If you’re in need of French duck fat, look no further than the Providore. In fact, don’t bother looking anywhere else, because the new gourmet deli and specialty grocer is the only retailer in Phnom Penh that stocks it (at $19.55 for a 700g can), according to retail operations manager Bruce Koenig.
At its opening on Monday this week, the Parisian was all smiles as he gave a tour of his prized stock. The shelves of the small Sothearos Boulevard shop were crammed with an assortment of fine imported goods, like those of a large, well-stocked pantry. The items, most of them European, many obscure, were recited by Koenig with the eagerness of a boy showing off his rare stamp collection.
There were the Spanish peppers, olives and capers; the “exclusive range of jams made in Vietnam with exotic flavours” (Le Petite Epicerie, $3.95 a jar); the quince jelly paste from Spain; the duck and goose foie gras (from $9.60 to $49.50); the Alexis Munoz top-shelf olive oil, “a very new product in Cambodia” ($8.50 for 250ml). And that was only the dry shelves.
At opening, the deli also featured a host of Australian beef, tuna, duck, cured meats and Norwegian salmon along with coffee drinks and beans from Kampot’s Rumblefish Roasters.
“We really try to differentiate ourselves with our products,” said Koenig, who previously worked in marketing at the Sofitel hotel.
But in case the posh presentation of the foods and their Old World labels does not have you convinced of their quality, the Providore offers a full menu of breakfast and lunch items that showcase the products on the shelves. The shop, in other words, walks the walk.
“The whole point of the menu is to showcase the food,” explained Ellen Funston, who curated the cuisine and will head home to Australia soon, handing ongoing management to Julia Leyris, previously the manager of the now-shuttered Vego Salad Bar on Street 294.
In its culinary teasing, the Providore succeeds. The food, mostly sandwiches and salads, is simple – no esoteric cooking methods here – and if you wanted to reproduce an order yourself, all you would really need is a kitchen and the ingredients, which are, conveniently, close to hand.
To further get the point across, the menu items, designed by Funston, are not displayed as names but rather as long lists of ingredients. The “jamon, Tetilla cheese, cured red pepper, fresh tomato on an olive ciabatta” ($5.75) was a real treat.
So was the “smoked salmon, cucumber, lemon caper mayo and fresh dill on a rustic baguette” ($6.25). The salads looked pleasing, as did the muffins and cakes, which, along with the bread, came from a local bakery that the Providore would rather not be disclosed.
The tasting menu makes good use of the exotic ingredients on offer in the grocer. Ham hock terrine goes on the eggs benedict ($6), piparras on the fried eggs ($8), maple-infused mascarpone on the chocolate French toast ($7) and cornichons on the French platter ($10). If any are unfamiliar, the 10-person waitstaff can get you up to speed.
Koenig insists that Phnom Penh’s more well-off have long been ready for such luxury food items.
“The market is ready. We have known that for a very long time,” he said, while working through the spirits selection, which included Brugal rum ($22), Monkey 47 gin ($62), a multinational wine closet and a host of Macallan scotches, including one rare cask bottle for $560 and a Highland 25-year for $740: the “special occasion” sippers.
The “we” Koenig was referring to was Auskhmer, a foodstuff importer (slogan: “Catering to all palates”) founded in 2001 by Simon Roe, an Australian with a Cambodian passport. Roe now lives in Adelaide where he runs a winery, Manyara ($13 a bottle at the Providore). The Providore was Auskhmer’s first outlet catering to individual consumers, said Koenig.
To entice those consumers, the Providore will have at least two wine and two food events a month, he said, including “Taste and Talk” events featuring the producer of a given product (the Alexis Munoz olive oil maker plans on coming soon).
“And next month there will be more chilled meats!” Koenig added with glee.
The Providore is located at #67 Sothearos Boulevard and open seven days a week from 7am to 8pm. Breakfast is served until 11am. After 2pm, only platters and sweets are available from the kitchen.