“Excuse me? Do you know where Melenzane is?”
“I’m sorry sir. I don’t know.”
That scene became quite familiar as it took me three attempts to finally locate where it was. Every time, mall employees seem puzzled (and even clueless) that a certain Italian restaurant exists in Gulf Mall. I wonder why.
A friend’s recommendation brought me here. A relatively new Italian restaurant on the first floor of Gulf Mall. If it is of any help, asking where TCC Technical Center is would make it a lot easier (I think).
It makes no wonder why this restaurant might easily be overlooked by regular mall goers. The overall look is on the dark side, and the dimly lit interior makes it even more unnoticeable if you’re from busy roaming around the mall. While I usually like dark painted walls and dimly lit rooms, I would have preferred this place to be a little more inviting.
Upside Down Quirk
The place was empty when I arrived. Everything was neatly arranged: plush pillows covered in faux leather were piled on one side, tables are tidy and plates are all set. It was like every element is on point and ready for a quick snapshot. But, one major problem: the room is so dark, taking a decent photo is close to impossible. I cranked up my ISO and set my aperture to max 1.8 and voila, it did the trick.
As I sit and observe how “interesting” the interior and choice of motif this restaurant was, I noticed that some of the backrests of the chairs are actually inverted. I smiled realizing how some tiny details make a place quite memorable. I continue taking some shots until I tilt my camera up and I was flabbergasted. I just noticed that a full-sized, nicely-cushioned sofa was hanging right above me upside down. And if that’s not yet enough, on the other side, a number of tables were inversely hanging and used as lamps. Only then I realized the whole upside down installation on the ceiling…of the entire place in general. Looking for a shocking first impression? I guess I got served.
Melenzane is loosely derived from the Italian word for eggplant which is “Melanzana”. Quite an interesting choice for a name I must say. But yeah, no judgment. I’ve heard a more absurd restaurant names in the past.
For a long while, I felt like a proper VIP having the entire place for myself. While the mall seems busy with people passing by, not a single one would enter considering that it was just about dinner time. As I enjoy that rare chance of having some exclusivity, I browsed the menu (through an iPad mini) and quickly, got mesmerized with the photos. It seems they know how to entice and I truly eat with my eyes. My friend soon came and we picked one dish after the other. If the food will still look as good as the ones in the photo, then I guess I am in for a treat. After all the restaurants I’ve been to the past couple of months, that expectations vs. reality failure happens very often.
Taking advantage that we were the only customers during my time of visit (until some locals came in towards the latter part), the service was quick and proper. Our orders came in no time and what a pleasant surprise, they looked amazing.
Considering that we ordered more than a normal two diners would ask, our food was served quick and proper. Nicely presented and with the right temperature, I must say that these photos looked very close (if not exactly) like the ones in the menu. The risotto balls were golden and crispy. It has the right balance of saltiness from the cheese and the sweet-sour contrast of the sundried tomato. I might keep forgetting the name of these (“Arancino Palla“), but I won’t forget ordering another serving of these yummy croquettes next time.
Madore takes you to an interesting play on your palette with that delectable combination of smoky grilled steak, natural sweetness from onion and red pepper, and that savory flavor from the gooey cheese combination. I just wish that the crust is a little bit thicker it can hold the toppings well. Otherwise, I ended up eating every slice like a New Yorker—folding in half.
Ricco Morso could easily pass as a meal on its own. A generous amount of sweet potato hash atop a succulent marinated tenderloin strips is a good combo for your favorite beer. Too bad, this place is dry.
The two pasta dishes were commendable. Nothing much to say about the sauce as both were sinfully creamy and rich. While I wish the pesto would be greener, I think the combination of aubergine topping and the mozzarella balls added such depth and even more richness to the sauce. The pink sauce, on the other hand, is an absolute treat if you are into cheese. It’s like your good old baked macaroni and cheese upping its ante switching to penne and adding a lot of fancy schmancy toppings. In one word: DELICIOUS.
While some of the reviews I read on Zomato claims that the portions have significantly reduced since Melenzane opened last year, I must say that it is still generous that even a heavy eater like myself was left full to the rim.
As a bunch of local kids and a couple of families started to come in, we took it as a cue to call in for our check and leave. The price I must say is still reasonable if you’ll consider the overall experience, and quality of the food being served. Sure, a lot might think that it is on the expensive side and tad overpriced. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the place remains empty considering that it is inside a shopping mall. But then again, the price is very justifiable with the service and quality.
We left the place with a grin thinking how often do you get pleasantly surprised by something in Doha. Melenzane remains an underrated place for Italian food but it is not hard to recommend the place to anyone who is up for a hearty Italian meal, in a cozy (and rather dark) ambiance…and well, that upside down thingamajig on the ceiling.
This is not a sponsored post. Meals mentioned in this Melenzane review were paid. The photos and opinions used are my own based on my experience.