It’s feast season, and Kirsty Walker heads to Hakkasan to sample dishes that have stood the test of time.
We are creatures of habit. At least, I know I am, and I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone. We see something we like; we look again. We go somewhere fascinating; we go back. We’re wowed by a restaurant; we’ve found a new favourite.
This is exactly what has made Hakkasan so successful. It’s become, over the years, a firm favourite of the Doha food elite, residents and visitors alike, and an iconic presence on Qatar’s dining scene.
Hakkasan is a Michelin-starred restaurant brand serving modern Chinese cuisine, that first opened its doors in London over 20 years ago. Hakkasan Doha found an eager Qatar audience in 2013 and has been impressing customers with culinary distinction ever since.
With its uber-chic private entrance in The St. Regis Doha, the inside is low-lit and strikingly modern, with an immersive Far East feel. Stylish Chinese design touches every aspect of the interior. Subtle, uplifting beats float across the restaurant and make me feel good just being there.
As my guest and I are greeted, the blue-lit bar stretches off to our right where mixologists serve their signatures. The main seating area is ahead of us and we are led out to our table on the terrace, set amongst beautiful gardens and lush foliage. The weather is pleasant, the night is young, and we are famished!
Another habit of mine is to allow the experts to recommend, and Hakkasan staff are real connoisseurs – professional to perfection, with deep menu knowledge, incisive questions and delightful recommendations.
A delectable array of starters lands on our table within minutes, and we can’t wait to tuck in. Our hot salt and pepper squid are ridiculously fresh, beautifully tender, the batter crispy to melted in under a second. Pepper lingers on my tongue, but it isn’t overpowering, just perfect.
Then follows a Hakkasan classic, the crispy duck salad. This has been on the menu since the brand’s inception in 2001. And 20 years of perfection is impressive. Juicy duck with a crisp carbon edge to the fat, partnered with pine nuts, candied tones of shallot and tangy cress. No meal in Hakkasan would be complete without the Supreme Dim Sum Platter. While it was fun to observe my guest chase the slippery spheres of Chinese perfection around his plate with chopsticks, it’s far more enjoyable to eat them. Todie-for delicious, our favourite by far was the Langoustine Har Gau with black truffle, topped with caviar. Pure food art both on the eyes and the taste buds with its symphony of textures and flavours.
After a short break, we receive our mains. Swiftly delivered to the table is a grilled seabass with honey, and a side of pak choi. The thick piece of fish is grilled to perfection, slightly charred with a buttery centre. The seabass is followed by Mala Wagyu short rib – unbelievably soft, stylishly presented off the bone, and accompanied by pumpkin. Its rich flavour is complemented by our side of stir-fried broccolini and crispy seaweed. These are by far the best greens I’ve had all year, crunchy and fresh with that faint aroma of good health.
When we think we can eat no more, out comes dessert! Just a couple of light dishes, our waiter reassures us, and out pops a coconut semifreddo with delightfully light coconut sorbet, and a stunningly crafted yuzu crèmeux with moist almond cake, decorated with miniature meringue prongs. This little gem is called a Spiky Lemon. Sweet, refreshing citrus and a fabulous way to end a world-class dinner. I’ve definitely found my new favourite.