Virtually nothing has been written in the scholarly literature about seafood buffets and I suspect the reason being that it’s not rocket science. Having said that, with everyone looking for a new angle that will give them an edge over the competition, it takes a certain kind of chef to jump in at the deep end and innovate. Executive Chef Remi van Petreghem has gone down that road with his seafood buffet. In fact, his first change was to go beyond business as usual and change the timing to Thursday evening, when people feel a little more relaxed. His second manoeuvre was to empower his team, give them a little more responsibility and encourage them to show a little flair in their work.
So far, we haven’t even made it further than one foot into The Square, on the second floor of Doha’s Intercontinental In The City, when I noticed crabs with aspirations. I sensed that once these creatures throw off the fish net, the only thing preventing them from tumbling off the counter, they are going to make a break for it. Ok, when you arrive at a buffet, the last thing you want to see is the food doing a runner, but at least you know its fresh.
Moving swiftly on, which is more than could be said for the crabs, Chef is keen to show me the fayre. Homemade bread on arrival? There it is. Looks great and there is even a sculpture for the amusement of all that will no doubt end up as toast. I love bread but am always wary of filling myself up with the stuff and then having no room for the main event. Whoever said ‘save the best for last’ clearly did not know what on earth she, or he, was talking about when it comes to dining.
The sushi. Now this is where you can see the sushi chef’s playful creativity – sushi and rice shaped like mini-burgers, sushi in brightly coloured balls of rice. A novel take on the usual standardised rollout of sushi. And a happier team too, I’ll wager.
Next, I’m up close and personal with a Norwegian salmon that some artistic soul has decorated with cucumber slices to resemble scales. I have to say this was cooked to perfection – juicy and just melted in the mouth. Outstanding. We will return to this section of the buffet as it is both the beginning and the end, dear reader.
Now I’m at what effectively is the fish market. I can choose any of the bad boys on display and have him cooked however I want. Well, the red snapper looks attractive…’Grilled?’ asks the chef, who says he prefers his that way as all the better to be able to sample the purity of nature on a plate. ‘Or deep fried?’ No thanks. I’ll take it my way – pan fried in butter with a little garlic. Let’s face it, we all make mistakes, and I’ve often thought that when the kitchen doesn’t have the luxury of table service to distract the diner from whatever faux pas has transpired, then they are exposed, but no such problems on Chef Remi‘s watch. The fish iscooked to perfection and the meat just slides off the bone. Got to have some veg with all this fish and there is a natty selection of mini baked potatoes, garlic roasted veg and, if the carnivore inside is desperate, some great chicken cooked in mustard – now that has to be French, n’est pas?
It ain’t over yet as I just need a few prawn tempuras to satisfy my craving for a fry-up. Why is that all the things that are, allegedly, bad for you taste great, while all the boring stuff is, allegedly, good for you? Maybe that’s why they invented salad dressing?
But we digress, dear reader, and turning the corner I’m now in Indian territory. Soups, biryani, curry if you like your fishy a little spicier, mussels too, although they are not my thing.
Turn again and we have the local hammour. Chef reckons he will see off two, or possibly even three, of these tonight, as he preps another for the flame oven. Not all kids have a taste for seafood and so its probably here that you will finds yours asking the chef for a custom-built pizza – select whatever you want to go on top and ‘hey presto!’ your very own creation, the responsibility for which, when it hits your taste buds, is yours!
Now back to the first section – we are on the home run. This is where the desserts are and, the chef being French, the cheese too. I am reliably informed that the word among the local French community is that le paris-brest, a French dessert, made of choux pastry and a praline flavoured cream, is the best outside of, well, Paris! I can only recommend, dear reader, that you try it yourself.
Gold leaf is everywhere and, I am told, very good it is for you too, but don’t think Ocean’s 11; you’re not going to get rich by smuggling it out stuck to a bun. Just eat it. There’s a good selection to finish off and clean the palate, either before or after the cheeses.
Overall, they are under the radar here, but they are cooking up a better future.
Can you feel and hear the ocean? Almost. Chef Remi has made a conscious decision to offer a little less but make it of a better quality and you can sense his pride in what he does. He’s nurturing a recipe for success.
Any chef whose credentials include a stint at the Peninsula, Hong Kong, has to be taken seriously. Take the bait. Go and meet him, and tell him I sent you.
Where: The Square, InterContinental Doha the City
When: Every Thursday, 6 pm-11 pm
Price: QAR255 per person inclusive of food and soft beverages. QAR325 per person inclusive of food and special beverages
QIC Advantage Club Deals
Dining at InterContinental Doha the City? Make use of the below offers by our partner QIC Advantage Club.
- 2 for 1 International Dinner night at the Square
- 2 for 1 Main Course at Hwang
- 2 for 1 Breakfast buffet at The Square
- 2 for 1 Lunch at The Square
- 2 for 1 main course at Prime
For reservations and more information, call +974 4015 8888.
Review by: David Moore
International man of mystery, beachcomber extraordinaire, raconteur and bon vivant.
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