Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A new world of imaginative cuisine



A new world of imaginative cuisine

Omar Diaz (left), Loven Ramos (centre) and chef Seiha Chomnab mix beats and beets at East of Narnia. Photo supplied
Omar Diaz (left), Loven Ramos (centre) and chef Seiha Chomnab mix beats and beets at East of Narnia. Photo supplied

A new world of imaginative cuisine

East of Narnia is not so much a “pop-up” restaurant as an opportunity that popped up and was seized upon by 1961 Co-working & Art Space’s owner Loven Ramos, and his friend Omar Diaz, aka DJ Amro. The result is a quirky space hidden in a “closet” at the back of the 1961 Gallery, where a short menu offers up gentle re-imaginations of familiar dishes.

Stepping through the golden door into East of Narnia reveals a world that echoes CS Lewis’s popular children’s books that were Ramos’ favorite as a child. Picture frames leak paint from the outside. There’s a pig on a tandem bike looking for all the world like he’s having a whale of a time. Random pieces of kitchen equipment are re-purposed as light shades. 

In March this year, Diaz was setting up Khmer Power Box, a food delivery/lunch box service specifically geared towards the staff of T Galleria, the new duty free shopping mall attached to the Angkor National Museum. He approached Ramos to see if he’d like to collaborate, and then they had to build a brand new, fully equipped commercial kitchen in three days flat. 

“And then we said, well since we’ve got the kitchen, we might as well open a restaurant,” said Ramos. The menu, titled Imagination is the Most Potent Spice, takes its cues from far and wide, and follows them with that simple question, “what if . . .?”

“We didn’t want to mess with the processes behind dishes,” said Ramos. “But we did start to wonder what might happen if we changed ingredients around a little bit. It’s not fusion food, we’re not blending cultures, we’re just mixing things up a little.”

Opening with a beef carpaccio wrapped around kimchi with a honey sauce ($5), this creative approach to cuisines never seems to hit a bum note. The Notorious P.A.T.E. ($5.50), a chicken liver pate made with white wine and served with blue cheese, is smooth and rich, with a tang being delivered by the blue cheese. 

The “Rollin’ Amok” ($7 for three pieces; $9 for four), is Cambodia’s traditional amok dish, with chicken or mushroom, that has been rolled into balls and deep fried to make it crispy on the outside with an almost-falafel like interior that mixes beautifully with the creamy, spiced sauce.  

The fun continues with “Quail of Thrones” ($8), serving up pan-seared quail, with lemongrass, baked crushed potato, beef salad and a trio of sauces and dips. The secret for this, and all of the dishes, is that while they do stray off the beaten path, they don’t veer off into the wildly esoteric.

Everything is familiar and new all at once. And it is, of course, fun.  

MOST VIEWED

  • Time to avert disastrous Covid situation: officials

    The Covid-19 situation in Cambodia is heading towards further large-scale community transmission as the total number of confirmed cases is nearing 61,000 and the death toll passed 900 on July 10, senior health officials warned. Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine expressed concern that the country was going

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Baby saved as mother is lost to Covid

    Newborn baby Neth David has had a rough start in the world. His mother, Vong Daneth, was seven months pregnant when she contracted a severe case of Covid-19. When it became clear to her doctors that she would not survive, they performed a cesarean section

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • Hun Sen: Get 12-17 age group ready for Covid jabs

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has told parents of children aged 12-17 in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal and Preah Sihanouk to get them ready for vaccinations soon. “There is a need to vaccinate children and youths aged 12 to 17. According to the statistics provided