Although it’s tucked away on a corner behind Wat Phnom, most expats in Phnom Penh are well aware of Doors Music and Tapas. But the venue is, on the whole, mainly celebrated for its live music nights, cocktails and evening ambience rather than its food menu.
Enter new chef Cristia Nou Picart. Fresh from Capella Hotel in Singapore, he hails from one of Europe’s food capitals, Barcelona. As well as introducing specials to the main menu, he’s also created a special set lunch menu for just $10. With doting staff, spacious décor, and the soundtrack of jazz to accompany the meal, eating it is a delight. The lunch menu comprises three courses, each with a choice of three dishes, and a coffee.
Each course was a blast to the senses. I ordered tomato and mozzarella on homemade bread to start, imagining it would be kept simple. But Picart put his heart and soul into the homemade bread, baking it in a Josper oven so its taste and texture retained the qualities of the freshest focaccia and the most doughy of pizza bases. The dish was like a miniature pizza, topped not only with tomato and mozzarella but also olives and basil. Accompanied by a fresh green salad and served on a wooden board, with a separate plate to eat from, it was the perfect appetiser. The other options were seafood soup and spring rolls.
For the main course, I could have ordered chicken breast or a variation on bolognaise pasta but, as I’m not usually much of a fish fanatic, I thought I’d be adventurous and chose the seabass with wild mushroom risotto. The skin of the fish was crispy, and its flesh fell easily onto my fork. The risotto, orange-brown in colour and slow-cooked until the taste of the mushrooms permeated the rice, acted as a bed underneath. It was a combination of foods I’d probably never think to put together, but they complemented each other well.
Dessert was exquisite. Always attracted to anything chocolatey, I thought I’d try my luck with the “chilli choco”, which was essentially cold, dark chocolate mousse infused with chili, wrapped in soft, fresh, pancake and decorated with chocolate flakes.
My only complaint was that I had to remind the staff to bring me the coffee included in the menu – but they did so very politely and without fail.
The set menu is incredibly good value for the quality of food, and if you’re more willing to part with your cash, Picart has also created a special tapas menu including innovative dishes such as red snapper tempura as well as the old Spanish favourites of Iberian ham croquettes, seafood paella and chorizo. I tasted the Spanish sausage, presented on a light slice of toast with a side salad. The chorizo, finely chopped and served with flakes of fried egg and potato, is in the running for the most delicate hangover breakfast there is. However, for top value and quality food, the lunch menu is a must-try for midday hunger.
Doors Music and Tapas, #18 on the corner of streets 47 and 84.