By Ashlee Starratt
Selected photography by Abshar Kader
To walk into the Marriott Marquis City Center Doha’s Ipanema restaurant is to be inundated with a festive litany of primary colours. Greens, yellows, blues, and every shade of the tropic rainbow invites you to sit, eat, sip, and let the rhythms of the Amazon carry you somewhere new – and flavourful.
The concept behind the hotel’s signature restaurant is simple – South American comfort food at its coziest, in portions you can control with the flip of a coaster. Meaning ‘barbecue’ in Portuguese, the ‘churrascaria’ dining experience is a meat-lover’s paradise – and with 15 different sizzling varieties, carved table-side from skewers in all their juices, there’s bound to be at least one (or six!) you can’t get enough of. If you leave Ipanema hungry, then you’re willfully trying to.
It’s just after sunset on a lazy Sunday when we arrive for an early dinner. After a busy weekend, with the brunch crowd out in full force, there’s a more leisurely ambiance this evening – which is nice for a change as it also means an increased level of attentiveness and service. We’re seated at a comfortable banquette table near the stage. Decorated with samba drums and feathered Carnival headdresses, it’s where Brazilian band Sambaca performs throughout the week – turning the dining experience into a party.
Before heading over to our table we stop for a chilled refreshment in the laid-back lounge area. The restaurant has recently revived its beverage menu to include 35 different varieties of Brazilian libation – and this isn’t the only new element up their sleeves. Ipanema Sous Chef Sayed Bashir and his culinary team have been mixing up the offerings to showcase a range of flavours that complement the authenticity of Brazilian cuisine, while enticing a regional palate.
Before the parade of meat gets under way, we make our way down to the back of the restaurant where the small, yet ample, buffet station awaits. This is where hungry diners are meant to dress their plates in anticipation for the main event. From traditional Brazilian chicken soup, to salad stations and cold starters such as classic Arabic mezze – or poke poke octopus (a tangy chopped seafood medley), and palm-heart salad for the more adventurous, the focus on variety is deliciously evident.
Not to be missed is their hot station, where the best of Brazil truly shines. We fill our plates to brimming with Amazonian portions of all the traditional accoutrements. There’s feijão preto, the classic black beans that are the staple of every Brazilian meal. Next up is baiao de dois – or beans and rice – another humble offering packed with flavour augmented by the cheeky inclusion of succulent shredded beef. It’s a dish that, topped with a dollop of fresh pico salsa on top, melts in your mouth. This is followed by the unique vatapa – a nuttybaiana purée with nuts and sautéed shrimp. Russet in colour, it’s similar to a stew, with a flavour that’s both savoury and sweet from the tender shrimp.
Chef Bashir tells us that he and his team roll out new concepts for the salad and buffet station every three months, and recommends we try a cup of the tangy, piquant ceviche. Though this seafood dish made from fresh, raw fish or prawns cured in citrus juices is found all over the coastal regions of Latin and South America, the widest varieties can be found in Peru – and the Brazilians have acquired a taste for it.
Back at our table we tuck in and flip our coasters from red to green – letting Ipanema’s ranks of passadores know to bring on the cuts, as we’re ready receive. First up are tender, crispy chicken wings, barbecued to fall-off-the-bone perfection, this is followed by beef sausages, and lamb chops as succulent as they come. Chef Bashir tells us that he likes to keep his diners guessing as he tickles their palates with new tastes on a monthly basis.
For the first time in February they included cuts of duck and ostrich in the sizzling rotation, while March’s specialty is a buttery-soft Waygu top-side beef. Pacing ourselves is key in order to sample the full spectrum. Highlights for us included the iconic picanha, -- a delicate sirloin cap made famous across the coals of Brazilian grills; the garlic roast beef – crispy, succulent and bursting with fragrant juices, and the beef short ribs which are so tender they practically dissolve on your tongue.
Getting full already? No problem. Flip your coaster back to red and the feast subsides until you say so. Table-top accompaniments include puckery, fresh pico, salty-savoury chimichurri sauce, fried plantains, and potato wedges. And who needs dessert when there’s slices of freshly-grilled pineapple, coated in a char of caramelized brown sugar and cinnamon to be had between carvings? Although, there are some luscious options.
There’s a flambé fruit station if you’re feeling like being healthy after all that cholesterol, or top it with some sinfully creamy dulce de leche if you’re not. Our eyes wander to the colourful station of Brazilian sweets – classic chocolatebrigadeiro, and manjar – a coconut custard reminiscent in texture of a crème caramel.
Food is about sharing; it should make you smile to think of it – and to eat it. Food is also a way to learn about one another, sampling a culture that we’d like to explore through the dishes that speak from its heart. And Ipanema, has a lot to say.
About Ipanema Brazilian Churrascaria
2nd Floor, Marriott Marquis City Center Doha
Dinner – 6:30 p.m. till 11:30 p.m., daily
Sundowners Happy Hour – 5:30 p.m. till 7:30 p.m.
Friday brunch – 12:30 p.m. till 3:30 p.m.
Dinner – QR 245 (food only)
Beverages prices a la carte
Friday brunch – QR 245 (soft drinks)
QR 345 (house beverages)
Have you experienced a meal at Ipanema? Tell us what you think of Brazilian cuisine in the comments below, and don’t forget to give us a like and a share – it keeps us going!
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