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Review: Le Grill Doha

I was brought up to be a gracious guest.  When invited to dinner, I arrive on time, make pleasant conversation with folks at the table, and thank my host profusely for the food… even if it is undercooked, overdone, ghastly to look at or just plain bad. 

It gets comical when hosts ask how I’m enjoying the dried out, tough-as-plastic, sinewy chicken breast, the heavily spiced curry that’s about to make my head internally combust, or any other less than desirable dishes they’d slaved over all afternoon.  But my answer in such instances is always a variation of the same sentiment: “This is wonderful.  It’s lovely that you’ve put in such effort into this meal.  And I’m so grateful to be here.”

And I am.  That’s no lie.  When people take time to cook and share a meal, it’s beyond good manners to be grateful.  It’s the essence of what makes a decent human being.

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But what happens when I’m invited to a restaurant, get served lackluster food, and have to honest about it?  It’s my professional integrity on the line, after all. This is the scenario I find myself this week at Le Grill at the Diplomatic Club.  I am initially excited because the preview menu they’d sent over promises a highlight of their signature offerings… crab cakes, lobster salad, steak, lamb chops.  I deliberately subsist on cucumbers all day in preparation for the largesse later that evening.

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First up is the amuse-bouche: smoked salmon encrusted with sesame seeds topped with a fried quail’s egg and a soupcon of caviar.  The presentation is beautiful, exacting and quite inviting.  But the flavours fall short… they don’t cohere.  The same issue repeats in the lobster tail salad with guacamole.  Alone, the pair blend harmoniously.  But the addition of raw radishes and beetroot overpowers the plate.  These forces collide, and I’m left thinking less is more.

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Less black pepper in the mushroom soup would help, too.  The heavy-handedness in spice is not noticeable initially but becomes more apparent as the scalding soup cools down.  However, its presentation in a bread boule is quite quaint.  In fact, presentation on the whole is commendable at Le Grill.  The crabcake croquette sits on the plate surrounded by a starburst of balsamic reduction; it’s so meticulously plated as to compel several photographs.

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Even the mixed grill, usually a prosaic dish, is made to look attractive… the chicken breast, steak, lamb chop and shrimp are arranged with care on a bed of quinoa.  But not a single item is easy to eat.  The proteins have been cooked so long on the grill that they beg for an implement far sturdier than a steak knife to tackle.  Not to overstate things, but I’ve had jerky that was more tender.  I try to be polite but can’t muster more than a bite of each grill.  I don’t typically like to waste food, but in this instance, it was wasted for me.

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It’s a real toughie.  This is a restaurant invitation, so as I guest, how am I to behave?  I try to offer constructive comments, but I wonder if any will be taken on board.  All I know is that my table is the only one occupied for the duration of my meal.  And if the restaurant is this empty on a regular basis, the proprietors must know something isn’t right.

I’d start in the kitchen.

 

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