An Australian couple, Derek Mayes and Wendy Lucas, have created a unique out-of-the-way restaurant located along a narrow back street with the turn-off just beyond the Buddhist temple a short distance past the Almond Hotel.
The space is created for a mix of characters to enjoy relaxed company and conversation, often with many Australians, to try what Lucas calls eclectic food.
Dishes include Moroccan spiced crispy duck on a stew of chick peas with yoghurt dressing, crispy pork belly slowly braised in dark ale and caramel with broccoli, lavender spiced kangaroo fillet on roasted beetroot and sweet potato with caramel glaze and rolled lamb fillet stuffed with spinach as well as cannelloni beans and hazel nuts with a minted lamb glaze.
Chef Mayes serves as secretary of the ABAC and is often a driving force behind the organising and promotion of ABAC functions.
Mayes admits he found what he loves in preparing delicious food. “I didn’t realise how much I loved it. I found the passion. To be honest it is the best thing I do,” he said.
Mayes and Lucas met in Tasmania, have been together ever since, and for the last dozen years in Cambodia.
Most of the dishes at The Lost Room cost from $7 to $10 and a variety of Australian wines are available.
“Business is going very well, increases all the time, lots of return customers and good reviews,” Lucas said.
Lucas is also passionate about food and she enjoys talking to people and advising them about food.
“We’re thinking about having two long tables for Valentine’s Day rather than individual tables. We’re going to get a whole lot of people together on two long tables.”
During the interview, Phnom Penh Chef Al Schaaf arrived for dinner on his recently acquired Ducati motorcycle. Schaaf ,who is one of the owners of Sharkey’s Bar and founder of Fat Boy Sub & Sandwich Shop, also serves as Executive Chef at The Exchange.
Mayes and Lucas, it turns out, served in the role of Schaaf’s parents at his wedding, giving him away.
When asked his thoughts about the chorizo on the menu, Schaaf replied: “Its my chorizo. I sold it to them.”
The chef conversation between Schaaf and Lucas included ideas about the uses of flying fish eggs (mainly for texture) and the various tactics employed to get pork belly skin crispier.
“Derek and Wendy were parents at my wedding and they’ve come a long way,” Schaaf said.
“I’ve been eating Derek’s food for many years, and he’s really growing as a chef. He started out at the front of the house, he liked the back of the house so much, he moved back there.”
Mayes said he considered Schaaf’s food better than his own.
“And I keep waiting for him to ask me to be a sous chef for him.
“Al and I have been mates for ten years,” Mayes said.
When both chefs were asked to weigh in on the importance of the visual appearance in terms of the meal experience, they agreed it was important, but not as important as the flavour.
“I’ve had a customer kiss me and say that was fantastic food. That’s satisfaction. The key thing is as long as the customer walks out happy and well fed, I’m happy.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]