Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Some like it hot: La Cita’s spicy cuisine

Some like it hot: La Cita’s spicy cuisine

Some like it hot: La Cita’s spicy cuisine

1109027d_04
La Cita Rendez-vous owner Richard Rojas at his restaurant.

“IF you ask me to make something spicy, I can make your mouth water,” says Richard Rojas, manager of La Cita Rendez-vous. As a declaration it’s part boast, part threat – but it certainly draws in punters eager to sear their taste-buds on authentic latino food.

“Most ethnic restaurants based in other countries, they try to put in a little taste of the country they’re in. But I don’t want to do that,” he said. “Whether you like my food or not, that’s the way it is in Mexico, or Peru, or Chile.”

Rojas, 41, moved to Cambodia last year and opened his restaurant in April. Originally, the restaurant served a mix of western and Khmer food, but the Chilean wasted little time in introducing meals from his roots.

“Two months ago I said ‘I’m fed up with this. I have to have latino food.’ I wanted to do it from the beginning, but I was scared of whether people would accept it.” The move to an exclusively latino menu was a winner, said Rojas, with his popularity increasing “300 percent”.

La Cita uses recipes from several countries in central and South America. The most popular dish – lomo saltado – is a Peruvian favourite that mixes strips of beef with potato chips.

Other popular items include the burger, made with strips of beef instead of a patty, and your classic Mexican menu boilerplate: tacos, burritos and quesadillas, all with home-made tortillas.

The shift to hot latino food has seen the restaurant’s popularity soar amongst the Japanese community, a cult following that took Rojas by surprise.

“It’s a little bit weird…how they know about me I don’t know,” he said, adding that many of his Japanese customers have worked in South America and developed an appetite for hot dishes.

“I think when I changed to a latino menu, that’s the point where a lot of Japanese people started to come in. Because we’re cooking the real stuff.”

Training his staff in the way of the tortilla was a long and thankless process, Rojas said, involving much time, confusion and dropped plates. “Chilean food is a long process to cook. What we cook in the morning, it’s not to eat at noon, it’s to eat in the afternoon. The preparation is expensive and it’s time consuming…for them it’s another world completely.”

Now his head cook can whip up the dishes herself and the staff can operate independently, though Rojas is quick to remind them that big brother (or grande hermano) is always watching, via security
cameras in the kitchens that link to his iPhone.

Even so, he said customers keep him in the kitchen, “They keep calling out for me,” he said. “They ask, ‘Can the owner cook my meal?”

MOST VIEWED

  • PM orders immediate action against ‘sexy’ live streamers

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered immediate action against women who live stream their sales pitches on Facebook wearing revealing clothing. The prime minister said the practice erodes traditional Cambodian values and disgraces women. Hun Sen gave the order to officials attending the Cambodian

  • Trump tweets praise for Kingdom docking ship

    Cambodia continues to earn praise for its humanitarian act of allowing the MS Westerdam cruise ship with more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board to dock at the Preah Sihanouk port. The praise this time comes from none other than US President Donald Trump. “Thank

  • Tourist area greenlit in Sihanoukville

    The National Committee for Coastal Management and Development will coordinate with relevant ministries over the establishment of a billion-dollar tourist area named Neak Reach in Preah Sihanouk province after it was proposed by the Ministry of Tourism. The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and

  • Organic vegetable retailer unveils QR code scheme for origin source

    Organic vegetable retailer Natural Agriculture Village has introduced QR codes on its product packaging, which will allow consumers to see where their produce comes from. Natural Agriculture Village president Bun Sieng, who is also a member of local distributor Green Gold, told The Post on

  • Mine kills military officer along border in Preah Vihear province

    A military officer died on Friday after he stepped on a landmine in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district, near the Thai border. Chin Hat, a 45-year-old warrant officer, died instantly as a result of the explosion. He was attached to the K-398 unit

  • Remaining MS Westerdam passengers test negative

    Tests conducted on the remaining 781 passengers of the MS Westerdam for Covid-19 came back negative, the Ministry of Health confirmed on Wednesday. It also noted that the last 233 passengers to disembark the MS Westerdam are now in Phnom Penh after they were transported there in