Quiet setting and quality food in the Oryx Rotana Hotel
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Time Out Says

Chinese food has never really taken off in Doha. Sure, there’s a smattering of places spread across town – some sassy, others shabby. Still, the flavours are never quite on point.

But on a recent visit to Chi Zen, we are left wondering why the restaurant in the Oryx Rotana Hotel seems to have fallen out of the hip list over the years. The food is tasty, and the décor is tasteful. Prices are exceedingly reasonable, and the servers quite personable. In our view, the place should be packed.

When we arrive for lunch, there’s not a vacant seat at the bar. Yet the patrons have only drinks. The dining room, a vast space of blacks and scarlet intimately sectioned off in parts with wooden lattice, is empty. With sunlight pouring into one half the restaurant, we see design details lost on us in previous evening visits – alternating mini-chandeliers and paper lanterns from the ceiling, a mixed media flooring of tile and wood, a wall of traditional teapots.

We opt to do a business lunch deal and some dishes à la carte. We order steamed shrimp har gau dumplings but fried ones arrive instead. This is a blessing in disguise because we cheekily try one before sending the plate back – it’s delicious. The prawns in both fillings are plump and delicately seasoned. Another winning dim sum dish is the fried duck buns, a mixture of meat doused in a sweet peppery sauce and housed in a thin, fragrant dough.

Our main courses are less impressive. The chicken stir-fry with sweet peppers is coated in a light, black pepper sauce that loses marks simply because the meat is a touch overdone. The seafood claypot, on the other hand, is expertly cooked. The scallops are tender, the fish soft, and the shrimp fresh. Because these are all simmered in a simple oyster sauce, the flavours are more reminiscent of a home-cooked meal than a star restaurant dish. Nevertheless, it’s all authentic, something we appreciate in a city prone to culinary exaggeration.

We soon discover that the kitchen’s innovation powers have been channelled to dessert. The mandarin infused cherry spring rolls are a warm treat, especially without its accompanying chocolate sauce, and the ginger crème brûlée is addictive, in spite of its less-than-silken texture.

By the time we leave, there are half a dozen other tables in the middle of lunch. The restaurant has certainly picked up, but not to the level it deserves.
The bill (for two)
Business Lunch QR75
Duck Bun QR28
Seafood Clay Pot QR65
Cherry Spring Rolls QR29
Mary Mocktail QR30
Lime Pomegranate Juice QR35
Large Water QR30
Total QR292

By Time Out Doha staff  | 27 Oct 2014

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Doha, Umm Ghuwaylina, Al Matar Street,، Qatar

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