Subscribe Search

Search form

Fish and snails and puppy dog tales

Fish and snails and puppy dog tales

13a lemongrass

One evening last week, I was wandering around my home in Russian Market after work, tired, hungry and frustrated. Street food wouldn’t cut it. I felt like something fancy. Then, I stumbled upon L’Orchide – a warm, red-painted eatery heralded by lush trees lit by lanterns. A sign promised Khmer, Vietnamese and French specials, and a boisterous puppy stood in the doorway.
I was sold. The tiny ball of fluff – the kind with hair so shaggy it’s hard to tell which end is which – jumped up and put its paws on me.
L’Orchide smoothly combines comfort and style. Cuddly cats sidled around marble tables, others rested on the terracotta tiles.  It’s the kind of place where groups of jovial Frenchman come to laugh and toast their health with red wine. “A santé!” They looked full-hearted and fuller-bellied.
The hostess guided me to a table, while her husband, Patrice, started reading through the menu, making recommendations. Thanks in part to the owner’s disarming charm, and to my own excitement at finding a place so chic near Russian Market, I ordered everything.
The dumplings – some of the best I have ever tasted – came first. Delicious, crispy on the outside and soft inside – not like the chewy, hard feel of their fried, oil-soaked counterparts. Patrice boils them in water for just a few seconds – it closes their pores so they won’t absorb too much fat and harden in the frying process, he says.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Shaggy, boisterous Kenzo. Photograph: Scott Howes

I had my suspicions about the crab. I never order crab – it’s too messy for public consumption. But these were worth it. They came in an iron pot, steamed and fried with glass noodles and subtly spiced with lemon grass, chilli and pepper. The crab was juicy, but the noodles, crispy and the fact that they got stuck on the bottom of the pot made for more crispy goodness.
I also never order the ubiquitous fish amok. But at L’Orchide, I went for it – because Patrice said so. Juicy fish pieces complimented by fresh lemon grass came in an elaborately folded banana leaf.
With the fluffy puppy, Kenzo, on my lap, I eagerly awaited the dessert.
Patrice is a master of mousse. It tastes so au chocolat, he says, because he uses less sugar and an exact amount of egg white, weighed to the gram. The result is an intense chocolate explosion on the tongue as soon as the stiff and fluffy foam melts.
After the chocolate came the espresso. Patrice arrived as soon as I put down my spoon with his surprise du chef: Patrice foams up sugar with the first strong espresso drops that condense in the Italian coffee maker. Creamy and good enough to be eaten pure, the crème makes a perfect garnish that evenly covers a hot cup of strong espresso.
Another red wine arrived arrived, and some friends. We stayed until 2am. Plans abandoned, we ordered one carafe after another, joked with Patrice and his wife, and played with Kenzo.  
Magical. L’Orchide is the dream of a Frenchman bursting with joie de vivre who built himself a restaurant, had his wife paint it red and filled it with pets. He also happens to make the best chocolate mousse in town. It’s nothing less than a fairytale – and, thankfully, he’s willing to share it.


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australians protest Asean summit visit by PM Hun Sen

    Hundreds of protesters gathered in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Friday to protest against Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, who claimed to have been gifted millions of dollars by the Australian government ahead of a special Asean summit this weekend. An estimated 300 protesters, the majority of

  • American ‘fugitive’ arrested in Cambodia outside of US Embassy

    An American citizen was arrested on request by the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, according to Cambodian police. Major General Uk Hei Sela, chief of investigations at the Department of Immigration, identified the man as American Jan Sterling Hagen, and said he was

  • One Australian, one Cambodian killed in explosion at military base

    Updated: 5:20pm, Friday 16 March 2018 An Australian tourist and a Cambodian soldier were killed in an explosion on Thursday afternoon at an army base in Cambodia’s Kampong Speu province. The Australian, whom the government initially identified as a technical demining expert in his 40s, and