How to distinguish a French restaurant in the capital of an old colony that is booming with bouillabaisse and bourguignon?
Simple, says Didier Pierrot, the charismatic owner of La P’tite France, as he sits in the gardens of the restaurant’s new BKK home, a month after swapping Sisowath Quay for Street 306. “Same same, just better.”
A former restaurateur in Paris, Pierrot has lived in Phnom Penh for five years and worked as the executive chef at Comme à la Maison before he set up La P’tite France three years ago.
He takes a somewhat traditional approach to food—well-loved dishes, a solid all-French wine list—with an insistence on quality.
Most of his beef steak is bought at the local market, but he imports the finer cuts, and the same goes for other important ingredients—ribeye from New Zealand, foie gras from France, chocolate from Mexico.
The villa setting feels elegant, and ripe for expansion. VIP rooms with en suite bathrooms are available, and Pierrot is planning an outside Oyster bar—stocked with shellfish imported from France.
The menu does not disappoint. Meaty chicken liver is offset by a tart raspberry marinade.
His signature dish is the centrepiece—foie gras mi cuit au torchon, or ‘half-cooked duck liver wrapped in a towel’. Better than it sounds.
After being rolled in a dish cloth and chilled overnight, the liver is briefly poached—for 12 minutes precisely, according to Pierrot. What emerges is buttery, almost cheesy—a delight to smother over fresh homemade bread.
The only dud note is sliced bone marrow sprinkled with bread crumbs and basil. Even when daubed with salt, as recommended, the overwhelming impression is of garlicky jellied fat.
The chocolate mousse is exactly what chocolate mousse should be: dark, dense and addictive. Made with 75 per cent cacao chocolate from Yucatán, Mexico, velvety spoonfuls melt on the tongue.
To finish—a generous platter of camembert, washed down with a glass of wincingly strong mirabelle or pear liquor made in-house.
A perfect spot for a boozy business lunch and the very best of Gallic hospitality.
To contact the reporter on this story: Poppy McPherson at [email protected]