighting, illuminating every crack and speck of dust. Once we’re seated and presented with our menus (the same as the Corniche, in floppy plastic sleeves), I put my finger on it: the whole place feels disconnected. The interior design doesn’t match the exterior, it doesn’t match the branding of the original restaurant, and most importantly, I’m having issues eating Lebanese mezza in what looks like an attempt at a Rococo palace. There’s something incongruous about it; the pieces don’t seem to fit.
I’m hoping I’ll be distracted from all the marble and crystal when the food arrives. This time, I’ve come armed with a Lebanese pal as my dining companion, who knows her stuff. This proves to be a good thing as the menu doesn’t include descriptions of the dishes and our waiter seems to have vanished as soon as he deposited the menus—I need her for translation. Our food arrives quickly, and soon the table is bulging with bowls and platters of Lebanese delight. They could have saved some space and skipped the bread basket however: instead of fresh, hot pita, like at many other Lebanese restaurants across Doha, we’re served a stack of cold triangles wrapped in cling film.
First up is the fattouche salad, a Lebanese staple. It’s crisp and light, with a zingy dressing and fresh vegetables. After that, a parade of mezza waltzes over my fork: tajin, hummos, moutabal and mohammarah. The hummos is as good as that offered at the original restaurant, creamy and loaded with garlic, but I’m disappointed with the mohammarah—the red pepper spread is oily at this venue, and lacking the spicy zing I’ve grown used to. The tajin is actually better than the original, not the Moroccan stew dish that most people think of, but a sesame paste. The moutabal is tasty as well, the roasted eggplant spread spot on, hitting the smoky, roasted flavour perfectly without ending up in burnt-eggplant territory. Best of all, at my friend’s request, the server brings us a little jug of pomegranate sauce, to top it with, just like we were in Beirut! We also order the batata harrah, spicy chopped potatoes, which are yummy, spicy without being overwhelming and a nice counterpoint to the more mild spreads. Finally, we grabbed one of the more ‘western’ dishes off the menu, the cheese rolls—alas, these are stuffed with what looks and tastes like processed cheese, not what we expected.
Next up is our mains, a plate of lamb chops to share. These were always one of the stars at the original Al Mourjan, a special dish they did perfectly. The waiters don’t clear away the mezza dishes before presenting our lamb chops, which I actually like—you’re meant to linger and pick at the vast array of food, and they’re not rushing us out.
I’m not quite sure how we offended the chef, but he’s managed to give us tiny little lamb chops that apparently fought before they died. The first one I try is tough, clinging to the bone stubbornly. My friend isn’t faring any better—her’s is mostly fat. We solider on, and of the plate of chops a couple seem to be nicer cuts. They’re passable, perfectly fine in their own right, but after having savored the nicely seasoned version on the Corniche, these fall a little flat.
When the bill comes, we’ve just cracked the QR200 mark. At the flagship Al Mourjan on the Corniche, this would be the minimum: thankfully, the Souq branch doesn’t impose the QR100 minimum spend per person that’s driven many a customer in search of a light snack away from its sister restaurant. And, while I watch the waiters pack up enough left over food that both my friend and I will have lunch the next day, I can’t help but think that’s a good thing—imagine if we’d been more than a table of two, how much food would be left over! Overall, it’s passable, but doesn’t outshine it’s neighbours or the original. The Corniche location is what sets it apart: without it, it’s lost that special something.
The bill (for two)
1x fattouche QR15
1x tajin QR20
1x hummos QR15
1x moutabal QR20
1x batata harrah QR15
1x cheese rolls QR20
1x mohammarah QR20
1x lamb chops QR90
2x pepsi QR20
1x water QR20
Total (including taxes) QR255
By Time Out Doha staff | 29 Aug 2012
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