Let’s make a deal. Let’s pretend the holiday season and all associated merriment did not happen. Let’s not even think about the clothes that will feel snug in the coming weeks. Let’s dispel any talk of dieting. Let’s just say we’ll be drinking soup for kicks because they’re delicious and deserve to be regarded as so much more than convalescent cuisine. Let’s savour these soups for what they are – comfort, healthy food at its best.
Alt Wiener Suppentopf
La Gourmandise – QR40
(Al Jazi Gardens Compound – 3321 6108 Daily 11a-10p)
Considered the king of Austrian soups, this ‘old Viennese stock pot’ can be found in Doha’s sole Austrian restaurant. The beef boullion is packed full with brunoise-cut carrots and onions along with strips of beef, sausage, and vermicelli. With the time-tested balance of starch, vegetable, and meat, it’s a whole meal in one bowl.
Pampano – QR50
(1 La Croisette, The Pearl Qatar – 4495 3876, ext. 1211 Daily noon-midnight)
Creamy, spicy and full of body, this dish has plenty of character. The base if of pureed tomatoes with guajillo peppers. Add to that pieces of avocado, cheese, sour cream and crispy tortilla strips, and they recall the flavours of a guacamole. For die-hard tortilla fans, there’s a basket of the heavenly chips to accompany the meal.
Lo Spaghetto – QR42
(Al Hamdani Street, Al Sadd – 4434 1601 daily noon-3:30p; 6:30p-11p)
Although not technically on the menu, this rustic standard makes regular appearances as the restaurant’s soup of the day. A vegetarian harvest, it’s a kaleidoscope of carrots, peas, zucchini, black-eyed beans and pasta swimming in a clear tomato broth — the perfect start to a multi-course Italian feast.
Chili Beef Ramen
Wagamama – QR59
(Lagoona Mall Courtyard – 4463 3876 daily 11:30a-11p)
When the ramen first arrives, the beef is perfectly tender and the soup spicy and sweet simultaneously. You may want to linger, but the trick is to slurp as quickly as you can before the noodles absorb too much broth and turn stodgy. This isn’t first-date food but the kind you come back for every week with an old friend.
Seafood Tom Yam
Thai Corner – QR32
(The Center – 6640 7858 Sat-Thurs 9:30a-10:30p, Fri 12:30p-10:30p)
For me, it’s the real deal when fresh stalks of lemongrass and slices of galangal mingle with the prawns and calamari and fish. Admittedly, there’s little atmosphere in this take-out shack, but the humble kitchen makes up for it with authentic Thai flavours, starting with a sour, spicy tom yam that could knock your socks off.
Al Balad – QR25
(Mövenpick Tower & Suites, West Bay – 4496 4455 daily noon-1a)
You know you’ve properly settled into the Middle East when a meal doesn’t feel complete without hummous and lentil soup. The latter may be simple to make but is so often done with uninspired rote. That’s never the case at Al Balad, where the wholesome flavours of the lentils come alive with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Creamy Tomato Soup
Market by Jean-Georges – QR45
(W Hotel – 4453 5373 daily noon-4p; 6p-11:30p)
The classic combination of grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup is raised up several rungs. You start with a vivid, vermillion base both light and tart. Instead of cream, olive oil lends depth to the soup. To top this all off, cheesy crouton bars. Eaten together, each mouthful tastes of a modern take on a childhood favourite.
Tuscan Chickpea Soup
Après Spa Café – QR65
(Four Seasons Hotel Doha – 4494 8888 daily 8a-10p)
OK so we made a pact to not talk about diets. But if you so happen to be weight watching, feel no guilt with this pulse-based soup ringing in at a mere 156 calories. The earthy flavours are clean and unadulterated by fat or oil. Then again, should you feel like cheating, the accompanying basket of warm breads is rather divine.
** A version of this appears in the magazine Time Out Doha **