Review: Oriental Kitchen (Najma, Doha)

I enjoyed my experience here. That being said, I found the food to be pretty oily, less flavorful than expected, and a little expensive for what you get.

I want to start by saying this was my first foray into Malaysian or Malaysian-style cuisine. As such, I can’t speak to whether or not the dishes are authentic-tasting. I read the other Zomato reviews before I went, and other people in a better position to judge say that it is, so I accept that.

In preparation for my visit, I read a few articles on Malaysian cuisine (as I do), and made a list of the dishes most commonly mentioned in the Zomato reviews to help narrow down the menu.

Based on these suggestions, my dining companion and I ordered a survey of the menu (as we do). They have a huge menu, so we didn’t get full coverage, but we did our best.

We got vegetarian eggrolls for a starter, not because anyone else had recommended them (no one did) but because we consider eggrolls to be our baseline or “control group” for Asian restaurants in general. We order them everywhere we go. We also ordered the Omelette Fried Rice, Sambal Beef, Sambal Chicken, Lemon Chicken, and Fried Malaysian Noodles. We didn’t get the Butter Prawns, but only because my buddy is allergic to shrimp. 😦

Overall, I enjoyed the flavor combinations. That being said, nothing was as bright or as spicy as I was expecting based on the Zomato reviews and the articles I had read. My dining companion has eaten Malaysian cuisine on multiple occasions during his time in Taiwan and Thailand, which is why he had chosen this place for our weekly excursion. He said the flavors were less “crisp” and more “gucky” (whatever that means in New Zealand-ese) than he had expected.

The eggrolls were OK, but they didn’t fully live up to their potential. They were different than the tightly rolled, crunchy cigars you normally get in Asian restaurants in the area. They were larger and looser than usual, and clearly prepared in-house, which was a plus. I liked the filling, but I was disappointed by the texture of the wrapper. It was limp and saturated with oil, as if they were slowly deep fried in cool oil instead of flash fried. They were as hot as the sun, so it wasn’t that they had been allowed to sit. If they would have been crispier and less oily, these would be in contention for my favorite egg rolls in Doha.

The Omelette Fried Rice was awesome. It was a standout for me. I liked the idea of placing the fried rice in a blanket of eggs. It tasted like the fried rice I expect from most Asian places, but it gets a +1 for presentation.

Based on other Zomato reviews, I was expecting (and hoping for) the Sambal dishes to melt my face off. Sadly, neither of us even broke a sweat. The Sambal Chicken was the standout for me. The Sambal Beef was kind of disappointing. Both had the same good sauce, flavorful and pungent from the chilis and fish sauce. However, the beef in the Sambal Beef wasn’t as soft or velvety as I was expecting. It was surprisingly tough and chewy, and as a result we ended up leaving a few on the plate.

The Malaysian Fried Noodles were pretty good. As with the other dishes, they were really oily. They reminded me of the sort of fried noodles you’d get from a street vendor. Again, in terms of flavor I was expecting spicy and instead got mild.

The Lemon Chicken was an interesting experience. It was chunks of fried chicken sitting in what almost seemed like a thin lemon curd or lemon custard sauce. It was quite sweet. I enjoyed a few tastes of it because it was a novel idea to me. Where I’m from, we have fried chicken and waffles, so the idea of sweet and savory makes sense. I liked it, but I wouldn’t order this as my only dish.

My dining companion was distraught because Oriental Kitchen does not serve any desserts. The sweetest things we had available were the Lemon Chicken and the iced milk coffees. The coffees were quite tasty, and reminded me of a cross between Thai Iced Coffee and Vietnamese Iced Coffee. Stronger espresso flavor than the Thai version, but sweeter than the Vietnamese version.

The staff was friendly and helpful, but not overbearing. They didn’t constantly check in on us, but if we needed them it was easy to flag them down. I actually prefer that kind of service, right in between being completely ignored and being hovered over.

The interior ambiance is done in red. It is not a big place, but they keep it cool inside and it is pretty cozy. It wasn’t packed when we were there, but being at about 80% occupancy on a Saturday night is pretty impressive. I can see how this place would be bumping on the weekends or at lunch.

Others have mentioned the parking problem. The neighborhood was busy, yes. But I found a parking space in like five minutes. And as I have said before, all you need is one spot, so I never let that dissuade me from going out someplace. And it’s also never an excuse to order takeout instead of sitting down and eating fresh from the kitchen, haha.

All told, we spent about QR 200, including a healthy tip. The food and drink ended up being about QR 160. For everything we ordered, that’s pretty good. That being said, the portion sizes were a little small to be charging QR 25 for in this part of town. We cleaned our plates and left feeling quite full, but for that amount of money in this part of town, we should have been gored and still carrying out take-home bags. And don’t forget to bring cash; they don’t take cards.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience here. But I was expecting to LOVE my experience here, and I didn’t. I was expecting bright and bold flavors. I got good flavors, but they were muted in comparison to what I thought I would experience. I was expecting light and energizing dishes. Instead, I got heavy and oily.

But it wasn’t bad at all. If someone suggests coming here in the future, I will not steer us elsewhere. But I am probably not going to come back unless someone does.

RATED: 3.5/5

Oriental Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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One thought on “Review: Oriental Kitchen (Najma, Doha)

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