High end businesswoman Ly Sochin’s first venture into fine dining, Miró, fell flat. Crowds arrived for the opening in October – when the wine and very fine food flowed freely – but as soon as she introduced her pricey menus they raced back to Raffles and the FCC.
Now, a new general manager, Christian Borghi, has been brought in. He’s slashing prices, adding a lounge, and nudging Sochin away from her five-star flavour to the realisation that her restaurant, which sits between her two up-market boutiques on Sihanvouk Boulevard, needs customers.
“There’s nothing worse than walking into an empty restaurant,” Borghi pointed out, as he explained his plans to create the kind of buzz that Miró needs if Sochin wants a business.
“People attract people,” he said. “Those with the most money are often the least likely to spend it,” he says, before repeating a joke about wealthy Scottish people that, he says, is popular in France.
Signs of Sochin still abound, but her style is being toned down, and her obsession with everything foreign is being scaled back, even in the kitchen, where the chef is rebelling against the idea of importing all fish from France.
“All our seafood are imported directly from France (the Mediterranean coast and the Atlantic Ocean),” reads the menu, which may be the first in Cambodia to have its own author: chef William Mahi.
Chef Sarina Lopes, who runs the kitchen, said she is looking to source locally. Like all the staff at Miró she has a natural charm that makes it impossible to write a mean review.
We tried to embarrass the wait staff by pointing to the most difficult items on the bilingual (English and French) menu for them to pronounce, but they made dishes like Tagliatelles with Gambes sound like they had invented the words as well as the recipes.
Most dishes were beyond our $25 budget, and a few, like “Avant gardist crispy pig trotters”, sounded too obscene to digest.
But the menu will soon be replaced, Borghi said. He’s got something more reader friendly in mind, that he will introduce later this month along with tapas, special events, DJs and half-priced cocktails between 7pm and 9pm on Thursday and Friday.
The reason we were unable to trip up the waiters was that they have 30 minute briefings twice a day, during which the chef and Borghi explain all the ingredients in the soup du jour, and practice pronunciation so that there is a smooth flow of communication between management, kitchen and wait staff.
When Sochin opened Miró she envisioned an oasis where those who frequented her boutiques could take a break between shopping sprees. She named it after an artist she grew fond of while traveling in Spain. Copies of Joan Miró paintings adorn the walls. They suit the colour scheme, are unobtrusive but our eyes kept getting drawn back to them.
We objected, however, to the asymmetrical dishware. The calamari salad – which we almost went to war over – was served in a tilting glass, and the pasta in a crooked bowl. The food was impressive enough; we did not appreciate the distraction.
Miró’s makeover begins today. Sochin wanted to import a DJ. Borghi convinced her that if she wanted a successful lounge a local DJ would draw a crowd, and be less expensive.