The Rue Brothers at Sharq Village & Spa’s Parisa
Since the eagerly awaited grand opening of Sharq Village & Spa nine years ago, the signature seafood restaurant Al Dana stood alone and imperious adjacent to the beachfront.
During temperate months, alfresco dining so close to the water became an immediate and enduring attraction. Once inside, eyes invariably on stilts were drawn towards the huge circular display of fresh fish and crustaceans lying invitingly on a plinth of crushed ice.
With equal prominence, all vegetables on offer were stacked against the side with an explanation of type and origin. It was a clear indication that only the best ingredients were sourced at this jewel in the Ritz-Carlton crown.
Much of the resort’s success can be attributed to the delightful and always dapper Hoss Vetry, its General Manager during launch and well beyond. When he strutted elegantly around the vast hotel estate, Hoss appeared like a human billboard promoting the transformational energies of Six Senses Spa.
On the few occasions when he was visibly flustered he would be deep in conversation, only to be interrupted by engines of low-flying aircraft taking off and landing at the old airport close by. He would have volunteered for a night shift to ensure the rapid completion of Hamad International.
Now the noise is gone. That is one reason to revisit Sharq, and the other is Parisa.
Al Dana is no longer the solitary attraction down by the sea where you can witness from afar the boundless skyline development of West Bay. The upstairs Persian restaurant has been ingeniously dovetailed with Al Dana, offering separate smoking and non-smoking dining rooms as well as plenty of balcony space.
Apart from the occasional experience, Brothers Rue are not overly familiar with authentic Persian cuisine. Drawing on faded memories, one recounted his time in Tehran frequenting cafes exuding wonderful whiffs of baking, and the other recalled a neighbourhood restaurant in Hammersmith, west London, where wholesome home-cooked khoresht (stew) changed with every visit on cold winter evenings.
Our host for the evening was Hanane Msalek, Sharq’s new marketing and communications executive, who soon became a five-star attraction and not because she laughed at some of our jokes. Hanane is from Morocco and is clearly worldly about her culinary tastes, as well as fast cars and motorbikes.
She advised us that we would be enjoying most of our meal in darkness. Suitably aroused, we enquired why. If this was to disguise a certain inelegance in the presentation or to prevent us from probing too deeply into the many dishes we would not be fooled, we said.
With a degree of incredulity, she felt obliged to point out that Earth Hour was looming. Sharq (villas and all) would become an earnest participant in this latest global warming awareness exercise by cutting off its electricity for 60 minutes at 8:30 pm. With visions of carnage on the streets we were tempted to alert everyone on speed dial.
One Brother Rue is distinctly indifferent about climate change. He is accused of being blinkered about its consequences while blaming the phenomenon on tree-hugging fanatics and Al Gore. The other is more empathetic about the threat to humankind, especially while driving around in his SUV on Doha’s clogged roads.
Ahmet Emre Erten, Parisa’s extremely helpful manager, who throughout the evening happily disclosed inside information on every ingredient, offered us the opportunity to sample the extensive set menu. We gladly accepted.
Within moments six appetizers appeared. These were accompanied by wonderful bread served straight from the Tanour situated at the top of the stairs and guaranteed to entice curiosity upon arrival. The selection of starters would most certainly have mass appeal and, as we have counselled in the past, give the palate ample time to enjoy all the variations of tastes.
The first stand-out dish was the Zeytoon Parvarde, Persian green olives marinated in a traditional sauce from northern Iran comprising crushed walnut and pomegranate syrup. In Middle East and Mediterranean cooking, we would not normally single out an olive appetiser for being exceptional but this deserved a superlative.
Also meriting mention was the Dolma Mix of minced lamb, rice and eggplant slow-cooked in a tomato sauce that had been reduced to a palatial pulp. Most importantly, the filling was served in a red bell pepper perfectly baked to unleash flavour and aroma. Other overriding features of the mezze dishes were combinations of crisp vegetables, mint, dill, yoghurt, raisins, watermelon and lime dressings.
Ahmet had warmed the heart of one Brother Rue (who shall remain nameless) by pointing out unequivocally that all the sourced meat came from grass-fed animals either from New Zealand or Brazil. The seafood originated mostly from Oman, apart from the local Hammour.
So, to the main courses – all eight of them with three delicious kinds of rice prepared with a sense of adventure. By this time Earth Hour had struck but environmentally friendly candles were provided so we could take notes and Hanane gave us additional clarity via the torchlight on her mobile phone.
The presentation of the assorted charcoal-grilled kebab dishes was sensational: Negini (ground lamb and chicken infused in onion and saffron); Kabab-E Tikke Larry (luscious lamb tenderloin marinated overnight in a yoghurt sauce); Kaba Makhsose Sar Ashpaz (marinated lamb tenderloin with baby marrow and sweetcorn); Kabab Shishlik (spring lamb chops marinated in saffron, onion and black pepper); Mahi Kebab (hammour fillet marinated in lime and saffron); Meigoo Kabab (jumbo shrimp with saffron butter).
Cooking on charcoal requires precision, so for maximum enjoyment we advise early engagement with the seafood kebabs (hammour and shrimp) before they become overcooked and dry and then venture forth to the feast of lamb. Also, do not miss out on the grilled tomato and peppers because they are not there merely for decoration.
And, to appreciate fully the subtle delights of Persian food, there are two dishes on this menu that should not be neglected. Both take at least four hours of cooking. First and foremost is the Khoresht-E Ghorme Sabzi, which is a charismatic casserole of tender lamb with coriander, parsley and spinach with red kidney beans. Exceptional. The second is Gardan Gosfand Ba Javaher Polow, or lamb neck (perfect for stews) with rich tomato sauce and Persian Jewelled Rice.
With the lights back on for another year, three refreshers were offered for the finale: Makhloot (Persian saffron ice cream with a starch noodle sorbet), Halva Ye Haveej (sweet carrot halva with saffron and an empowering flavour of Iranian rose water), and fresh cut fruit.
Parisa is a fine addition to the Doha dining scene, both in darkness and light, and we are happy to report that, with aircraft noise abated, Sharq Village & Spa can now be enjoyed in all its intended serenity and splendour.
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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