One of the best examples of ‘east-west’ fusion I’ve experienced in a long time was some Kampot pepper chocolate I recently tried from Street 240’s Chocolate by The Shop.
The pepper originates from Cambodia’s Kampot province, and back in colonial times was highly prized by the French, who even used it in restaurants back in Paris. Its production fell by the wayside during the Khmer Rouge era but it’s now undergoing a renaissance as Cambodians, expats and tourists alike re-discover its highly fragrant and delicious taste (it really is better than ‘ordinary’ pepper!).
The geniuses at Chocolate by The Shop have mixed crushed Kampot peppercorns with quality Belgian chocolate to create a taste sensation with serious bite. Fellow chocoholics and pepper fiends should definitely give it a try!
My latest purchase from Kravan House – a king size silk bedspread
Silk shops can be found on almost every corner in Phnom Penh with most carrying similar wares, some slightly more tasteful than others. A small silk shop called Kraven House manages to combine taste with reasonable prices (and it’s also run by an NGO as an added bonus).
It stocks a mixture of ubiquitous silk bags and scarves with some more unique items. I particularly covet their coin purses and jewellery rolls with a funky Indian-style print and beaded embroidery. They also stock stripey cotton scarves which are well worth checking out.
The shop is so small and unassuming that I hardly even remember its name and mostly just refer to it as ‘Favourite Shop’. It also seems to be a favourite with buyers for western retailers. A friend has seen people from shops like Cambodia House in Sydney’s Woollahra stocking up on wholesale orders here, which they can then make quite the profit on in a world where silk and anything with a ‘Made in Cambodia’ tag is a bit more precious and rare.
Kravan House, 13 Street 178, Phnom Penh
On the weekend I tried out the dim sum at the newly opened Yi Sang restaurant at Almond Hotel, another Luu Meng venture (the guy behind Malis, Topaz, Cafe Sentiment and more). Compared to the city’s only other dim sum restaurant (that I know of, and not counting the InterCon) – Sam Doo – the restaurant looked more like a ‘real’ dim sum place yet sadly, minus the trolleys.
The dishes were really cheap (between US$2 and US$3 a basket) and the barbeque pork buns and prawn dumplings definitely hit the spot. Unfortunately though a few things we tried to order (like the barbeque pork in rice noodle rolls) were greeted with the dreaded ‘no have’. We also ordered some sesame balls which strangely didn’t appear though the waitress kept saying they were five minutes away. In the end we just cancelled them.
With the bill for seven of us working out at less than US$6 a head for a dim sum feast and copious amounts of Chinese green tea in a clean, spanking new setting, it now makes me question why we spend so much more in some of Phnom Penh’s grottier old Chinese diners!
Image via Almond H0tel
Our room – complete with bed for baby
This was all ours – so relaxing!
Earlier in the week we paid a flying visit to Siem Reap and were fortunate enough to stay at the ultra chic Hotel de la Paix
. What can I say but…wow! And no, they’re not paying me to say this!
Designed by the brains behind Bangkok’s Bed Supperclub, the hotel combines art deco style with Khmer touches, creating a unique and highly stylish look and feel. Our room was a two-level loft with a spiral staircase leading up to two massage tables for in-room spa treatments, with doors leading out to a private terrace complete with outdoor bathtub. The room itself had a rainforrest shower, iPod and speakers, WiFi, the most comfortable pillows ever and a spacious lounge area.
Beyond the room was an amazing pool with art-deco inspired columns and so many nooks and crannies to swim around and into. It was surrounded by lush tropical foliage like frangipani trees and traveller’s palms, with loungey day beds to chill out on. So blissful, even if our baby had to sit in a stroller poolside while we had a quick swim (things aren’t as simple as they once were!).
We also decided to finally dine at Meric
, the hotel’s chic restaurant, after hearing good things about it for ages but for some reason never quite making it. It was worth the wait. While there is a set menu of innovative takes on Khmer food, we opted for the gourmet European menu and indulged in spice crusted beef tenderloin and sea scallops with cauliflower puree and citrus and licorice sauces. For dessert we shared a flourless chocolate cake with a runny centre (delicious) and bitter chocolate sorbet.The lighting, the decor and the atmosphere created a sophisticated vibe, and the food was excellent. Meric is a true culinary gem in Siem Reap and I highly recommend it!