Posted on Tuesday, 17th December 2013
Spice Market by Jean-Georges is one of two restaurants at the W Hotel Doha by celebrity Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (the other is Market by Jean-Georges). Best known for his three-Michelin starred flagship restaurant Jean-Georges in New York, his global restaurant empire spans across several continents and includes more than 30 restaurants. From his initial roots where he trained under Chef Paul Haeberlin at Auberge de l’Ill and Paul Bocuse, Jean-Georges went on to travel and work extensively in Asia. These experiences have provided the Asian influences that permeate much of his food and inspiration for Spice Market Doha.
The décor at Spice Market Doha is gorgeous and fuses South East Asian exoticism with European elegance to create an atmosphere that is casual, warm and sexy. This is a place where the beautiful people go and was heavy with an expatriate crowd on the Thursday night (start of the weekend in Qatar) of our visit.
We kicked off with some lentil poppadoms with a chilli tomato salsa which came out in place of bread. These were fabulous with the poppadoms being thin, crispy and nicely seasoned. The salsa was also wonderfully tasty with the right amount of kick.
From the starters, we found the Vietnamese spring rolls (QR55 – about £9.20) to be well made, crunchy and with a tasty filling. They came with a nuoc cham sweet, sour and salty dipping sauce which offered up a blend of interesting flavours but was a touch too tangy.
Charred wagyu beef skewers (QR110 – about £18.70) with a white pepper glaze and pickled vegetables were excellent. The meat was tender and tasty, and the glaze worked well with the beef. The skewers were also well cooked and remained succulent and juicy. But we didn’t think much of the steamed shrimp dumplings (QR80 – £13.60) with a lobster and shiitake mushroom sauce however. The filling was mushy and the sauce was quite overpowering.
In contrast, a tuna tartare (QR90 – about £15.30) was absolutely scrumptious. The tuna was outstanding, being incredibly tasty and finely chopped to give way to a beautifully soft texture. The finishing touch in the tartare was a spicy radish and ginger marinade. It generally worked well with the tuna but was a touch acidic. That aside, the quality of the tuna made this dish well worth trying.
To the mains and a Wok fried Omani lobster (QR180 – about £30.50) in black bean sauce with broccoli proved to be a commendable dish. There was a generous about of lobster meat, all of which was cooked nicely and firm in texture. The black bean sauce was well balanced in flavour and not too overpowering against the lobster meat. The accompanying finely chopped stir-fried broccoli was also well seasoned and tasty.
But a roasted black cod (QR175 – about £29.70) with a green curry broth and Thai eggplant fell flat.
The black cod was beautifully cooked and moist. But it was under seasoned and tasted bland. The broth was also bland. So despite the fact that the fish was beautiful, this dish did not come together.
A dessert of miso caramel pudding (QR45 – about £7.70) was nicely creamy and not too rich. The use of miso didn’t overpower the caramel flavour, and the black sesame and pomegranate worked well with the pudding. For the topping, deep-fried rice noodles had been used for added texture, but there was so much of it that it seemed to bury the pudding.
An ovaltine kulfi (QR45 – about £7.70) was nicely done and tasted like a creamy, frozen ovaltine. Accompanying the ovaltine was a fabulous caramelised banana which was deliciously soft and sweet, and some spiced milk chocolate sauce.
There were also ice creams to be had and we tried the condensed milk and dark chilli chocolate flavours (QR30 – about £5 each). Both were excellent with divinely creamy textures. The condensed milk ice cream had a caramel-like flavour, and the chilli chocolate was beautifully rich and dark with a strong kick of chilli.
We enjoyed most of the dishes if less so others. And although the kitchen was to be applauded for its attempts at creativity, more finesse was occasionally needed to fine-tune the results. But what held this meal back was the chaotic food service. The waiting staff were lovely, but it took ages for the food to arrive. And when it did, almost all the food including the mains came at once. Yes Asian food is for sharing, but we had so much food on our table at one point that it left us scrambling to eat everything quickly before it went cold which made the experience a little trying. Our drink orders were also slow to show.
But when it came to ambience, Spice Market was pretty hard to beat. It’s sexy and gorgeous, and it had that special je ne sais quoi which made it a great place to hang out, especially with a big group of friends.
The W Hotel Doha is also home to Crystal Nightclub. My research suggested that Crystal was the most happening nightclub in Doha and it certainly wasn’t wrong. Like Spice Market, Crystal was heaving on a Thursday night with a hip, eclectic crowd. With its funky DJ dance tracks, purplish-black décor and stylish bar, it certainly had that sexy allure to make it a ‘go-to’ destination.
Spice Market Summary Information:
Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3/5
Prices: Three courses for QR160 to QR335 (about £27 to £56). Excludes drinks.