In his latest cookbook Nature: Simple, Healthy and Good, Alain Ducasse writes that cooking is a love affair; it’s all about falling in love with your ingredients.
More than just a nice turn of phrase, this philosophy underpins Ducasse’s ever-expanding culinary imperium. And it is the magic behind his first Middle Eastern venture, the exquisite Idam restaurant in Doha.
Exquisite because you’re never quite prepared for the ingredients, which through sedulous technique or sheer imaginative genius–and often both–undergo a metamorphosis.
Take the camel: air-dried for weeks, then gently braised over six days. By the time it is placed in front of you ala Rossini, treading in a pool of aromatic jus and capped with seared foie gras and black truffle, the meat is unrecognisable. It is tender; bursting with flavour; and utterly unforgettable.
This powerhouse dish took Monsieur Ducasse and his longtime associate Romain Meder months to create and perfect. As Executive Chef, Meder presides over the Idam kitchen, where he ensures that every ingredient–down to the last petal in a hand-arranged medley of raw flowers and garden vegetable mezze–is scrupulously handled.
Idam does not skip a beat. Never mind an address the envy of every restaurant in Qatar. (It’s nestled on the top floor of the Museum of Islamic Art). And forget for a moment that the plush interior bears that sort of flourish and functionality one comes to expect of designer Phillippe Starck. Shortly after you settle in, your surroundings might as well melt away, as the food will upstage everything else.
You muse on how the humble potato is transformed into a golden souffléd parcel. You can’t resist ogling at the marinated bonito framed by a burst of citrus reduction droplets. Each mouthful of the crispy Egyptian rice steeped with Moroccon spices evokes a wisp of Arabia. While the daintiest vial of crawfish consommé transports you to the French Mediterranean. Then, every once in a while, you taste something comforting in the marinated octopus or mashed squash… and they remind you of home.
There is no judging if you gush just a bit too audibly when the pre-dessert cart arrives with a flourish. Note pre-dessert. The lychee madeleines, rosewater meringues, Earl Grey truffles and marmalade macaroons, among others, are a token of the chef’s hospitality before the more intricate creations arrive. It’d be rude and a real shame to refuse this largesse.
Idam puts Qatar on the map of epicures who scour the world for a mouthful of wonderful. A worthy destination, it embodies the ideals of luxury dining in Doha. Sophisticated but not stuffy. Flawless service from start to finish. And food you can’t stop talking about – or forget.
Idam – Museum of Islamic Art
Tel: +974 4422 4488
Mezze Selection: QR260-QR390
**A version of this article appeared on the website What To Do? Where To Go? Qatar**