Fresh ingredients and complex textures played with Laura Morris’ senses during her dining experience at KAIA.
Situated in the historic former Ministry of Interior building, The Ned Doha is an iconic hotel featuring KAIA, an Asian-Pacific restaurant specialising in delectable cuisine from Southeast Asia and Hawaii. Residing at the heart of the edifice, KAIA is positioned to the left after crossing the grand bandstand. Stepping into this establishment is akin to embarking on a journey back in time, immersed in the captivating glamour of the 1970s. Throughout the hotel, this theme echoes, evoking an aura of cool sophistication befitting the refined patrons it attracts. As I entered KAIA, the mellow tunes of subtle jazz filled the air, lending a delightful ambience to the restaurant’s atmosphere. The space was cleverly sectioned off, affording a sense of privacy, making each seating area feel exclusive, enveloped by heavy velvet curtains that gracefully partitioned the space. The décor exudes a seamless blend of chic modernity and timeless elegance. Plush, comfortable chairs and sleek benches nestle around scalloped tables, inviting guests to indulge in a truly opulent dining experience. The soft glow of low-level lighting, cast by ornate lamps strategically placed throughout the room, bathes the space in a warm, intimate aura. The choice of colours, an exquisite blend of burnt orange and glamorous greys, accentuates the refined ambience. Patterned carpet adorns the floor, contributing to the visual allure of the venue. The perfectly contrasting tones and intricate patterns captivate the eye, ensuring a constantly stimulating visual experience.
On this visit, we sampled a range of KAIA’s most popular dishes, all of which were utterly delicious, but what follows are our must-tries. The first to arrive was the spectacular Crispy Crab Salad served in a magnificent tower; it was a dish that truly struck a chord with its vibrant combination of flavours and textures. An ensemble of delightful ingredients, crisp cucumber slices provided a refreshing crunch, while a hint of spiciness added a tantalising kick to every bite. The finishing touch was the impeccably crispy noodles that encased the entire creation, imparting a satisfying crunch.
Sat inside, the shredded crab, with its succulent flesh, fused seamlessly with the creamy richness of avocado. Served with it was the Miso Aubergine. The aubergine, cooked to perfection, boasted a soft, velvety flesh that effortlessly melted in the mouth. Its meaty texture was enhanced by the infusion of miso, creating a depth of flavour that was simply exquisite. The dish was elegantly decorated, a true feast for the eyes. The glossy, charred aubergine skin contrasted beautifully with the pale, creamy miso glaze. Another popular dish here is the JFC ( Japanese Fried Chicken), which is, as you would expect, crunchy, succulent and moreish!
KAIA’s design boasts an open kitchen, alive with the hustle and bustle of talented chefs preparing delectable dishes. This enabled us to watch some of our sushi being hand-crafted and whet our appetite for what was to come! We tasted the Beef & Reef Roll, a combination of Wagyu striploin, succulent shrimp tempura and a generous dollop of smooth onion marmalade. The delicate touch of yuzu kosho mayo added a zingy burst of citrusy freshness, while the velvety teriyaki sauce lent a rich and savoury note. If you like your sushi warm, you will love this! To add to the mix, six types of Nigiri, each portioned perfectly to tuck into in one bite. The selection included tuna, salmon, mackerel, shrimp, yellowtail and seabass, plenty enough to share.
A memorable dish from the evening’s selection? The Tuna Poke. Each element was meticulously crafted, ensuring a symphony of colours and textures that left me in awe. First, the Avocado Rose. Delicately formed, it stood proudly amidst the dish, a testament to the artisan skill employed. The vibrant green hues of the avocado petals contrasted beautifully with the soft, pink-hued tuna, causing my eyes to deceive me momentarily, mistaking the fish for the luscious shades of a ripe watermelon. Speaking of the tuna, its cubed form shimmered with an astonishing brightness reminiscent of a precious gemstone. As my fork gently pierced the surface, the smoothness of its texture was revealed, a velvety sensation that effortlessly melted in my mouth – the epitome of culinary indulgence and a healthy choice to boot.
Moving on to some options from the Robata Grill, Peking Duck truly embodied the essence of an immersive dining experience. As I gazed upon the magnificent dish before me, I couldn’t help but marvel at its fun and interactive nature. The meticulous hours invested in the preparation were evident in the precise chopping of ingredients. Oh, the crispy skin! It crackled audibly as I took my first bite. Accompanying this culinary masterpiece was a generous helping of hoisin sauce, its tangy sweetness complementing the savoury duck. (For those seeking an extra fiery kick, a side of chilli awaited, poised to add an explosive twist to the flavours.) Thin, stretchy pancakes delighted my senses as the hand-rolled construction melted in my mouth, revealing succulent, tender meat beneath. For me, this was sheer perfection – a balance between delicate and indulgent.
On to the delightful sweet selection, we sampled two contrasting dessert options: The Chocolate Lava Cake and the Frozen Mochi. The first was a warm, velvety treat, with molten chocolate oozing from its heart, encased within a fragile exterior. The moment the spoon pierced the surface, a river of creamy cocoa goodness cascaded into the bowl, I lapped it up, as each mouthful left me craving more. Alongside, the vibrant colours of the mochi ice cream tempted me to take a closer look. As my teeth sank into the soft exterior, a burst of refreshing flavours exploded within my mouth. The sweet, luscious ice cream harmoniously melded with the delicate chewiness of the mochi casing, creating a symphony of textures and tastes – well worth the full feeling if I do say myself.
KAIA expertly surpassed our expectations and provided an unforgettable experience that delighted all of our senses. We know for sure we will be back; there’s too much temptation not to promise a second sitting!