Opal has been on our list to dine at, for quite some time now. It has been up and running successfully for a few years already, and many a good thing has been said about the great food and services offered. My friend, Miss Q&M and I finally booked a table a few days ago and we excitedly opted for the tasting menu, allowing head chef Elias to put forth his best dishes of the night. Located in the lobby level of the St. Regis hotel Doha, Opal boasts relaxed, bistro style dining. They also offer The Opal Bar, for those who fancy a couple of tipples before sitting down to their dinner, as well as Al fresco style dining on the terrace when the weather is better during the less scorching months.
We arrived fairly early, but not even halfway through our first glass of wine, the restaurant filled up quite quickly with patrons who were there to enjoy Chilli Dog Tuesday. I must say we were quite tempted to opt for it ourselves. At only QR125 per head, customers get unlimited chilli dogs of several delicious varieties with a drink and hand cut chips. But we stuck to our guns and enjoyed Opal’s signature dishes instead.
Friuli Colli Orientali
What is truly outstanding about Opal in Doha is their surprisingly extensive wine list, featuring the largest collection in the country so far. Customers are presented with iPads, containing a formidable amount of wines to choose from. If there is a struggle to choose from the vast selection, their in house Sommelier will be by your side in a jiffy to help with selecting a great wine to enjoy in accordance with your meal type and preferences. Miss Q&M and I opted for a bottle delicious Italian Friuli Colli Oriental Sauvignon from the Bastianich region. A beautiful wine, soft textured with pretty varietal notes of ripe peaches, mint and flowers.
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata Cheese, tossed with basil oil and fresh onion rings
We started our dinner with a Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata Cheese, tossed with basil oil and fresh onion rings.With fresh, clean, vibrant flavours, Miss Q&M commented that it tasted like a quintessential summer salad. The basil oil brought out the sharp acidity of the tomatoes, and complimented the creamy Burrata. I did find the tomato ratio quite overwhelming. A few less tomatoes and the dish would have been completely faultless.
Stuffed Falafel with Cheese & Herbs
The next appetiser was locally inspired, Stuffed Falafel with Cheese & Herbs. Falafel is a hugely popular snack in this part of the world and well loved by even the expats. The presentation of the Falafel on a bed of mix green leaf salad with fattouch dressing and sprinkled with fresh pomegranate, seemed more like a deconstructed Falafel sandwich without the bread. Equally as enjoyable but it could have done with a touch more labneh and the greens could have used a drop more of olive oil. I’m sure most people would have appreciated the dish as it was, I just preferred a little more moisture to the overall experience. The Falafel itself was crunchy and savoury, stuffed just right, and we really liked the flavours of the cheese and herbs in the filling.
Braised Short Ribs with fresh pomelo sacks, scallions, sesame seeds, hoisin glaze and pomegranate seeds
The following starter was a big hit with the both of us. Braised Short Ribs with fresh pomelo sacks, scallions, sesame seeds, hoisin glaze and pomegranate seeds. This dish has a total of 12 hours of prep and cooking time. After being braised and cooked down for many hours, the meat is deep fried, then braised again. A very lengthy process but the end result are succulent pieces of short rib with an almost crust like texture to it because of the deep fry, but still melts in your mouth. A host of Asian flavours that we throughly enjoyed, and I made a comment that it tasted very much like something I would eat back home in Malaysia. The pomegranate seeds were of course an added feature, but still went well with the dish. The sweet tartness of pomegranate is actually pretty versatile, it goes with a myriad of things, and they immediately make any dish look a touch more festive. It has to be noted that the short rib is clearly one of the best sellers of the restaurant, especially their Short Rib burger. Something we most definitely want to come back and sink our teeth into. We noticed the table in front of us had ordered it, and even though we had lots of lovely things to eat in front of us, that burger looked so mouthwatering it definitely got our attention.
Pan Fried Octopus, Edamame, Confit of pickled eggplant purée with tomato and olive salsa.
Our second starter was a gorgeous work of art. As beautiful as the dish was, the complexities of the flavours took us a little while to actually get it. The pickled eggplant purée was on the sweet side and we didn’t feel like it worked with the octopus. We both puzzled over it for a bit till Chef Elie addressed our worries and encouraged us to squeeze the torched lemon over the dish. The acidity of the lemon helped to balance out the flavours and it made more sense when we tried it again. There is, however, a lot going on in this dish, and even though all it took was one simple element to to bring it all together, I feel like the purée could be a little less sweet and the octopus needed slightly more seasoning.
Slow cooked Milk Fed Veal Chop from Peter’s Farm
The first main we had following the starters was, Slow cooked Milk Fed Veal Chop from Peter’s Farm. Served with an amazing Epice sauce and horseradish crushed potatoes. Peter’s Farm in the Netherlands supplies cruelty-free, free range, top quality veal to buyers all over the world and Opal is one of the few restaurants that offer it on their menu, that I know of.
We usually love our steaks done medium to sometimes medium rare so the veal chop was a little too overdone for us. The sauce however, was truly enjoyable and it should be noted that Chef Elie loves incorporating Middle Eastern flavours into classic techniques that work quite well. Here, he’s added Harissa to the Epice sauce along with caramelised shallots, braised for a time then poured over the veal chop. It’s got all the elements of a very rustic type of comfort food. The potatoes were perfect, roughly mashed with olive oil, horseradish and lots of herbs. I need to start making making my potatoes that way.
We switched to red for our wine when our veal arrived. A Spanish Finca Constancia 2012 made from six different type of grape varietals. Absolutely delicious, full bodied and with great structure.
Pan fried Salmon, in Basil Consommé, fresh artichokes, white asparagus and snow peas
The second main was a Fish of the Day, which was a lovely fillet of Pan fried Salmon, in Basil Consommé, fresh artichokes, white asparagus and snow peas. The choice of fish and asparagus varies of course, depending on availability and seasons.
Simple yet delicious flavours, enhanced by the fresh herbs and basil consommé. I absolutely love it when fish is cooked this way, especially salmon. When it isn’t being overpowered by anything else and the taste of the fish remains pure but still yummy from a slight seasoning and fresh herbs. Don’t get me wrong, I love fish done in lots of ways. Fried, grilled, in a curry or loaded up in lots of spices and cooked in banana leaf. But salmon is just so much better when it’s showcased in its own strength of flavour and untarnished. And Opal does it justice.
Surf and Turf, with Australian Grain Fed Beef tenderloin medallions, 300 grams of Omani lobster
Our last main course was quite a heavyweight contender, perfect for people like me who sometimes can’t decide between fish or meat. Surf and Turf, with Australian Grain Fed Beef tenderloin medallions, 300 grams of Omani lobster and hand cut chips.
Again, the beef was a little overdone to our tastes but the lobster was spot on. My friend Ms Q&M couldn’t get enough of the lobster, it was so good. Drenched in a herby cafe de Paris butter, it was succulent and rich. A definite winner.
White Chocolate Mousse with Marmalade & Orange Sorbet
We were really glad our dessert was picked for us, because we wouldn’t have been able to choose ourselves. Partly from being absolutely stuffed at this point and also because the dessert menu is a force to be reckoned with. A very dreamy selection of sweet treats, with impressive wine pairing suggestions. We shared a White Chocolate Mousse with Marmalade & Orange Sorbet. A very interesting take on a chocolate orange, which is one of my favorite kinds of desserts. It was Tre Magnifique!
You would think that white chocolate is much easier to overpower with too much citrus but this dessert was quite faultless, to be honest. Our sommelier paired it with a 2011 Muscat De Rivesaltes. A naturally sweet fortified wine, it had a beautiful bouquet and notes of lychee and aromatic white flowers. The both of us fawned over such a stunning wine and literally savoured every last sip along with our dessert. We couldn’t have asked for a better ending.
Muscat De Rivesaltes 2011, Chateau De Jau
Chef Elias Gemayel
Even with the restaurant being quite full, service did not falter for a second. Impeccable and on point with every detail. That is something we always appreciate greatly and we were truly satisfied with the care given to us by the staff. Chef Elias is a wonderful person to get to know, his tireless passion and warm hospitality towards his guests being the first thing you notice about him. He puts a lot of thought into creativity in his dishes, and it is evident that he incorporates his own cultural influences of flavors and tastes into the food coming out of the kitchens. Everything’s got a lot of heart in it, and it’s a place you would definitely want to return to based on first hand experience.
Bon Appetit x Priscilla Emmanuel @panzyeats
Read more reviews on – https://www.storehouse.co/stories/v67wo-opal-by-gordon-ramsay