Arriving along the riverfront I was waved into a parking space outside the restaurant by their security guard, walking up to the door it was opened for me by one of the waiters, it was at that point I realised Kenneth Williams was alive, well and working in disguise as a Khmer waiter, right down to the camp mannerisms and glasses.
The restaurant was carefully and tastefully decorated; creating the illusion of an airy and spacious place in what is actually just a standard sized hole-in-the-wall.
Shown to our table by Khmer Kenneth we are seated at a table with very heavy, dark, rattan furniture. This should not be mistaken for the thin, cheap, lightweight stuff that most of us find on our balconies, but the real thing.
On the table are fresh flowers, bright and yellow resting in an elephant vase of Royal design. The hardwood ceiling with inset lighting gives the place a distinct non-Khmer feeling, despite the two very large wooden elephant heads mounted on the walls either side of us.
Our fellow diners were a mixed bunch; two tourist couples getting all cosy with each other, an Indian family of four who seemed to be very jolly and enjoying their holiday a lot, two tables of single men both sat in quiet contemplation for the entire evening and a warty 50 year old woman who spent at least half of the evening pawing her teenage motodop toy-boy. As I said, a mixed bunch to say the least!
Lurking towards the back of the restaurant, near the reception desk for the hotel, a tall Frenchman in a large pointy white hat was peering around the restaurant; I was assuming that he was the chef, rather than just a man with a fetish for white cloths and tall hats.
While we were waiting for the third member of our party to arrive we ordered some beers and perused the menu; Asian starters, Asian main courses, French starters, French main courses, a modest but quite acceptable wine list, I was starting to get a good feeling about this meal. While we were waiting we ordered some beers to keep us going.
Keeping it Riel finally arrived from his combined Haka~ Mamba~ Somersault lesson and we got down to the serious business of choosing our meals.
I selected the Porc Escalope Cordon Bleu, accompanied by pommes frites and a small green salad. Fathead opted for the Veal Blanquette, pommes frites while Keeping it Riel plumped for the Blanc de Poulet Normandie also with pommes frites ? I know Englishmen and their chips.
The main victuals decided upon I consider the wine list and selected a midrange claret. A 2002 AC Boudreaux from Chateau le Gaborie
Having already seen the dessert selection we had decided to skip any starters so that we could be assured of indulging our sweet-tooth’s. However we were pleasantly surprised when complementary mini spring rolls with sweet chilli dip turned up to tide us over until the main courses arrived. Even more pleasant was the freshly baked home-made rustic style French flat bread that turn up to accompany everything, it was quite simply divine, bringing back memories of holidays in the Dordogne and lazing around in rural restaurants.
Chatting and tasting the wine took us nicely into the re-emergence of the Khmer Kenneth Williams with our main courses.
The Porc Escalope was a hearty portion; the fries were nearer to being chips than pomme frites, but as an Englishman that was fine by me. The large roll of escalope was heavily coated in breadcrumbs, but as I cut into it large amounts of thick and delirious cheese and onion sauce oozed out, mmm. It was also good to note that the rolled ham inside was real ham and not that watery processed stuff you buy in airtight plastic packets from Lucky market.
The Veal Blanquette was more of a good beef dish than veal. Fathead suspected that the cow had died of old age, rather than the calf being butchered in the, err, more traditional way to make veal, the meat being a dark brown rather than the soft white you would normally expect from a bled meat. The Blanquette sauce was however very good, the right proportions of cream, lemon juice and egg yolks. Although a larger portion might have compensated for the disappointment of beef not veal.
The Blanc de Poulet Normandie was a chicken breast pan fried in a cream, mushroom and calvados sauce. While the Khmer chicken was slightly tougher than one would have liked in such a dish, the sauce was first rate, at one point we thought Keeping it Riel was going to start licking the plate to get it all up, it was as rich and thick as an oil baron’s off-spring.
The main course out of the way, and an inter-course Marlboro inhaled, we viewed the dessert specials.
The Governor selected cheese, rather than pudding, a Roquefort with more of that wonderful rustic bread. Although the cheese was straight out of a packet, probably from Bayon Market, even so it was a good example of this classic sheep milk cheese. I could just add, French folk lore tells us that; once upon a time, there was a young shepherd who caught sight of a beautiful maiden. He decided to follow her, leaving behind his lunch of sheep”s milk curd and bread in a limestone cave. Having chased the maiden for three days, he failed to catch up with her, so he returned to the cave, where he found the bread was mouldy, and there were blue veins running through the sheep”s milk curd. Desperately hungry, he ate it anyway, and cried out with delight ?how delicious!? thus, Roquefort was discovered.
Anyhow, as is my want, I chose the one thing off the dessert menu that I did not know the Tropezien. Served in a tall, wide, glass it was a layered pudding; the base being cake, the next layer up being vanilla ice-cream, which was topped with pineapple that has been marinated in ginger and brandy. All of this was topped off with whipped cream, with a pinch of 100?s and 1000?s.
Keeping it Riel was so impressed with his creme caramel that he ordered a second helping, yes ‘Two Puddings Riel’ strikes again. Made with coconut milk instead of regular milk, it was as light and tasty as a slice of gastronomic heaven. Damn, I nearly ordered one for myself after a spoonful of it.
After we had finished our desserts, and while we were waiting for our espressos and calvados the French chef came over to check if everything was okay and that we had enjoyed our food. A nice touch.
The calvados was a tad disappointing, it only being a generic VSOP, but I guess it is difficult to get good XO calvados in Southeast Asia!
The overall cost pf the meal was US$75, which might seem a little excessive at first, but considering all that we had eaten and drunk (especially drunk) it was, I thought, rather reasonable.
The drinks were not the cheapest; tall bottles of Angkor, US$2. the wine US$17, the Calvados US$3.50 oh and the excellent espresso was US$1.50
The main courses were; the porc US$ 9.50, the ‘veal’ 10.50 and the most delicious chicken was US$7.00.
The desserts were US$3.50 the cheese US$4.50
As we were leaving, the owner came over to see us off, he double checked that everything had been okay with our meals and bid us a warm au revoir. A little touch of European catering hospitality, or had he spotted the Lord Playboy making notes on an old napkin about the meal? Either way, a nice touch to end the experience on.
Queries, comments, suggestions and gastroenterological concerns to