Le Safran restaurant has moved on up to a new location, and owner Mitta Kol has opened an inviting new hotel, too
UPON pushing open the heavy door of Le Safran-La Suite, one is immediately seduced by the space’s luscious inner courtyard. On the left, a few tables rest under a canopy of thick green foliage while on the right, a glistening swimming pool surrounded by palm trees tempts visitors into its cool, turquoise waters.
Inside the newly opened hotel, warmly coloured décor is the perfect home for the soft music that quietly circulates the space, drifting over the surface of display cases that are home to treats such as moist quiches, lemon tarts and a tempting assortment of cakes.
Wandering through the hotel’s lobby, a peek inside the small curio shop is worth the time as it’s filled with an array of Khmer arts and crafts. Right next door lies a small art gallery, currently exhibiting paintings by Savann Thav, a Cambodian artist based in France. And, something possibly never done in Phnom Penh before, everything from the artworks to the sleek furniture are available for purchase.
The brains behind the Le Safran-La Suite concept is chef Mitta Kol. Already well-known and loved for her previously established French-Khmer restaurant Le Safran, she decided to resettle the eatery in the former confines of the Scandinavia hotel on Street 288.
With the 14 guest rooms and sprawling 95-square-metre presidential suite as her foundations, Mitta Kol has managed to turn the space into a strongly focused concept hotel, creating and unifying a range of intelligent design elements.
Aside from the beautiful accommodations, loyalists to the Le Safran restaurant need not worry that attention has been turned away from the gastronomical delights that have made the Le Safran name synonymous with top-notch nosh.
The chef’s take on Khmer cuisine is a traditional one, with Mitta Kol explaining that rather than adhering to new trends in cooking, she instead stays true to the flavours that have made Cambodia’s food famous.
Sitting down to eat, dishes arrive that are rare to encounter in Phnom Penh’s restaurants, such as nataing, a soufflé of rice with minced pork, coconut milk and spices served with black rice; and the saraman, a simmered beef dish cooked with coconut milk, spices and peanuts.
It must be said that Mitta Kol’s talent really shines when she combines food with her flair for innovative ideas, bringing them together as one. For example, in addition to her traditional French dishes such as boeuf bourguignon, blanquette of veal and sirloin with mustard, she’s added an unexpected option to the menu: couscous.
“I can also make Lebanese cooking,” she laughs. “The customers come here to taste a little bit of everything, so if one asks for a special dish, I do it.”
The restaurant’s clientele is predominately comprised of expats seeking delicious food at decent prices. Entrees cost between $4 and $7, while a steaming serve of Mitta Kol’s specialty Khmer hotpot will set you back between $7 and $15.
It’s clear Mitta Kol’s aims of introducing a wave of change in her life and establishing Le Safran-La Suite as a venue in a league of its own have been quickly realised. But while the stunning hotel, moreish food and excellent staff consistently impress, the real key to the chef’s success comes down to one basic, yet integral ingredient: her recipes, derived from her grandmother’s time as a cook to King Norodom Sihanouk in the Royal Palace.