It was Leakhana’s 29th birthday yesterday and after showering her with gifts ( including a box of treasure sent over from Australia by Auntie Bell and a generous present from Mum and Dad ) we headed out for a nice dinner. Many months ago at a private networking lunch for businessmen held at Raffles I met a very suave French Khmer chap called Armand who had just opened his bistro on 108 st. I had been hearing very good reviews from those that went there so I booked a table for two and we were able to easily park directly opposite which is always half the battle when you go out in Phnom Penh.
The restaurant itself is very stylish and you get a good feeling as you approach the rich wooden doors that show a warm convivial glow coming form inside . Upon entry we are greeted by Armand and I am really loving the small bistro tables with little table lights, the well stocked bar, the wood lined walls and the cream leather furniture with dark piping. Menu, in true French bistro style, is on blackboards on the walls. Mark Lind from Sokha Hotels is there so we have a chat and Armand sends over a complimentary plate of cold meats and bread as I have mentioned it is my wife’s birthday. I order a bottle of house merlot and decide to leave the food completely to Armand. I know he cooks the food right at your table so I figure he knows what he is doing and I really don’t feel like ranging over a menu. I simply stipulate beef and Leakhana wants duck. With an “a oui….voila !” Armand disappears for a while and we are left to bask in the understated but chic surroundings.
After a little while I get hungry because it is now after 8pm and as Armand shows no sign of staring to cook and no-one has asked us when we want to eat, I call him over and it is here there is the only one slightly odd moment of the night. I am told ” one must learn to wait for good food !” in a rather snooty tone and I cannot tell if this is a joke or not. There is not grin to support the joke ( if it one ?) so I am left wondering whether I should jokingly remind Armand that it is the customers right to request their meal be served. Not a big deal and Armand is soon wheeling over his little cooking trolly which has a single burner on it. With a splash of something alcoholic Leakhana’s duck flambe goes up in a blue flame and is soon served with a delicate side of string beans and fried potato. My Australian beef soon follows but as he is doing one meal at a time….Leakhana has had to start hers before me which I also found a bit odd. I like to eat with my wife thanks very much. HOWEVER the food spoke for itself. Both meals were just delicious in their simplicity and a testament to how a good chef can really create ambiance with his craft . I am a big fan of seeing my food cooked and have always loved tepinyaki restaurants and glass fronted or open kitchens for this reason. To watch Armand cook is just a real pleasure and the whole restaurant ( now full with diners albeit only 12 or so bums ! ) stops while he does it. I order a slice of chocolate cake and put a candle on it and Armand, Mark and I sing happy birthday to Leakhana. In a nice gesture Mark sends a Flambe Alaska to the table for me which Armand torches right in front of the table.
We will certainly go back to this slice of Paris in Phnom Penh. The meal was superb but even for a drink it is a lovely place. Total cost for a bottle of merlot, two mains, 1 cocktail, 1 glass house white, 1 dessert was $66.
No 33, Street 108
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Tel. 015 548 966
Open at 5pm
All photos courtesy of this blog