There's a hot new flavour in town, and it’s decidedly Mediterranean.
The taste of Spain is slowly making its way to Siem Reap – first we had tapas bar Picasso, then Angkor Photo Café-Gallery’s Tapas Tuesdays, and now an authentic Spanish restaurant has opened in the night market’s food court.
Ruben Alvarez and Mapi Rosas opened Enjoy Spain two months ago, and already it is much-beloved by homesick Spaniards and hungry locals with a yearning for paella.
Although neither of them has worked as a chef before, Ruben and Mapi share a love of cooking and of Asia.
After doing various jobs in Spain, including waiting on tables, they decided to realise their dream of coming to Siem Reap and opening their own business.
The duo started off just making tapas, but soon discovered there was a demand for bigger, hot dishes.
“We share the kitchen,” says Ruben. “We make home-made food using different ingredients from Spain – Spanish white wine, olives from Spain. We are trying to bring a good and real taste from Spain.”
“Like our mothers’ food,” adds Mapi.
“Our mothers’ food taught us everything!” smiles Ruben, “We have their recipes.”
With dishes on the menu such as gazpacho, paella and meatballs, it’s no wonder this eatery is so popular.
The tasting tapas plate, which I duly tasted and can give a hearty thumbs-up, includes tuna croquettes, tortilla and deep-fried pork loin flamenquín (little parcels of porcine deliciousness) wrapped in chorizo.
Ruben says: “You can try different small plates from our kitchen. We plan to do another one with meatballs, sausage, chicken and paella.”
Diners can also take advantage of the incredibly good value daily menu – a starter and a main course for $4.50. For another $1, add dessert, choosing from such delicacies as cinnamon rice pudding or the decadent-sounding chocolate custard.
So what has proved the most popular dish so far?
Mapi says, “It depends on the nationality of the customers. Spanish people prefer tortilla. The Japanese like the paella. I think the most popular is the Spanish potato omelette, the tortilla, because everyone knows it.”
And with Mama Mapi planning to visit in January and don her apron in the kitchen, things can only get better for this little piece of Spain.