Chefs at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra fired up the grills at Fu Lu Zu for the first time last week, ushering in the eighth of the new hotel’s new restaurants and bars.
The options include Chinese, Japanese and Italian restaurants, a chocolatiere, an Old World bar, two poolside eateries and La Coupole, featuring Western and Asian buffets.
The hotel’s flagship eatery, La Coupole, was named for a landmark Parisian brasserie. Like its counterpart, the restaurant is large, seating 160 in a dramatic space. Grand columns demarcate the restaurant into more intimate spaces. A custom-made Molteni stove anchors a show kitchen, and three wrought-iron chandeliers hang from seven-metre ceilings La Coupole’s menu covers East and West, from pomelo salad to foie gras, from roasted salmon to fish amok.
Housed in its own building overlooking the pool deck and canal, and steered by Italian chef Do Forni is the latest of half-dozen Italian restaurants in Phnom Penh. An imposing, brick pizza oven dominates the 64-seat restaurant’s show kitchen, hence the name Do Forni (From the Oven). A timber-frame ceiling and semi-circular leather couches play up the ambience of a steak house out of the American Midwest.
But the wine list is long on Italy. Dining selections take in an Australian rack of lamb, Wagyu beef fillet and crispy red snapper.
At Hachi, the aesthetics are all-Japan, from the slate black floors, rice paper screens and tatami mats in six private dining rooms. The hotel’s director of food and beverage travelled to Japan to invest in chinaware, bento boxes and sake.
“There are 23 types of sake, most of which come from small, not very well-known breweries in Japan,” said Giuliano Callegaro, director of food and beverage. “Our highest grade of sake is sourced out of a 700-year-old distillery in Kobi, where the quality of the water determines the quality of the brew.”
While Hachi occupies a spot in the main hotel building, midway between La Coupole and the lobby, Fu Lu Zu cultivates age-old ambience in a separate building near the sports club. Here, the Chinese menu spans braised bird’s nest and mainstays such as lobster, crab and barbequed pork. There are six private rooms or a communal experience in an 82-seat dining room.
Plush red seats and a dramatic coffered ceiling are dominant notes in the restaurant’s atmosphere. Saturday and Sunday mornings are reserved for dim sum. Unlike most restaurants in Phnom Penh, Fu Lu Zu will remain open until the wee hours of the morning.
In the hotel lobby, Le Bar’s food menu is casual, running from beef burgers to wonton soup. But its drinks menu is anything but. Eight kinds of martinis vie with eight champagne-based cocktails and nearly 20 labels of single malt scotch.
The delicious smell drifting through the hotel lobby comes from Chocolat, a small, European-style gourmet shop complete with a chocolate fountain. They’re turning out all things chocolate here, from éclairs to candy to fondue. But there will also be fresh pastries and bread. The espresso experience aims to be the best in town.
As the hotel’s team of five head chefs season their individual operations, Callegaro expects to host at least one wine dinner each month and envisions cooking classes.