Ottoman flavours and more at The Pearl-Qatar’s A’la Turkish Cuisine

Ashlee's picture
Ashlee

By Ashlee Starratt

For shoppers and foodies alike, it’s refreshing to see more dining and retail outlets opening on The Pearl-Qatar’s Porto Arabia concourse, and taking a walk along its 2.5 km waterfront boardwalk can be hungry work! Those who venture down to its far end will find some of its newest offerings clustered along the sunny marina promenade between Towers 29 and 31.

Standing sentinel among them is A’la Turkish Cuisine. Housed in its own restaurant rotunda facing the water, A’la’s interior is expansive, with a colour palette done up in shades of gentle gold, biscuit taupe, and Bosphorus blue. The restaurant’s sheer size, with several additional, cloistered areas off the open-plan main dining room, makes it ideal for a quiet solo lunch or business meeting over a cup of Turkish coffee.

It’s early afternoon when we arrive and the place is quieting down after the lunch-hour bustle. We’re seated at a table near the window in the main dining room overlooking the water. The space is filled with natural light and we have a prime view into the open kitchen.

Our waiter brings us cold copper mugs filled with Ayran – the rich, salted yogurt drink popular across much of Turkey and Central Asia. Similar to laban, it’s refreshing and acts as a digestif in preparation for the Turkish feast we’re about to indulge in. We begin with a selection of cold starters and hot mezze – all quintessential elements of any Levantine spread.

While A’la restaurant stakes its name on its Turkish cuisine, its menu also draws culinary influence from the Balkans, Caucasus, and the Arab Peninsula. The starters are lushly presented; the flavours and ingredients fresh. There’s a trio of cold starters, including a peppery Roka Salatası with fresh rocket, tomato and a refreshingly acidic olive oil dressing; a Çoban Salatası with cooling chopped cucumber, tomato, mint leaves, bell pepper, onion and parsley, with a puckery citrus dressing; and a bowl of Ezme, finely-chopped seasonal vegetables emulsed with a red pepper paste that tingles the palate. To top it off, our waiter brings a heaping platter of puffy, fresh Turkish bread – hot from the oven to act as a vehicle to soak up all the fragrant oils.

The hot starters are comfort food at its finest – in fact, this can be said for much of the menu. We move on to a rich bowl of hot hummus topped with crackling strips of beef prosciutto, along with a warming bowl of zesty lentil soup, and one of Turkey’s most signature street foods – Pide Ceşitleri. Best described as elongated thin-crust pizza-bread, this Turkish delight comes with a variety of toppings, from minced meat, to spinach, to a spicy red lentil paste. We opt for one topped with gooey cheese and it’s literally devoured in minutes. 

The mains at A’la are a meat-lover’s paradise – as any good Turkish restaurant worth its salt should be. Fragrant platters of lamb chops, kofta, and kebabs are brought to our table, dripping with juices and topped with slabs of fresh Turkish bread slathered in spicy tomato paste, with red onion and piquant, roasted green peppers for an extra depth of flavour. Sides include perfectly-portioned servings of Pilavlar – or Turkish rice. There’s the traditional Baldo – or classic rice with vermicelli noodles – common throughout Levantine cuisine, and Meyhane Pilavı, a pilaf of bulghur – a cereal made from the groats of different wheat varieties – served with vegetables, herbs and a tomato base. It makes the perfect fodder to sop up the juices from the cuts of meat, and isn’t dissimilar in flavour and aroma from a Spanish pilaf.

We dig in first to the classic İskender Kebap, Turkey’s most famous of dishes since the 19th century. Lush, thinly-sliced cuts of roasted lamb topped with a fragrant tomato sauce and rich, thick yogurt, it’s served with buttered slices of Turkish bread. When we ask the chef for some fresh garlic, our request is quickly accommodated, as our waiter hurries back with a bowl of rich olive oil, made fragrant by freshly-crushed cloves of garlic – which, when drizzled on top of our lamb chops and kebabs, adds a lush element that accentuates the flavours of each dish. 

The Kuzu Pirzola, or char-grilled lamb chops also crackle on the plate; their crispy rind of fat melting on the tongue while the meat tenderly falls off the bone. Each medallion is topped with an emulsion of tomato, garlic, and herb purée and, with a little of the garlic drizzle on top, makes for the perfect indulgence. As does the Beyti Sarma, a fragrant, melt-in-your-mouth lamb kofta deftly seasoned with herbs and garlic, and wrapped in a comforting layering of levash bread.

If you find yourself still craving something sweet after a feast such as this, A’la offers an array of traditional Turkish and Arab delicacies that should only be consumed with one of their potent cups of Turkish coffee – served in its own sterling silver chalice with a wee square of Turkish delight to balance its rich notes of cardamom.

We’re served honey-drizzled pistachio Baklava – a classic, yet done exceptionally well at A’la. Rather than being somewhat hard to chew, its light layers of phyllo pastry are like air, hiding a sweet bounty of nuts and honey within, and is served with a dollop of Turkish vanilla mastic ice cream. The most playful of treats, this sticky-sweet dose of dairy is more fudge than soft-serve, as the namesake plant resin of which it’s infused makes it an ooey-gooey experience that’s both rich and satisfying.

With only a handful of fine-dining Turkish restaurants cropping up across Qatar, A’la Turkish Cuisine sets a solid bar for quality, service, authenticity, and richness of flavour. We leave satisfied, full, and curious about the many other options on its extensive menu that will leave you with a headful of culinary memories, and wanting to book that ticket to Antalya as soon as possible.

About A’la Turkish Cuisine

Location: 30 La Croissette, Parcel 17, Porto Arabia, The Pearl-Qatar

Timings: 12 noon till 11:00 p.m., Sun-Wed

                 12 noon till 12 midnight, Thursday

                 9:00 a.m. till 12 midnight, Fri-Sat

Prices: QR 25, Roka Salatası

              QR 25, Çoban Salatası

              QR 21, Ezme

              QR 30, Pide Ceşitleri

              QR 25, Meyhane Bulghur Pilavı

              QR 90, İskender Kebap

              QR 90, Kuzu Pirzola

              QR 90, Beyti Sarma

              QR 45, Baklava

Contact: (+974) 4468-5597

                 (+974) 5046-4285

                 www.alaturkishcuisine.qa

Tell us what your favourite Turkish dish is in the comments below and don’t forget to give us a like and a share – it keeps us going!