Last year I visited Le Broken Plate a few times, and wrote this glowing review of a night there. The location on Street 13 was almost hidden, but once inside the small and trendy restaurant you were warmly welcomed by the chef. It was always a memorable experience, and although never a weekly go-to spot for me, it was always on my mind as a place for a special dinner.
Recently Le Broken Plate has moved to a new location at the corner of Pasteur (st 51) and Street 242, drastically expanding on their previous design. There are a few separate bar areas offering views of chefs slicing up sashimi, and several tables throughout for large groups. The parking area is full of luxury SUVs, clearly showing that this is a location for Phnom Penh’s upper echelon to dine. After hearing that they moved locations a few weeks ago, two of us showed up at about 8:00 PM on a Thursday night. There were several open tables and two of the bar areas fully empty, but we were told that as we did not have a reservation they could not accommodate us — I figured they probably did not have enough ingredients and a limited staff, and didn’t want to give us a sub-par experience, so we left with grace and headed to a wonderful dinner at Iza instead. Last night we booked a table for a group of 6 in advance. Unfortunately, it was a reservation that we came to regret.
The menu has changed from before. Now there is just one $50 chef’s menu for one, and a la carte options. We asked if the chef’s menu was enough for two, and if we could split it as in the past, and they said yes and yes. So we ordered two of those (for four people), and the other two, less hungry, guests opted for a la carte. We then set our sights on the wine menu, and were slightly appalled by the lack of quality of the wine, but high prices. Prices were around $33 for very cheep bottles, and $60 for the first bottle that looked ok for dinner, a chablis. We asked if they had a corkage fee for our own bottles, which they said was $10. In a move that we don’t often pull, two of us quickly ran over to the Warehouse, purchased three pretty decent bottles of wine for $40, and returned, figuring that three bottles for a total of $70 beat one at $60. Of course there was a large selection of sake, but I have no idea what good sake is, and don’t want to pay even higher prices for the unknown.
By the time we had returned from the wine mission there was no food yet, which was fine. Shortly thereafter three of the first dishes came out: the oysters (one per person), the edamame, and the seafood salad. All of these were very good, with a lot of spice in the salad that you could control by adding the fresh chilis or kicking them to the side. They gave us each individual salads and edamame, and the oysters came as one plate with two different sauces. It was a great start to the meal.
But then things started going downhill a bit. It took about 50 minutes for our next “course” to arrive, a very small steamed grouper, served in one bowl, so we needed to share that. And then we waited more, and more, and a waiter asked us if were had received our sashimi courses yet. No, we informed him, we had not.
70 minutes after our starters, and about 100 minutes after ordering, the beautiful sashimi plates arrived. All of the fish was very tender, and the crab shell peeled for us. It all went down very quickly for us.
Another 30 minutes later our beef tenderloin & seafood salad arrived, quickly followed by some casava fries with parmesan that weren’t on the chef’s menu, were kind of cold and pretty bland, but we were hungry so we ate them.
And then we waited again. By our count, we still needed four items from the menu. After letting the chef know that we would like the rest of the food, and the long wait times, he came over to the table and apologized, and also let us know that he was out of the stone crab porridge. He offered us a bottle of wine on the house, which we weren’t quite sure if it was to replace the porridge, or if it was for the long wait times. The lamb rack and catch of the day finally appeared (by this time I was a little buzzed from all of the wine and annoyed at being there for three hours, and forgot to take a picture).
We asked for the river prawn soup, and were told that we had already had it. Needing to once again find the chef ourselves instead of getting into an argument with the wait staff, he apologized that they were now out of that soup. Annoyed by it all, we asked for the check.
The chef delivered us the check with another bottle of wine. So in the end we missed three courses, the river prawn soup, the stone crab porridge, and the dessert, and were there for 3 hours and 20 minutes. The chef was a very nice guy, and certainly stressed out. We weren’t charged corkage.
The food we did eat was of the same quality as it always was, but it was memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Waiting essentially 70 minutes between courses is way too long, and missing 30% of the meal is unacceptable. In the past we left full and satisfied, this time we left hungry and tipsy after three hours of drinking wine with little food.
It seems that they expanded too quickly, have untrained staff, and are not ready to serve the number of people that they are trying to. I’ll be willing to give it another try, but probably not for another year. In that time hopefully he can find the staff he needs, train them enough, and get the house in order. I wish him luck in this, but in the meantime I will leave the place in the hands of the Lexus and Porsche driving Khmers, and find elsewhere to dine myself.