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Italian makeover revives city eatery

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Although the decor is a little off-putting at times, the Riverside’s Miro is worth the visit under its new management. Photograph: Alexander Crook/7Days

Heralded by an overblown silver sign on one side of Sihanouk, Miro used to be the byword for disappointment. Main courses were astronomically priced, but the French fare was lacklustre and waiters stood tapping on their phones. In the last few weeks, however, the new management - the people behind city favourite Elyxir - has established one of the most sophisticated but best value Italian eateries in town.

At $10 for three courses, the business menu is a steal. To start, we opted for the antipasti, a splendid selection: rolls of roasted aubergine stuffed with cream cheese, curls of pancetta, sun-dried tomato and succulent artichoke hearts. Sea-bass to follow was lemony and crisp. Raw celery seemed an oddly and jarringly crunchy accompaniment but the creamy caviar sauce compensated for the off-note.

Service was quick, friendly and attentive but not overbearing. The same could sadly not be said of the décor. Stained-glass windows and create a Gothic-futurist feel which is generally tasteful—until it comes to the walls. Hordes of enormous funereal family portraits loomed down. Gormless semi-orgasmic French actresses proved more off-putting than erotic.

But after we sampled the dessert options, it was hard not to be left squirming and open-mouthed. Chocolate mousse, served in soup bowl portions, was dense, syrupy and deliciously smooth with a kick of cointreau. Tiramisu tasted even better: fluffy mascarpone soaked in amaretto vanished on the tongue.

To round the meal off? A silver spiral staircase leads to the top level, which has been redone with the intention to create a relaxed lounge area rather than extra dining space.

“You can’t have an upstairs restaurant in Cambodia. With Khmer women and their tiny skirts? Not possible,” the Italian owner told us, with a degree of seriousness as he recounted rivals who have closed, apparently owing to the error.

The old Miro might have been in danger of joining the wastebasket of Phnom Penh’s ignored eateries, but the new one – if the quality and value are retained – could soon become a favourite.  

Miro is located at #43 Sihanouk Blvd.

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