Situated on the lower ground of the Ritz-Carlton Doha, Porcini features family style Italian dining. Walking into the restaurant, we were hit with wonderful and delicious aromas that immediately whet our appetites for the night. Efficient and cheerful staff led us to the table we had booked, and we settled in for a good meal. The focal point of the restaurant is its open pizza kitchen where you can observe different cooks at play. Accompanying our conversation was a gentleman strumming on an acoustic guitar, singing familiar Italian melodies. It’s very easy to feel comfortable here from the get go.
We ordered a bottle of Italian Sangiovese and took a quick look at the menu, but decided to have a word with the head chef about giving us a tasting menu since we were feeling rather adventurous. Chef Daniele Vacca was more than happy to accommodate us and he was exuberant that we had given him full reign on deciding what to feed us for the night. My friend, Miss Q&M, and I both felt like it was a good decision.
Starting off with an amuse-bouche, we had: a sweet cherry tomato with capers, button mushroom wrapped with a white anchovy and topped with walnut purée, honey balsamic and fresh pesto with crispy thyme. This was an introduction to the kinds of flavours Chef Daniele uses in his creations. The sweetness of the cherry tomato with the herby capers, succulent mushroom layered with the saltiness from the anchovy and the lovely tangy-iness from the balsamic and pesto incorporated with the crunch of the deep fried thyme. Our appetites were well piqued after that.
Our first appetiser came promptly following the palate pleaser, Octopus Carpaccio, white balsamic reduction with an arugula and cherry tomato salad. The peppery arugula went quite well with the slight chew of the finely slivered octopus with a bite of sweet cherry tomato sporadically.
The second appetiser that came was a Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, with a balsamic reduction, garlic aioli and more arugula. Even though it was more or less the same concept as the last starter, you notice that this dish had a more well rounded earthiness from the aged Wagyu. The garlic aioli blended beautifully with the beef adding a creaminess to the texture of the dish.
Remarkable simplicity on a plate.
Two great starters down but we were far from done as the third followed; a generous portion of Burrata cheese, olive tapenade, fresh pesto, grilled vegetables and dry basil powder. It was remarkable simplicity on a plate. The Burrata tasted so fresh and pure and it oozed creamy goodness when sliced into. The tapenade and pesto gave the cheese the right lift in flavour and the dried basil powder added a very different yet tasty component to this dish. We were loving everything so far.
The fourth appetiser we eagerly waited for, was the freshest Tuna tartare, marinated with tiny chopped chives, capsicum and micro-herbs, topped with red pesto and accompanied by a stick of golden bread. Subtle, layered flavours of the tuna with sharp little bites of chives and capsicum delighted me. I found it a very light yet lively dish. In this sense, since most of the starters were so fresh, light and well balanced, we were able to try several of them and still have space (we thought so at this point) for a good few mains. We didn’t have individual portions, they were all plates to share. Much more enjoyable and a little less guilt on putting away so much food as they were all split in two. That’s what we told ourselves anyway.
Our first main was one of the most popular dishes on the menu. Seafood Capellini in a tomato base sauce with onions and fresh basil. The pasta was made in house of course and it came loaded with scampi, scallops and jumbo prawns. The rusticity of the pasta was completely uplifted with a good kick of chillies in there. Such a lovely but not overwhelming spiciness, added to the richness of the sauce and seafood. This would be what Chef Daniele lovingly calls Mama’s food. A very traditional Sicilian recipe that anyone would love.
We thought we would have reached our limit by now, but what was put in front of us next immediately put that out of our heads. The aroma that wafted from this dish was what hit me earlier on when we had entered the restaurant and lo and behold, it happened to be the namesake ingredient of the place. Porcini risotto with quail eggs. Oh my word, I just couldn’t get over the aroma! Made me almost light headed, it did. Carnaroli rice cooked in porcini stock, infused with garlic and a touch of truffle oil and porcini mushrooms. Two darling little quail eggs, lightly poached, breaking gently into the risotto and coating it with its mild little yolks, such a tender feature to the dish. A spoonful leaves an enveloping and lingering flavour on your tongue and it happens every time you go back for another till the plate is empty. I honestly wasn’t sure how to top that as it was already heading towards closing time and we still had another main coming. We probably looked completely gluttonous by then, but we honestly didn’t mind as we were there to eat and we didn’t want a single wasted experience.
They definitely saved the best for last though, because what was brought out next was quite magical to experience. Mediterranean branzino (sea bass), king prawn and lobster, steamed in carta fata paper (cooking film), in a lobster stock with romanesco, baby corn, zucchini and lemon grass. A bizarrely simple dish that boasts such pure flavours of the seafood, vegetables and stock mingled together. The presentation of it was rather impressive and Chef Daniele kindly cut open the steamed bag for us himself. It reminded me of how meat, cooked sou vide is so delicate and tender and this has almost the same effect on the seafood. The fish was really soft and just so delicious and I really loved how the lemon grass gave a certain elevation to everything. Lemon grass is dynamite in my books. Anything that has lemon grass in it just puts it over the top. This is also one of the signature dishes of the restaurant so it’s a must try!
This is one of the signature dishes of Porcini, so it’s a must try!
We were about ready to quietly roll over and take a nap by now, but what good dinner is a success without a good ending: dessert. A few good deep breaths, last swig of our wine. We had switched to a lovely Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, an Italian white, halfway through our meal and it went so much better with all the seafood we had. Crisp, with pear like and grassy notes. Very pleasant.
For dessert, we shared a Nutella semifreddo with vanilla ice cream. A simple, no bake dessert. It’s equal parts of Nutella, mascarpone and cream semi frozen together, very like an ice cream cake type sweet treat. What a winner. What an ending. Not only was the food so amazing but the service was just as fantastic. The manager Felix and our server Rohit were ever so attentive to everything and so accommodating. Chef Daniele made our night though, with his very catchy and cheerful disposition and his willingness to make every one of his guests happy. A very memorable experience and one we most definitely want to relive again.
Damages – 1000 QR ( including a bottle of wine)
Price range – Starters range from 70 – 90 QR & Mains from 125 – 250 QR
No. of persons – 2 pax
Until next time and another food review.
Bon Appetit x Priscilla Emmanuel
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