Man about town: 24 January 2014

Man about town: 24 January 2014

Since 2009, Man About has loosely followed the culinary adventures of chef Sothea Seng after discovering his mastery of grilling steak in the US or Aussie manner.

Back in 2009 Sothea Seng was doing his thing at the classy Nest restaurant, which was riding high winning, in October 2009, the Cambodian Restaurant of the Year at the inaugural Tourism Alliance Awards 2009 in Ho Chi Minh City – not bad for a newly opened restaurant.

Back then we chewed the fat about the art of steak grilling and Sothea Seng pointed out that he picked up prime pointers in 2005 while working at the Grand Hyatt, Dubai – he’d actually started his career as a kitchen hand at Siem Reap’s Sofitel in 2001, then moved to other top hotels in town, then worked the Caribbean before checking in at Dubai.

In 2010 he left the Nest and started up his own small restaurant, Palate Angkor Café, behind Angkor Market. Then he heeded the call to create a larger nosh house, and started building new premises last March. Finally, late last year he opened the magnificent river road establishment, Palate Angkor Restaurant and Bar.

This he did with a little help from business associates: he entered into a joint venture with one of Siem Reap’s richest women and the classy design is courtesy of Sovan, of ASMA Architects.

The restaurant will host regular art exhibitions and has a rooftop bar for people who like hanging out. Live music is a big feature on Tuesday nights.

But of course the most important element of any restaurant is the food and Sothea Seng has poured his creative juices into creating a culinary concept which he describes as “pan-Asian cuisine” embodying flavours and spices from 12 Asian countries.

The accent is on Cambodian produce with as many Siem Reap ingredients as possible, and flavours are enhanced with lots of watercress, passion fruit, lemon grass and ginger. Lychees and watermelon give an added special touch.

Only a few items are imported, including some of the beef dishes, but other beef, and the chicken, comes from Battambang. The restaurant is preparing its own garden for herbs and spices.

The original menu was expanded this month and includes a tapas bar with items such as chili chicken lollipop ($4), and crab and shrimp cake with corn casserole ($5).

Salads include grilled lychee squid salad ($5), fish carpaccio with lime leaves ($5), and duo melons and parma ham $6.50).

There’s a creative selection of pasta, rice and noodle dishes, and perhaps one of the menu standouts is the soup selection, featuring prohoer soup which is a local organic vegetable soup with smoked fish ($3.50), beef sour soup ($3.50) and two vegetarian items: ginger wine corn soup ($3.50) and butternut squash veloute with truffle ravioli ($4.50)

Highlights of the fish and seafood menu include fish mousse Manchurian style ($9), and the chef-recommended frog leg curry ($10).

The meat and poultry menu ranges from ($9 to $22 and includes five spices duck breast ($12), and miso crusted lamb chops (18).

Man About is still working through the menu, savouring this and that, but it’s hard to battle an increasing addiction to the beef tenderloin which comes with baby potatoes, green beans, peppers and a touch of watercress.

Plus Palate became a haven for Man About during the height of the tourist season because, as it’s yet largely undiscovered by the masses, the restaurant wasn’t crowded and happily devoid of noisome charter bus mass bookings. And its riverside location, far enough from the madding Pub Street crowd, means that access and parking was a breeze.

Nature expands: Bodia Nature, the store associated with Bodia Spa is opening another new outlet in the Alley, just off Pub Street.

Concept store: And Phnom Penh’s uber trendy “concept store” Trunkh may possibly be opening an outlet in Siem Reap. Reporter Miranda Glasser spotted owner Doug Gordon at the Made in Cambodia market over the weekend, manning a stall selling Trunkh gear and sussing the potential of Temple Town retail action.

CarWi-Fi: Sokha Angkor Resort claims its taking luxury to a new level by providing free Wi-Fi in all its cars, including the stretch limousine.


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