Popular long-standing vegetarian Khmer restaurant Chamkar has opened a second branch, Chamkar House, off National Road Six. In contrast to its Pub Street-based predecessor, it is in a quiet street in a peaceful garden setting in a converted traditional wooden house.
Owner Nicolas Devaux says he decided to expand as the original eaterie no longer matched the atmosphere of the cuisine he wanted to provide to his customers.
“When I first opened Chamkar in 2008 in The Alley near Pub Street it was a quiet street with few restaurants and designer shops, where people could relax and enjoy themselves,” he says.
“Then it became busier and busier and I realised that the experience about pure natural cuisine I wanted to share with my customers didn't match the crowded and noisy area it had become. Also, I think that after a tiring day visiting temples, many people would like to relax in a peaceful place for dinner.”
The new Chamkar – the word itself meaning ‘field’ or ‘vegetable garden’ in Khmer – is in a traditional Cambodian house with an air-conditioned upstairs area. Devaux, who places great emphasis on fresh, local ingredients, has also planted a vegetable garden. “Being a vegetarian restaurant, I decided to create a vegetable garden for customers to discover the local vegetables, herbs and fruits we use in our cuisine,” he says. “You can see wild eggplant bushes, wax apple trees, holy basil plants and bitter gourd, and all organically grown.”
While there will be some old favourites from the original venue, Chamkar House will feature some new dishes.
“The new menu features more creative and delicate dishes,” says Devaux. “My favorite appetiser is the amok puff which is curry and amok leaf fritter served with a bell pepper relish – an amazing contrast between warm Cambodian flavors and a cold western sauce.
“For the main course I also like the mushroom pot which features the delicate taste of lemon basil ball mix with a rich mushroom cream.”
Other delicacies include frangipani flower tempura, cassava fritters with yellow curry paste and toasted cashew nuts, and lemongrass green curry with eggplant, long beans and rice vermicelli.
Before moving to Cambodia, Devaux ran a ski resort restaurant in his native France. He eventually settled in Siem Reap and opened the original Chamkar six years ago. He also opened a branch in Taipei, and now divides his time between Taiwan and Temple Town.