Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor

Indian celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor's restaurant at Meliá Hotel Doha
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Time Out Says

Despite the many big-name culinary contenders to have hit Doha’s shores, the arrival onto the scene of Sanjeev Kapoor is major headline news. A huge player on the global kitchen scene, with awards, books and a TV show (broadcast in 120 countries) on his considerable resume, he is – according to Wikipedia anyway – ‘the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine.’

So the revelation that a restaurant with Sanjeev Kapoor’s name on it was coming to the city, at the relatively-recently unveiled Meliá Hotel, was something to start tucking in the napkin for.

Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor is not brand-new in Doha anymore – it has been here for over five months – and has had long enough to be ready and get the finer details into place. Which makes it frustrating that it isn’t quite and hasn’t quite. If it didn’t have potential, this wouldn’t be such an issue, but this could and should be one of the go-to spots in the city, with a little more attention.

We sit down and note the poor quality paper menu and are told that the soft drinks selection is little more than a choice of fizzy pop or two fruit juices. The poppadoms soon arrive with six dip options and are as tasty as they are colourful, but the amuse bouche, a semolina sandwich, is bland and not particularly pleasant. This is disappointing, but an introduction by Sanjeev Kapoor written in the menu tells us he has poured his heart and soul into the food, so we hope the rest of it lives up to the hype. And, on the whole, it does.

The hands-down dish of our visit is the Gharha Matar Challey, with chick peas and white peas simmered long in an earthen pot. It’s simple but deep in flavour, traditional village food at its very best, packed with a wonderful mix of spices boasting a serious kick.

The butter chicken, meanwhile, is a delicious and subtle contrast to the heat of the Gharha. This dish is sweeter than usual, with a predominantly stronger flavour of tomato as well, giving it a smarter flavour combination and more intrigue than your typical butter chicken. As a duo of main courses they are perfect companions that build on the already strong quality of the starters. From those, the Dhakai Chaat (flower balls) were fantastically tasty but so tough that they were hard to cut, while the refined taste of the Signature Pathar Ke kebab was pleasant if not particularly earth-shattering. Both good but not quite great.

Service here is solid but not consistent. Asking one waiter what spices there are in the Dhakai Chaat dish, we got an ‘Indian spices,’ so unconvincing it should have come with a question mark. Asking another we got a thoroughly detailed and enthusiastic breakdown of the finer details of each and every dish on the menu. Not surprisingly, we stuck with the latter from that point on.

Finally, dessert, not something Indian cuisine is overly synonymous with. But the selection on offer is intriguing and appetising, and mainly including some kind of rice pudding or condensed milk concoction. A shame that on our visit over half were ‘unavailable.’ Disappointed, we elect to share the Gulab Jamun – sweet samosas drenched in saffron milk to create an unctuous delight so lovely we could have eaten it twice over.

It’s a great end to a meal of ups and downs, with small issues that hopefully can be ironed out in the coming months. On paper, Signature by Sanjeev Kapoor should be a serious Best Indian contender at the next Time Out Doha Restaurant Awards, and also challenging for Best Restaurant. So far the foundations are in place, but the structure needs finessing.

The bill (for two)
1x Signature kebab QR105
1x Dhakai Chaat QR50
1x Signature butter chicken QR115
1x Matar Cholley QR95
1x Jeera Aloo QR35
1x butter naan QR15
1x Jeera Bhaat rice QR35
1x Gulab Jamun QR35
2x sparkling water QR90
1x mango & pineapple juice QR30
1x Coca Cola QR25
Total QR630

By Time Out Doha staff  | 28 Sep 2015

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Doha, West Bay, Melia Doha Hotel, West Bay

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