The culinary map of Doha has been updated with the opening of Jiwan for its soft launch back in December. As our appetite for all things delicious continues to grow, FACT sat down to hear all about Jiwan’s culinary flair from the chefs themselves…

In March 2019, we witnessed one of the most exceptional events that Qatar had seen locally. The 10-year wait for the reveal of the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) which saw A-list celebrities around the world flock to our shores. We were not just in awe of them, but mostly of this master piece by Jean-Nouvel.

Over the course of the year, NMoQ had been giving us various updates; there was a gift shop there, new installations, interactive games for children and finally, my favourite, the opening of Jiwan, the Qatari restaurant led by Executive Chef Damien Leroux and Head Chef Jeremy Cheminade. So, when life knocks on your door and gives you the chance to sit with world-class chefs of this calibre, you RUN towards the opportunity.

I entered Jiwan and felt a sense of calmness take over. The concept has a soothing vibe, paying an ode to its name ‘Jiwan’, meaning the ‘perfect pearl’. The sandy tones of the carpet, the Swarovski beads dancing from the chandelier caught the sunlight and shone on the interior, making you notice the ‘desert and sea’ concept as you eventually notice the carpet colour subtly mixing with hues of blue. The décor inspires an exciting sensory journey that we’re thrilled to begin. Koichi Takada really fixates on the smallest of details to capture the essence of Qatar with this project.

Greetings were exchanged and chef Damien dove right into   his usual hospitality that I now know as his trademark. The conversation started with how Jiwan came into being. As we continued to talk about life in Doha and our preference of cuisine, conversation flowed easily. Damien moved to Doha in 2017 after receiving the opportunity to be the Executive Chef of IDAM.  He might be trained by one of the best in the field but his own personality gives his food certain characteristics that you will fall in love.

As Chef Jeremy joins us, Jiwan takes on a whole new level for me. This is why I love knowing the backstories of such places! The two chefs came together the same way the desert and sea were the inspiration; the rosy tint on a white pearl of the interior merged with the dynamic shades of teal water.

I excused myself and went to enjoy the view from the al fresco dining area where it seemed like time just stood still. I noticed that even the outdoor seating complimented the design theme of the entire restaurant; the majlis was were decorated across the terrace to make sure everyone had their privacy.

The quick break was all Chef Jeremy needed to relax as he took charge of the conversation and guided us to the kitchen to show us how they had put together the cutlery to amplify the colours of the food on the plate. Everything came together beautifully. As he was in his element there, I focused on Jeremy to continue the conversation because you could see his love for making food come to life the minute that he started talking about how Qatar had initially been a challenge to him. Imagine taking weeks to learn how to make rice according to the people’s taste?

The gastronomical journey needed a Jiwan trademark so the chefs took it in their own hands to make sure the right spices went into these creations, giving NMoQ one of the best culinary twists. The chef’s made sure they explored more nooks and corners of the city – on foot – including Souq Waqif! After experimenting with different kinds of saffron and not finding the taste that they had in mind, they came across a small shop in the neighbourhood of the museum and voila! Perfection in Saffron form of course.

That being just one story of one of the spices, imagine the effort that went into this project from the team. Where Damien had gotten used to Doha, Jeremy was still coming into his own outside the kitchen as well. Speaking of the lush history and icon that the museum is, there was only one thing on their mind for this restaurant; excellence. The textures and flavour of the food rose from the Bedouin tales of the country and using fire, water, air and earth as part of the cooking techniques. Inspired by the movements of the sea, the menu was in complete harmony with the notion of using Qatar’s nature and rich traditions making the food simple yet savvy.

The sharing style of the restaurant and its modern, contemporary touch to the ever-loved Qatari cuisine makes Jiwan exactly what we need; a place to get together and just enjoy the moment. You can get lucky by experiencing the sunset and watch the restaurant come to life, a reflection of the sun shining on the sand and sea, whilst you indulge your taste buds with world-class flavours. ✤