Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sugar palm owners go with the flow



Sugar palm owners go with the flow

Sugar palm owners go with the flow

A union of the best of traditional Khmer cooking with contemporary fusion styles will be on the menu at soon-to-be-opened Flow, the new creation of husband and wife team, Bruce and Kethana Dunnet, known in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap for their landmark Sugar Palm restaurants.

Opening date for the modern air-conditioned bar and restaurant has been a tad delayed as the head chef Sopheak Sao is somewhat distracted – he’s about to get married on November 10.

Sopheak is known for his creativity, especially when it comes to the Italian food with which he made his name at Il Forno. So when he approached Bruce and Kethana last year looking to join Sugar Palm, which is hailed worldwide for its adherence to traditional Khmer cooking styles, it might not have seemed like the most obvious of transitions.

But both culinary elements will be given full expression in the new venue.

“It’s going to offer the best of what we have at Sugar Palm, together with Sopheak’s more fusion styles,” said Kethana .

Head chef Sopheak Sao with his about-to-be bride.
Head chef Sopheak Sao with his about-to-be bride. LENG SOKLAY

Sopheak has already been experimenting with different dishes. And although he hadn’t finalised the menu at the time that Insider spoke to him, he did give an idea of some of the things he has been contemplating.

A dish such as a homemade taglionini with seafood and pastis cream sauce is one of his favourites, and features one ingredient that appears to be a staple of his.

“I don’t drink much myself, but I like to include alcohol in my food,” he said.

Other notable dishes that he mentioned include duck ravioli with curry sauce, seared tuna with lemongrass dressing, and salmon tartare with avocado puree.

“My cooking is a little bit different,” noted Sophea, who is principally a self-taught cook. The 29-year-old started working in a local restaurant at Kandal Market eight years ago where his general self-confessed lack of interest frequently caught his unhappy manager’s eye.

“The problem was that I thought that I couldn’t learn how to cook, and so I didn’t work as hard as I should have,” he said.

But somewhere along the way, Sopheak realised that in fact he could cook and cook well, and so he set about building a collection of books from which to learn. His favourite mentors are Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, the British chefs who made cooking dinner at home sexy, even for men.

Flow is housed in a typical Cambodian long shop-front style building, which has been beautifully remodelled by Stuart Cochlin to incorporate separate spaces but keep the lines in ‘flow’, so to speak, so that the feeling of standing in a tunnel is broken yet the sense of space is not diminished.

The restaurant area at the front leads to a discrete bar at the back for people who might like to enjoy a snack and a drink rather than a full-blown meal. There will also be patés and cold meat platters on the menu.

Further back again, an enclosed outdoor area has been created for smokers as the interior is smoke-free.

Oddly enough, the restaurant is more the result of fortuitous happenstance than deliberate intent, and the New Zealand couple hadn’t really planned on opening adding another string to their culinary bow.

“It was too good an opportunity to miss,” said Kethana , speaking of the time last year when the owner of the property, which was previously home to the stylish Tex-Mex restaurant El Camino, approached them to take over the lease.

“He was very good with us, and supported us with the ideas that we had,” she said.

This was followed by the happy chance of Sopheak’s approach, looking to join the team. The conditions for the union were set. ​

MOST VIEWED

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a

  • Thai Senate delegates in Cambodia to discuss anti-graft co-op

    A delegation from Thailand's Senate was in Phnom Penh on September 28 to meet their Cambodian counterparts to discuss strategies for fighting corruption and enhancing cooperation. The Thai delegates were from its Senate’s Committee on Studying and Inspecting Corruption, Misconduct and Strengthening Good Governance. They