Living in tropical climes, one might imagine there is little call for hearty French food from Alsace-Lorraine, but The Frenchy Gecko restaurant has been pulling in happy diners since its opening at the end of last year.
Christophe and Evelyne Plociennik’s restaurant is in the Charming City complex on Charles de Gaulle Road, where the duo serves up a small, largely meat-based menu of traditional recipes passed down through their families, from boeuf bourguignon to saucisse lentilles served with crème fraîche.
Christophe first came to Siem Reap to clear landmines in 1992. As the saying goes, he fell in love with the place and relocated last year. It was his wife’s idea to open a restaurant.
“My wife said, ‘Why don’t we open a business with just French food, home-cooking – the food we grew up with?’ Food her mother made, food my mother made – we haven’t changed the recipes,” he says.
Hungry expats have delighted in the Plocienniks’ hachis parmentier – a kind of Gallic shepherd’s pie – and poulet basquaise, a chicken stew made with tomatoes and peppers.
Many ingredients such as sausage are sent over or brought from France by obliging visiting friends.
“Sometimes when my friends come they bring items, or my family sends me a box. Now we have some sausage from Lorraine – the real one,” he says, indicating a plate of assorted smoked sausages.
Christophe says he is a little surprised these warming wintry dishes have proved as popular as they have in Siem Reap.
“Sometimes we make boeuf bourguignon which is a big dish and the first time we made it my wife said, ‘Wow, nobody will eat that here – it’s so hot. But everybody eats it,” he laughs.
“We have some expats, some English people and French people living in Siem Reap, who come and eat here. And now we are starting to get Korean people coming to taste the food. We had nine Korean guests the other day who ordered all the different plates just to try each one.”
The best-selling dishes, he says, are the mashed potato-topped hachis parmentier and escalope Normande.
“Escalope Normande is chicken escalope cooked with cream, onions, mustard and mushrooms with a lot of French Gruyere cheese and then we grill it. It’s served with roast potatoes,” he says
“The menu always stays the same, but sometimes in the week I make the ‘plat du jour’ like quail stuffed with meat, olives, bacon cooked with wine sauce – Khmer people like that.”
For the sweet-toothed, Christophe also turns his hand to desserts, even making his own fromage frais for the cheesecake. Also on the menu is rhubarb tart and apple tart.
“I make the fromage frais myself, you cannot find it here,” he says. “It takes two days to make.”
Christophe says Khmer people are always highly amused by the restaurant’s name and sign which bears a picture of a smiling, froggy-looking gecko.
“We chose ‘Frenchy’ because we must have ‘French’ in the name and ‘gecko’ because it’s part of Cambodia, the tokay. When Khmers pass here they take pictures, joking all the time, when they see the big frog with The Frenchy Gecko.”
The French Gecko is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 12 – 9pm.