In the world of haute cuisine, Jean-Georges Vongerichten is a modern-day Midas. Everything he touches appears to turn into gold. With nearly three dozen restaurants attached to his brand, the Alsatian-born chef runs one delicious empire. From his mother ship in New York City, his gourmet outposts stretch from the French West Indies to French Polynesia, and, these days, the Arabian Gulf.
To say that Jean-Georges helped ignite a movement for stylish dining in Doha is no understatement. One only needs to turn to his wildly popular Market by Jean Georges at the W Hotel. The choice destination for the fashionable and hungry, it tops an elite group of restaurants in Qatar where a waiting list is not uncommon – and the wait is actually worth it every time.
And then there is the ever-hip Spice Market just an elevator ride away. Inspired by the chef’s time in the Far East, the restaurant serves as a portal to the flavours and perfumes of the Orient. It’s not an Asian restaurant per se as it is the Jean-Georges take on Asian cuisine; while the spices are all there, the signature is all his.
Which is why the sushi intrigues. Here, Italian-style calamari rings cavort with leeks while encased in shari and nori. Tender morsels of salmon get a dose of heat from sambal oelek, the fiery Southeast Asian paste of ground chilies, before being rolled into a traditional looking makizushi. This is sushi like you’ve never tasted before.
Purists need not be scandalised. If what you seek are slices of simple but stunning maguro sashimi and some barbequed unagi, you’d be hard pressed to find more superior quality in the city. But to fully appreciate what the Spice Market in Doha has to offer, check the stiff palates at the door and prepare for some surprises to tickle the tongue.
Here’s what the menu reads: crispy shredded crab roll. Here’s what you get: crab, eel and shrimp; wrapped in rice and seaweed, lightly coated in tempura batter then deep-fried to a firm crunch. The aroma from tiny nuggets of garlic wafts from the now golden roll, which is then drizzled in teriyaki, mayonnaise and Sriracha sauce.
Yet beneath this whimsical veneer, discipline reigns. Under the direction of Chef de Cuisine Darsin Joseph, each ingredient is weighed for precision. This ensures every bite has an exact amount of vinegared sushi rice… and the soy sauce, re-brewed in-house with dashi and vinegar, produces the perfect umami balance.
Riding on the demand for its sushi, the Spice Market in Doha hosts an all-you-can eat sushi night on Saturdays to packed tables. And except for Fridays, there’s a generously portioned sushi express lunch deal. The umissable part of both is the dessert course. The Jean-Georges global hit of a dense Ovaltine kulfi, a refreshing kaffir lime cheesecake and an assortment of tropical fruit sorbet all act as the perfect parting party… wishing you a sweet journey home, and begging you to return soon. You can’t help but oblige.
Spice Market – W Hotel
Tel: +974 4453 5363
Average Sushi Prices:
Sushi Lunch: QR140
Sushi Night: QR240
**A version of this article appeared on the website What To Do? Where To Go? Qatar**