The theme of the evening is complete surrender. To the sizzle of the churrasco, the swirl of the cachaça, and the sway of the bossa nova. Next stop: Ipanema.
Named after the beach of musical fame, this Brazilian barbeque steakhouse in West Bay occupies a corner at West End Doha, the dining enclave of Renaissance Hotel and Marriott Courtyard. And dine you shall.
The Rodizio style of service means servers circulate the room and stop tableside with iron skewers laden with steaks and chops and wings and sausages. Meats appear in torrents until you signal for them to stop, using a red coaster. When the plate gets empty, display a green coaster; the parade starts up again.
Ipanema offers 15 barbeque varieties, eight of them beef. One cut, though, sits above the rest: the picanha, a Brazilian national favourite. Chef Alexandre Kachan seasons this piece of rump simply in rock salt then grills it in an open rotisserie. Succulent and dripping with gorgeous juices, it is the ultimate steak.
In fact, most of the grills share the same quality. They’re lightly seasoned so the flavour of the meat takes centre stage. And being constantly turned over live fire, they acquire a characteristic char. The massive automated grill itself is a worth a peek in the semi-open kitchen. The varying cuts are speared through strategically placed rods so as they cook, grease coaxes the flames to rise further.
When the need for foliage arises, a salad bar awaits at the end of the restaurant. The marinated mussels and smoked salmon look tempting, but I stick to greens, saving room for more meat. Specifically, three servings of duck breast, two lamb chops, and a healthy portion of short rib… all cooked to tender perfection.
From time to time, the servers come around with pineapples. They’re coated in sugar and cinnamon then grilled so the outer layer caramelises. Sweet and refreshing, the slight tartness brightens the palate and helps reset the appetite for another round.
My initial gripe with Ipanema stems from its long dining room of questionable feng shui. I keep having to pass other tables as I head to the buffet counter and hope no one is keeping tabs on traffic, especially during the final trip when I pile up on pastries and fruit flambéd on-demand. But a bite into the quindim, and I grouse no more. The traditional custard of coconut, egg yolks and sugar is sweet and comforting; every bite tastes nostalgic.
A churrascaria is neither for the weight-watcher nor the vegetarian. Yet Ipanema’s charm lies beyond food alone. The smooth Brazilian jazz from the in-house band Tocandira sets a relaxed tone for the evening, helping conversation and caipirinhas flow. You can’t help but be swept away by it all.
Ipanema – West End Doha, Renaissance Hotel
Tel: +974 4419 6100
Friday Brunch: QR325 (inclusive of beverages)[/infobox]