The city of Doha has a neighborhood called Msheireb that is expanding quickly with new construction. They pay respect to Qatari culture while also being accessible and modern in style. With its cheery green sign announcing that you have arrived at Punjab Restaurant, a little, squat building has been unaltered in Doha for years.
Between the time Punjab served us a fantastic meal and the time this piece was written, the restaurant had moved a few buildings away, and its former location was being transformed into another use. Due to Doha’s rapid expansion, regions like Punjab’s traditional charm are all the more alluring.
Abdul Hameed opened the restaurant in 1971, starting off in a small business where he could only produce a few samosas and barbecued foods. He opened a second shop, which he called Lahore, after putting in some time and effort. The meal was kept simple and included just of biryanis, brain curry, and grilled foods. He continued to grow the business while working with his son, Sajid Pervez Hameed, until they established a restaurant that was a true pillar of the Pakistani community in Doha. After Abdul Hameed and his family were bought out by his business partners, Lahore was rebranded as Punjab in 2015.
The eatery is the straightforward kind that lets you know up front that you’re about to enjoy a fantastic Pakistani meal produced by chefs who know what they’re doing. It was established 40 years ago and has never once acknowledged “keeping up with the times” since its administrators are confident in its proven business model.
The restaurant includes two dining rooms, a men’s area, and an upstairs dining area for families or mixed groups that has its own entrance, similar to many eateries in Doha’s older neighbourhoods. Men who are not accompanied by women are not permitted to dine in the family sector, however, women are permitted to do so in either location.
As you enter, the kitchen is visible on your right behind large glass panels, where you can see the cooks preparing food in front of blazing flames and massive karahis (wok-like pans used in South Asian cooking). Two guys are manning a tandoor oven that is concealed from immediate view, slapping bread onto its walls and removing it with long hooks as it bakes.
A menu with the headline “Authentic Desi Food in Doha!” is placed on the table. The restaurant provides over 350 dishes and promotions every day of the week, making it a difficult document to read. Fortunately, Khan shows in at that very moment dressed in a pressed shalwar kameez, fresh and unperturbed.