Secrets of Cantonese Cooking

Spectacular views and original flavours are what you find at Shanghai Club. Kay Woodward zooms skywards to enjoy their authentic cuisine.

When it comes to great locations, JW Marriott Marquis City Center Doha has pretty much nailed it. The five-star hotel soars high among the iconic skyline of famously futuristic West Bay. It couldn’t be any more central. So wherever your journey begins in Doha, it will never take too long to get here. Dusk has just fallen as we glide up to the hotel’s entrance and step inside the shining lobby. The welcoming staff direct us to the swish elevators. Tonight, we’re visiting Shanghai Club, and we’re going a very, very long way up the city.

Shanghai Club is located on the 43rd floor of the hotel in a space so impressive that it makes us gasp. Because the restaurant occupies two floors, the ceiling is way above us. Meanwhile, the walls are decorated with an eclectic mix of art – paintings, ceramics and a huge Chinese dragon that bends and twists from floor to ceiling, hinting at culinary delights to come.

But one of the most eye-catching aspects of the restaurant is provided by the city itself. Double-height windows afford a breathtaking view of Doha and beyond. From our corner table, we can see as far as the Pearl in one direction and Doha Port in the other. And, of course, there’s all the glittering fabulousness in between – skyscrapers twinkle while far below rivers of traffic flow.

It’s at this point that we remember that we’ve come here to dazzle our taste buds as well as our eyes and switch our gaze from the view to the menu. Shanghai Club’s pan-Asian carte is so enticing – and so extensive – that it would take several visits to do it justice. Thankfully, our lovely server, Eltin, suggests we let the chef decide, which is the best idea I’ve heard all week.

We begin with the dim sum and sushi. It’s all homemade and absolutely delicious, but my favourites are the mushroom dumplings – emerald parcels of pure scrumptuousness – and the California rolls, so precisely filled with crab, cucumber and avocado. We resolve to come back next Monday for Shanghai Club’s all-you-can-eat Sushi and Dim Sum evening. These bite-sized treats clearly deserve our full attention.

Chef Kong – from Xi’an in Shaanxi Province – is renowned for his authentic Cantonese cuisine, and next, he chooses an array of his signature dishes for us to savour. First, there’s the Sichuan Boiled Seabass. This is served in a surprisingly spicy sauce that offsets the supremely tender pieces of perfectly cooked fish. It’s sublime.

Also, from the ocean, there’s Hong Kong Fried Seafood. Imagine, if you will, scallops, prawns, squid and abalone. If you haven’t discovered it yet, abalone is a deep-sea shellfish delicacy. If you know it already, you’ll also know how delicious it is. Asparagus, peppers and mushrooms add depth and, impossibly, yet more flavour.

Sweet and Sour Chicken is so ubiquitous that you might be tempted to write it off. But please don’t. Chef Kong’s Sweet and Sour Chicken is the best we have ever eaten. It’s cooked Beijing-style and the chicken is succulent, piquant and indescribably good. Afterwards, our plate is so clean it looks as if it’s already been through the dishwasher.

Convinced that we can’t possibly devour anything as good as the Sweet and Sour Chicken, we try the Mopu Tofu and are instantly proved wrong. Silken tofu mingles with beef and Sichuan chilli to create a dish that’s smoky and punchy. I love it.

The Lamian Noodles – also homemade – are so moreish. Wide ribbons tumble messily in a piquant sauce of chilli and garlic in hot oil. It’s comfort food at its best. I almost wish that I could take a huge bowl of this home right now and devour it at the same time as the new series of Bridgerton. Except I can’t because now there’s the Peking Duck.

I love Peking Duck. And I adore the pure theatre of its preparation, too. It swiftly becomes clear that Chef Kong is one of the best. Entranced, I watch as he carefully slices the crispy bronze duck with a precision I can only dream of. Gently, he assembles the pancakes, filling them with duck, slithers of spring onion and cucumber, finishing with just a drizzle of hoisin sauce. The rolls are works of art. Clumsily, we assemble our own, which are not works of art but taste great.

And that’s it. We simply can’t fit in any more delicious Cantonese food and it’s time to descend 43 floors back to real life. But before we go, we take a stroll around the rest of Shanghai Club. As well as the eye-catching dining area, we discover a cool social area filled with guests and an atmosphere where, every night after 8pm, a DJ spins the decks. Upstairs, there are private rooms for dining or simply for relaxing with friends. And all around, there’s the pièce de résistance – the glorious 360 views of glittering, sparkling, dazzling Doha.

If there’s a better backdrop to a perfect meal, I’m yet to find it.

For more information or to make a reservation, please call
Shanghai Club at JW Marriott Marquis City Center Doha on 4429 5000.

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