The opulence of Kaviar, Phnom Penh’s first Iranian restaurant, was obvious before I even stepped through the door. Its minimalist white exterior and brightly lit patio, draped in greenery, gave the restaurant the appearance of a high-end nightclub at first glance.
The interior is a modern take on Middle Eastern decor, with small, dim chandeliers hanging over each table – which were intricately carved from the building’s old wooden gate. A row of glass spheres are suspended over the bar.
As the restaurant was this week still in its “soft opening” phase, the dinner menu was limited to a three-course set menu for $55 for two people. The price has since risen to $55 per person.
We started with a choice of a mojito lychee or pomegranate margarita – neither of which fits with the otherwise halal food offerings, but which were both thoroughly refreshing. Then the waiter brought us an elaborate appetizer platter of tabouli and shirazi salads, dishes of hummus, sautéed eggplant and fried onion, brown bread and flatbread.
The gigantic main course, accompanied with glasses of red wine, consisted of an enormous pile of skewered grilled meats: minced chicken, beef, lamb and fish kebabs, prawns and lamb chops. The course also included another Iranian favourite, koresh-e-fesnjan. Served with basmati rice, the thick pomegranate and walnut stew comes with a braised duck leg. It’s perhaps too sweet for some Western tastes, but certainly an interesting combination of flavours.
Although intended for two people, the meal left three of us stuffed and it could easily feed four. Fortunately, dessert was limited to a few small pastries, including a bite-sized chocolate cake and a baklava. Surprisingly, caviar itself was not included in the menu – manager Gwen Rognant said they are still working with their Iranian suppliers to get a reliable supply chain.
With the restaurant still in its infancy, it will be interesting to see the direction Kaviar takes. An a la carte menu was not far off, said Rognant. Belly dancing performances will also become a weekend fixture, she added.
Kaviar’s large and luxurious space give it the potential to become a new hotspot for well-heeled expats and upper-crust locals. All that is missing is the caviar.
Kaviar is located on Street 55 at the corner of 242 and is open from 11am until late. Call 017 390 066 for reservations.