Three close friends embarked on a joint culinary venture in Tuol Tom Poung last month, hoping to bring both the signature food and aesthetic of Cambodia’s fishermen to the city’s urban dwellers.
Although located in one of the busiest neighbourhoods of the capital, Nesat Seafood Eatery sports a beachside aesthetic and tropical plants, with a simple and peaceful open-air design.
The small corner eatery is decked out with wood counters, chairs and tables, and use of fishing nets and cages as décor. The wooden boat converted into a couch may be the most defining design feature of the restaurant.
Thim Sophal, a 27-year-old architect, who co-owns Nesat with his close friends Sebastiaan Roodnat and Chea Sopheary, says the concept behind their restaurant is to offer fresh seafood from the southern coastal province of Kampot while also conveying the feeling of life by the sea.
“We love visiting Kampot, and there we find that the house of a fisherman really provides great relaxation, and homelike atmosphere,” Sophal says. “Our restaurant resulted from the combination of that structure and street-food lifestyle.”
The three friends met in Kampot about four years ago, and since have gone back repeatedly to visit. They also visited the home of a Khmer fisherman and friend. The house’s peaceful and orderly atmosphere fascinated them, especially Roodnat – a Dutchman who also teaches English.
“It is welcoming, and that is what I love the most about Cambodians,” he says. “[The decoration] is quite basic, and the house has free open space and an open kitchen although it is small.”
“When you enter the house you can see a lot of things – for example fishing nets and cooking ingredients. We were inspired by all of these when we built our restaurant.”
Apart from a comfortable place to eat, Nesat also provides a wide range of seafood dishes at low prices. Customers can order 10 fresh oysters for $3, stir-fried crabs for $5.50 and shrimp tempura for $5, but the specialty is the Nesat Madness set ($12.50), which consists of a bowl of clam Tom Yam soup, grilled shrimps and squid, grilled mushrooms and bell pepper, stir-fried crabs with tangerine sauce and steamed rice. Sopheary, a co-owner and the chef of the restaurant, guarantees that the seafood served at Nesat is fresh and brought daily from Kampot.
Another nice touch at Nesat is the variety of plates and bowls on which the food is served, a feature the owners say helps customers feel like they are having their meal in a family dining room.
Originally, the owners of Nesat say they targeted young Cambodian clientele, but since opening last month they have attracted mostly expats.
“I think Cambodian people do not want to come here because they think the food is expensive since they see many foreigners here,” Sopheary says. “Although we provide an atmosphere which the foreigners are fond of, we also want more Cambodians to come and enjoy it and the affordable seafood as well.”
Nesat Seafood Eatery is located on the corner of street 123 and street 450. It is open every day from 5pm to 10 pm. Tel: 070 880 690