One of the most popular Indian restaurants in Phnom Penh, Shiva Shakti, has re-opened at #17 on Street 63 just off Mao Tse Tung Boulevard after a one month hiatus.
Owner Meenakshi Dufault was joined by Indian Ambassador Dinesh Patnaik, members of the Indian community and many others on Monday night to celebrate the opening with chicken tikka, samosas and other classic elements of North Indian cuisine of the Indo Mughal style.
Dufault operated the earlier incarnation of Shiva Shakti with great success for 14 years near the Independence Monument until she decided she needed to expand and started searching for another place.
The totally refurbished new premises features heavy iron doors, light pastel colours and the original tables and chairs from the original restaurant.
With more than 200 items on the menu, Dufault describes the fare as “high class North Indian cuisine with roasts from the tandoors and a variety of Indian curries”.
“One of the specialties is lamb rogan josh, one of our specialties, which is expensive,” she says, “owing to the use of the finest Australian lamb.”
“We are very careful with quality. Here, the hospitality is legendary and everybody brings with them a good kind of blessing. Whosoever comes with a goodness of heart is welcome with open arms.”
A striking Himalayan woman with dark, sparkling eyes, Dufault was born in Uttarakhand, India and grew up in many places around the country as the daughter of an Indian Army officer. Her two chefs are Indian, with one more on the way and between 12 and 15 Khmer staff.
“Everything here is special,” she said. “I don’t think it is fair to say that one dish is better than any other. Some people maybe love the lamb or the butter chicken. It would be wrong for me to promote anything else. Excellent is acceptable.”
Dufault first arrived in Cambodia in 1992, to visit sister who worked for UN.
“At that time it was sweet and untouched, and now it has become more dynamic, with more money, more savvy, but I miss the old Cambodia. I miss the simplicity of the smiles. The level of English has improved tremendously.”
Because of her travelling upbringing around India, she feels that everyone is a world citizen.
“I feel it is not good to confine yourself.”
The concept of the name of her restaurant, Shiva Shakti, she describes as something like the Hindu tantric version of the yin and the yang.
“Shiva Shakti is the eternal embrace of the male and female energy in the cosmos. It is the manifestation of the Hindu tantric male and female cosmic energy. There is a difference between love and eternal love; it is a unit of the spirit.”
Dufault follows the Tibetan Buddhism of the Dalai Lama; she has a husband and two daughters.
“Cambodia has changed so much. In the old days it was foreigners who had the money; now it is the Khmers. I’m really proud of Khmer people; they have done so well, they have come so far. Cambodia is very sweet, and Khmers are sweet people,” she said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]