I’ve been invited to join a bloggers link-up party, a concept my tech-averse brain is still attempting to grasp. I’m guessing it’s akin to a Tupperware party, only instead of a hostess selling me plastic receptacles, a bunch of us Doha-bloggers are selling our credentials as decent writers and smart phone photographers.
So the theme is My Doha – what makes this city tick… and special?
Clearly, mine is food-centric. The dining scene here is peculiar. You either spend $5 (QR18) or $35 (QR125) for lunch, with scant options in between. The corpus of food reviews on print and web is largely devoted to the higher bracket: sexier photos, perhaps more memorable experience, and definitely easier to create Facebook FOMO.
Yet when I’m off duty and not invited to a swanky event, I crave simpler flavours. I drive around the old part of town and meander through the tiny streets until I find a place I’ve never encountered then pop in for a meal. The food is decidedly cheap, cheerful, and, for lack of a better word, real.
Here are four new discoveries I’m swooning over that speak to the diversity of cuisines available in my Doha:
Gokul Gujarati Restaurant
No actual menu at this vegetarian restaurant. They serve bottomless thali meals at lunch (QR20) and dinner (QR25). What they do to pulses, grains and greens can best be described as magical. The servers keep coming round to top up your plate with griddle-hot chappatis and dishes du jour. On my first visit, the proprietor got suspicious of my constant photo-taking. He must have feared I was from the sanitation department. His worries are unwarranted. The place is so immaculately clean I could eat off the floor. OK, that’s nasty. Even peasants use plates. But I would more than happily sit on the floor to enjoy the food here.
New White Oceanic Restaurant
It’s not white. It’s quite inland. And it sure as heck ain’t new. But this modest Sri Lankan restaurant is an absolute treasure. I first discovered it with fellow blogger Rachel Morris (www.lifeonthewedge.net) when we dined for hours, ordered eight things off the menu including devil shrimp, hoppers and kothu, and were finally slapped with a QR30 bill. In her words, it’s criminally cheap. But more than that, it’s finger-licking delicious. At lunch, they do an unlimited vegetarian thali meal for QR7. Add QR2 and you get two fried fishies and a bowl of chicken curry. They also do this amazing thing with bread… stuffed with onions or fish or meat then deep-fried till golden. Now that’s truly criminal.
Caveat: the homemade dumplings here aren’t nearly as succulent or luscious as those from Northeast (often misnamed Playstation Café because of an adjoining sign pointing to the internet café upstairs). However the setting of this tiny Chinese restaurant is about 64 times more comfortable than the aforementioned that I’ll drive the extra 15 minutes for a more pleasant environment, especially if bringing first-time guests. I’m particularly fond of the fried noodles and morning glory (stop sniggering, I’m not responsible for naming these double entendre vegetables). They also do several terrific tofu dishes that are soy-um.
Falafel Al Akawi
Holy falafel – I’m in love. The bean rissoles here are moist, perhaps because they’re fried a touch quicker than most; the crusts are crunchy but still slightly blond. I especially like them in a sandwich, made with an artfully thin bread with fistfuls of vegetables: lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and the special house ingredient: mint. For QR5 a pop, these sandwiches are a balanced meal, and they satisfy for hours. Despite being quite fulfilled, I recommend ordering two extra falafel pieces as a naughty side dish. This sets one back by a whopping QR1.
The directions to these places are slightly laborious. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I refer you to my favourite food directory site www.zomato.com for such details including menus, contact details and opening hours.
If you like discovering more places like these, please consider this earlier post on alternative cuisines in Doha.