Seafood is a quintessential part of Doha’s food history and Sheraton’s new restaurant, Al Maskar, takes its inspiration from that vibrant past. It is named after the stone structures used in a traditional fishing method which was reliant on tidal movements.
2017 UPDATE: Please note that this outlet is now closed for renovation, and will reopen as a branch of Nusr-et Steakhouse.
The sea-farer theme continues with the restaurant décor but inspiration comes from a more contemporary Greek style; with an arresting plate-covered wall and an informal dining area. The LCD screens around the restaurant displayed scenes of underwater life; it is always a little unnerving to be shown sea life when you are dining in a seafood establishment – somehow sending a mixed message of enjoying the before and after of a shellfish.
The seating is varied and comfortable, and the outdoor terrace is beautifully proportioned with a view over the Sheraton’s lagoon. I appreciated the pop of blue from the dining chairs and the calming ambience created by unobtrusive lighting. Although it gives off an informal air the restaurant has excellent service with courteous and informed servers who keep an observing eye on the comfort of the diners.
The bread basket was packed with sea-inspired loaves from starfish-shaped bread to a beautifully chewy fish-shaped roll which I could not stop nibbling on. Appetisers came fried in the form of whitebait and calamari. The whitebait was lovely, crunchy and moreish unfortunately the fried calamari was a little chewy and not as crispy as expected. However, my disappointment did not last long as the extravagant seafood towers were paraded into the dining room in an exuberant homage to the bounties of the sea.
The trailing clouds from the dry ice gave off a dramatic air of mystery reflecting the unknown secrets of the deep waters of the Persian Gulf. These ‘fruits de mer’ really showcased the variety of seafood available within the region; delicate oysters with mignonette sauce; glistening mussels; fresh prawns; luscious lobster and succulent crab. The shellfish was prepared by a steady and experienced hand and the accompanying sauces helped to highlight the fresh flavours of the sea. Towers are available for 2 to 4 diners and are perfect for seafood lovers. Be sure to alert the waiter as to any allergies, or dietary requirements, you may have – they are very good at ensuring special requests are accommodated.
The last appetiser was the octopus salad or ‘mosiac’ as it is known in Greece. This dish warrants its own special mention – it looked vibrant with its hints of red and green. It best reflected the Greek inspiration behind the restaurant and also showcased the Chef’s skill in braising the tender octopus without making it tough. The octopus was cut into perfectly thin slices similar to a carpaccio and its lime dressing provided a zesty flavour to the octopus. Definitely a dish to recommend for diners looking for something extraordinary.
For Mains I had the Tuna Nicoise – despite the name this was not the salad but rather it was a dish inspired by the salad. The Chef was good enough to remove the tomato elements on the dish, as per my request, and replace them with appropriate alternatives. The Tuna was a big piece of fish which had been cooked perfectly, leaving a slightly pink middle. I found the portion size to be very generous and the fish was delicately seasoned with a salty accompaniment of green string beans and black olives. For diners wanting a non-seafood option for their main there is also a lovely roasted baby chicken or succulent beef tenderloin on offer.
Dessert is always a careful choice after a heavy protein-rich meal, and the Pastry Chef at Al Maskar provided a wonderfully light confection in the form of Lemon Butter Tart, with lemon prepared three ways. A butter pastry with a tart lemon curd, followed by a rich lemon mousseline topped with a light lemon sorbet – lemony goodness perfected. The drizzles of passion fruit seeds on the plate helped to add a welcome bright zingy flavour to the dish. With a healthy respect for highlighting ingredients in simple preparations the Chefs at Al Maskar should be applauded.
For those looking for a seafood medley of skilfully prepared dishes then this should be your next port of call. Elegant dining in comfortable surroundings, unobtrusive servers and a relaxing environment – visit with a group and share different seafood dishes for a taste sensation.