The Rue Brothers at Doha Marriott’s JW’s Steakhouse
The first chophouse opened in London during the pre-Industrial Age as young Samuel Pepys was busy putting pen to parchment in the 17th century. We very much doubt that cooks were inconvenienced by calls from prickly patrons to prepare their slabs of meat medium rare with a side dish of creamed spinach.
“Probably well done instead,” quipped one Brother Rue, alluding to the Great Fire of 1666. Indeed, it was an interesting time in the world’s capital. Emissions from meandering cattle would not become a cause célèbre of climate change champions for at least another three centuries and the great grain-versus-grass-fed debate warranted not a jot in the diaries of esteemed Mr Pepys.
So, with history much in mind, it was off to JW’s Steakhouse at the Doha Marriott, Qatar’s first five-star hotel dating back to its incarnation as the Gulf Hotel in 1973, and briefly the Sheraton.
The Doha Marriott has several long-time employees so we decided to track one down on arrival. Huda, from Bangladesh, has been with the hotel for 39 years (yes, 39!) and used to be a bellman, but is now dealing with broader customer relations. How the hotel industry should cherish such devotion and dedication. A gold watch the size of Big Ben would be appropriate.
We recall much excitement, mostly generated by American Embassy staff and the carnivorous United States ambassador, when JW’s Steakhouse was added to the Doha Marriott’s adjacent parade of popular, eclectic restaurants in 2009.
Having lived in the US for many years, one of us (who shall remain nameless) had particularly fond memories of the venerable Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn, a meat lover’s paradise where staff are as sharp as the knives.
And perhaps the Marriott’s marketing gurus would consider the outrageous promotion offered by a San Antonio steakhouse, once frequented, where 36oz T-bones were on offer with the promise that a clean plate would usher in another for free. Doggie bags were banned.
There is a tried-and-tested formula governing good steakhouses, as chairman Bill Marriott, son of the company’s founder JW, would know only too well. Visit JW’s in Doha and you will find a simple menu similar to the one found in its big sister emporium at the grand Grosvenor House Hotel in London.
The staple, of course, is USDA certified prime Angus beef but seafood is also featured with prominence. Both can be combined as a main dish to produce “Surf & Turf”, which is a rather contrived American way of saying you can have lobster with your steak.
So, to kick off, we went “surfing” with a hearty Boston Clam Chowder, which was suitably creamy and subtle in flavour. New Englanders are as fervent about their famous broth as the French are of their national culinary treasures because in 1939 it was deemed illegal by the Maine legislature to add tomato to the customary clams, potato, onion and celery. On close inspection at JW’s no offending tomato was found. And we were happy to learn from expressive Chef Rajesh that leeks were preferred to onion.
Lobsters should be sold with a “Do Not Discard” sign on the shell because they make a wonderful, aromatic stock prior to the roux (not Rue) stage. At JW’s, obvious attention is paid to the Lobster Bisque and its richness deserved plentiful plaudits
Alternative starters included Oysters, fresh or baked à la Rockefeller, Marinated Scottish Salmon, Steamed Alaskan King Crab Leg, Pan-Fried Foie Gras, Lump Crab Cake, Jumbo Prawn Cocktail and Onion Soup.
And, for indulgent devotees of raw meat, Steak Tartar is a recommended option. This dish, often prepared at the table, was once popular in the City of London when bankers, brokers and hacks roamed the Square Mile for the extended lunch ritual. Alas, such leisurely epicurean excursions are all but extinct these days.
We should mention at this stage that service was impeccable (thank you Khatia, from Georgia, and good luck with this year’s grape harvest). So, with stomachs lined appropriately and in gleeful anticipation the steak arrived. Over many years, eating red meat has been much maligned in our (medically unqualified) opinion and we tend to ridicule most of the scaremongering dietary diatribes that populate the press on slow news days. We would not recommend a bovine binge, but beef remains an excellent source for protein and minerals.
Remarking how “non-EU” it was to see a menu marked up in ounces, the 15oz Rib Eye was ordered with a quartet of side dishes comprising Creamed Spinach, Garlic Mash Potatoes, Green Beans Gremolata (a lemon zest, parsley and garlic concoction) and Steamed Wild Rice.
The luscious marbled beef was complemented commendably by the homemade Béarnaise, one of seven sauces on offer. The verdict: a worshiped Wagyu steak washed and meticulously massaged daily in your preferred stout could not have tasted better at twice the price. The rare 8oz Fillet Mignon was magnificent and, upgraded to 12oz, would have required serious intent. We do not clamour for clichés but it was knife through butter on first incision.
The Rue Brothers sometimes wonder if they were cut from the same cloth. One is theatrical and the other is not, so when the words “Beware the Ides of March” were uttered (it was March 15th) potential over-extravagance concerning the dessert dishes became a considered topic.
It was too late to order the Caesar Salad in recognition of the date so the choice was narrowed to New York Cheese Cake and Apple Pie, which at the time seemed as welcome as an audit from the US tax authorities. However, after preparing to accept the consequences in the cause of duty, both were eminently manageable and the cheesecake bountiful with fresh fruit. Ah, the feel-good factor!
As hotels and restaurants have opened at a rapid rate in Doha, other decent steakhouses have emerged but this niche market is far from overcrowded. JW’s remains true to its roots as a traditional purveyor of quality American beef served in classic and extremely comfortable chophouse surroundings. Samuel Pepys would most certainly have approved. We did.
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.
For more food reviews by The Rue Brothers click here.