Hotel restaurants in Doha have long embraced the concept of themed nights featuring fayre from a particular country or region. Being international men of mystery, we wholeheartedly endorse such adventure when a creative chef de cuisine is given a long leash to stray from regular routines.
So, as strong supporters of dining diversity, we ventured forth to the imposing Wyndham Grand Regency in Al Sadd to sample a menu made in Mexico. And on our way, dexterously darting through traffic as usual, the conversation somewhat understandably turned to a topic as hot as a habanero pepper.
Now, if you believe the next President of the United States, Mexico’s biggest export industries are crime, drugs and undocumented workers. We tend to disagree with the next leader of the “Free World” on a few issues, not least such provocative prevarications.
One Gringo Rue, who shall remain nameless, spent several years in cowboy country where excursions across the American south-west border via San Diego were joyously anticipated even if the farthest destination was Tijuana.
All US residents required was a vehicle and driving licence to be ushered politely through customs, along with a degree of self-restraint and street-wise awareness on arrival. For decades, burrowing underground has been the preferred method of travel for determined escapees to enter the Promised Land via Texas, so a Great Wall of Mexico would not really be fit for purpose we concurred.
Spanish influence pervaded the post-Mayan Americas when conquering conquistadors began to spread their sails in the 16th century. Mexico, an intriguing colourful country of mountains, desert and beautiful beaches, has since bestowed many things to the world. And we are not just referring to the wonderful beverages based on the fruits of the blue agave plant that are often imbibed with salt and lemon.
It was ironic, we thought, that the President-elect sought to vilify his country’s neighbour with loathsome rambling rhetoric during the ugly election campaign. Because, as he was traipsing the rust-belt towns and cities in search of the Forgotten Man, a quick glance from his Trump-mobile window would have undoubtedly revealed a Taco Bell or two.
Over the years, the American fast food chain has played a decisive role in creating a derivative of Mexican cuisine brashly known as ‘Tex-Mex’ that bears little resemblance to the real deal. It even uses a sad-eyed Chihuahua for advertising campaigns in an audacious attempt to claim authenticity.
We entered the Grand Gourmet Restaurant at the Wyndham to the sound of an elegant harpist rather than a Mariachi band so we thanked the Lord for small mercies. Our host for the evening was affable manager Nimala Nathan who gave us a guided tour of the vast buffet and urged us not to miss the live cooking station. We would not.
Realising that it would be imperative to proceed at a gradual pace we began with a selection of Mexican salads comprising morsels of local fish with red beans, parsley, onion, avocado, peppers, courgettes and carrots. The medley was light and refreshing.
More fish was deemed appropriate so we shared chunks of hamour with pine nuts and sour cream and another variation that came with a subtle honey glaze. Grilled chicken with a selection of bell peppers was a winning combination before the urge for meat and chilli became overwhelming.
We ambled with intent towards the cooking station where beef tacos and fajitas were expertly prepared with all the trimmings including cheddar cheese (alas, not Monterrey Jack), oregano and, of course, enough jalapeño pepper to warrant a gallon of iced water. One Brother Rue, fearing for the roof of his mouth, opted for milder versions with chicken and they were duly dispatched with contentment.
After a short break, perfectly sized beef burritos crafted with superb oven-baked bread proved to be the highlight. Stuffed with chopped olives, jalapeños, oregano, spicy mayonnaise and minced beans they were deliciously tangy and creamy.
Then it was back to the bountiful buffet from which we sampled slow-cooked beef loin with lentils, beans, corn, pepper, aubergine and peppers. The Mexican fried potato with chilli flakes was a commodious accompaniment. And vying for dish of the day along with the burritos were the small bite-size beef rolls in a rich gravy.
Remarkable as it may seem, we were not full to bursting just yet so a plate of beef fajitas colourfully adorned with a selection of sliced peppers turned up the heat again while chicken grilled with pineapple that was delicately spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg completed the tour.
There were many desserts on offer as well but since we were returning the following night for the seafood evening we decided to wait 24 hours when the attentive Nimala would give us another grand tour of a copious buffet of crustaceans, Norwegian salmon and local fish served every way imaginable.
Finally, to all our American cousins, Happy Thanksgiving. Families across the US traditionally reflect and rejoice their good fortune on this day but this year there may be some bickering across the table about how a great nation just elected a turkey as President. For the record, Mexican Independence Day is September 16!
Theme Nights at Grand Gourmet
- Sunday: Spanish
- Monday: Italian
- Tuesday: Iranian
- Wednesday: Mexican
- Thursday: Seafood
- Friday: Street Food
- Saturday: Qatari
For more information call 4434 3203 / 4434 3333
© Marhaba Information Guide 2016. The Rue Brothers review restaurants exclusively for Marhaba. They have spent a combined 40+ years in Qatar and think they know their onions, and kofta kebabs, by now
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