The new executive chef at Dara Airport Hotel, Ban Chamreun, prepares a great deal of Chinese food because so many of the customers are Chinese.
The Blue Sky Restaurant, on the fifth floor adjacent to the reception area, has Chinese specialties including crab meat with fish maw soup, stir fried scallops with XO sauce, as well as braised abalone with mushroom and broccoli on the menu to cater for the Chinese guests, many of whom work in Phnom Penh’s garment factories.
The Dara Airport Hotel, which opened last year, is in the Ratana Plaza complex just to the left off Russian Boulevard at the stoplight, several hundred metres before Attwood Center on the way to the airport.
Chef Ban Chamreun, the eldest of seven children from a Kandal province family, started out cooking for his brothers and sisters when his mother was busy.
He’s old friends with chef Luu Meng who helped him learn his trade at the Sunway Hotel back in 1997.
He later worked at the Micasa Hotel which became the Himawari in 2004, and stayed there until late 2010 before helping Sarpino’s Pizza get their kitchen systems in order.
Since September last year, he’s been executive chef at Dara Airport Hotel.
While Ban Chamreun shaped an international menu with a fusion of Asian and western dishes, he spends a lot of his time preparing Chinese banquets.
He’s also proficient in preparing Khmer, Thai and Japanese cuisine.
During his years in the trade, he studied with a number of talented chefs, traveled to Singapore for training and spent time learning about US meat products.
“Because about 60 per cent of our customers are Chinese, we focus on preparing the best Chinese food,” he said.
Other Chinese dishes include three kingdom fried rice, crispy fried pigeon, crispy boneless duck, braised sea cucumber with mushroom and broccoli, Japanese scallops, steamed garupa with black bean sauce, steamed river lobster with garlic and wine, grilled river lobster with Sichuan sauce, and crispy fried river lobster.
The fresh live river lobsters arrive from Neak Lueng on the Tonle Sap.
His Chinese soups include crab meat, black chicken mad double mushroom soup. One special Chinese dessert offered ishasma with raw sugar and ginseng.
During his years in fine hotel kitchens, Ban Chamreun was lucky to work with a sous chef who specialised in Chinese cooking, and later at the Himiwari, he studied with a Singaporean chef.
Blue Sky’s western menu includes Greek salad, prawn and avocado salad, French onion soup and asparagus soup as appetizers.
For main courses there’s US beef tenderloin and strip loin, with choices of vegetable and potato.
One favourite is US beef tenderloin with a macadamia nut crust. Other main courses include seared salmon with basil cream sauce, roast rack of lamb with rosemary sauce, chicken roulette with teriyaki sauce, fried sea bass with saffron and BBQ river lobster with tamarind sauce
For desserts, Blue Sky offers American cheesecake, apple puff pastry gelato, chocolate fudge and a variety of ice-cream.
The Blue Sky Restaurant is open from 6am until 11pm and provides 24-hour room service at Dara Airport Hotel.
“My practice as a chef is I would like to do everything in a minute, with fresh ingredients, live fish or seafood and then just peel and cook. Storage and freshness is the main point,” Ban Chamreun said.
He hopes to see more customers at lunch and dinner, more banquet events and invites everybody to come and try the food. Ban Chamreun recently prepared a banquet for 500 people.
According to Sam Herrera, the Dara Airport Hotel’s director of sales and marketing, the hotel’s new grand ballroom is now open and capable of handling 350 people in a banquet setting and 500 for cocktails as well as 300 as a classroom and 450 as a theatre.
Along with two other ballrooms with banquet capacities of 200 and 150 each, there are four additional meeting spaces including a private room in the Blue Sky Restaurant with room for 30 people in a banquet setting, the sky deck terraces which can accommodate 150 for dining and a boardroom-style business center for up to 10 people.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]