EuroPlug au gratin Mary Restaurant
Food served: a sort of Khmer with a hint of Italian, maybe.
I was a little hesitant to try this place for quite a while; before it turned into what looked like an independent chain bubble tea restaurant it was a pleasant little traditional Khmer restaurant, tin tables, plastic chairs, you know, the usual. Furthermore, previously, it had also been a weekend regular haunt of mine, being less than a block away from Lord Playboy’s Phnom Penh Penthouse, some rice/pork at breakfast, or maybe some stir-fried chicken noodles of a lunchtime, that sort of thing. So I was a little disappointed that the place closed down for 6 months and was rebuilt as a hermetically sealed, air-conditioned, cafe.
As I open the large tinted door I am greeted by a chorus of ”hellos” from half a dozen waitresses. As they all show me to my seat I am handed a small booklet of a menu listing dishes in Khmer and English.
Along with the menu I was presented with two glasses of iced jasmine tea, and a loo roll. At that point I was sincerely hoping that that was because they had run out of napkins, rather than a pre-emptive statement about hygiene standards in their kitchen.
Looking around at the changes that had been made since the place had been a typical spit and chicken bone Khmer place I that the place had a very relaxing atmosphere. Dark hard woods, comfy sofa style seating and wonderful, powerful, air-conditioning, the hectic outside world dimmed by the tinted glass windows.
Returning to the menu, there were the usual slightly bizarre English translations under the dishes on the menu, most I either recognised, or could work out; inner chicken or spare-parts cow, but the one I could not quite figure out was the Fried Rice Meatball Butter.
Was it fried rice with meatballs, balls of fried rice that look like meatballs?
They could have said butter instead of meaning cheese; the language proficiency of the menus author was that much in question, and as most of us wary diners in Khmer restaurants know, they often refer to prahok as ‘cheese Cambodia.’
Despite my attempts at discussing the dish with the waitress, who spoke no English and could not understand my attempts at Khmer, I could not solve the mystery of this dish. So much for all the money I have spent on Khmer lessons over the last couple of years.
Well, curiosity won over caution and I ordered it. This turned out to be a good choice.
When the food turned up the waitress was looking somewhat worried, I guess that she was still not sure that she had understood what it was I wanted to order, but as she edged towards the table looking swiftly between me and the plate of food I simply smiled nodded enthusiastically ? I could have eaten Khmer chicken knuckle soup by this point I was so hungry.
The dish actually turned out to be Spaghetti au gratin with beef meatballs in a cheesy garlic mushroom sauce – that was as thick and rich as a prime-ministerial nephew(1). Served in an oval dish with a grilled topping of cheese, it was heavy on taste and garlic, although possibly a little light on the mushrooms considering Cambodia has so many tasty varieties and that they are so inexpensive here.
As I tucked into my meal with great gusto (having neglected to break my fast this particular morning) the owner came over to refill my glass of jasmine tea and to check that everything was alright. He was a portly looking Chinese gentleman who spoke passable English and it transpired that our waitress was his niece, who spoke neither English nor Khmer! So I was feeling slightly better again about my language skills.
Having finished, I opted for an iced coffee to help stave off that post lunch snooze feeling, exasperated here by the heat.
Again, the coffee was a pleasant surprise, it was Vietnamese coffee and it was as strong and smooth as a Khmer440 columnist, it should help me maintain focus long enough to finish my Saturday afternoon chores.
The main courses were US$2 or 3 each; the strong and tasty iced coffee a dollar. Making a light lunch for two the bargain price of US$6. Not too mention the relief from the extreme midday
(1) with thanks and apologies to VLS
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