[Siem Reap, Cambodia] Tasting menu at Cuisine Wat Damnak

cambodia
khmer
fusion
french

#1

We have planned our whole trip around this meal, we need to eat in this restaurant I heard so much about! While doing research at the end of May, I discovered the restaurant would be closed after 25 June for a month long vacation, I decided to move our holiday 2 weeks forward. Given the circumstances, I was expecting a lot on Cuisine Wat Damnak.

Strangely, all the 3 dinners we had in Siem reap were all located in the same area Wat Damnak, on the right bank of the river, opposite to the central market and the pub street on the left bank, I guess it must be the hot area of gastronomy, cheaper in rent. There were a lot of construction going on, hotels, very dusty and part of the street had no street lights. Although it was just 10 minutes walk to our hotel.

I reserved a table with fan, we were seated in a fan room on the second floor in an elegant wooden house, with a view in the garden. The courtyard on the ground floor was beautiful.

We ordered both menus (a 5 courses and a 6 courses) in order to taste everything.

Amuse-bouche

Lemongrass marinated seafood salad with pomelo, resurrection lily and candied pomelo skin dressing

Duck confit fried rice salad

Steamed mean with minced pork and egg, herbs, flowers and local crudités

Wild rice were provided in most courses to accompany the dishes.

Mekong langoustine pancake in nom pao style, tomalley emulsion, ripe an green papaya salad

Pan fried Tonle Sap croacker fish with fresh bamboo shoots, lemon basil, purslane, amaranth and coconut broth

Barbecued pork shank sour soup with wild mushrooms, holy basil, water celery and pounded pea eggplant

Crispy beef tongue with shiny cresson, fermented tomato paste and home made oyster sauce - my favourite dish of the night.

Caramelixed palm sugar and green pepper braised Sanday fish, winter melon, bilimbi and deep fried garlic

Chocolate pot de crème and steamed cake, peanut mousse and nougatine

Chilled fruits soup with Mondolkiri tea, lemon basil sorbet and meringue

Wild fruits to finish off the meal. The chef came to us to explain each fruit. It seems to be a rituel in Siem Reap, that chef likes to come to greet the guests at the end of the meal. We never had this treatment in other parts of Cambodia.

My impression of the meal: I have dined in David Thompson’s restaurant Nahm in Bangkok, I thought it would be the same concept, that a western chef cooking local cuisine with prime products. I was a bit confused when I felt it was more French than Khmer cuisine, I know the structure of tasting menu, carte blanche and how it works back in Paris, so I got less surprise out of meal. The cooking of chef Joannes Riviere was fusion, French technique with local ingredients, I must say the cooking was well done, flavours were well balanced and delicious, but I didn’t feel I was eating Cambodian cooking. At times, I was feeling the dishes were overly complex, maybe mentally I hadn’t prepare for this, it was an interesting experience, I was out of sync the whole meal.

Service was professional. We paid $69.50 USD for the 2 menus, a bottle of water, 1 cocktail and 1 non alcohol drink.

Cuisine Wat Damnak
Between Psa Dey Hoy market and Angkor High School
(next to Chocolate Street and Haven Training School)
Wat Damnak village,
Siem Reap
+855 (0)77 347 762
www.cuisinewatdamnak.com
info@cuisinewatdamnak.com (reservation is a must, better book weeks before)


#2

Interesting looking food. We struggled a bit in Siam Reap and ended up eating at Raffles one night and they did a similar menu with local ingredients but lots of French technique. It was surprisingly good although like you we were not tuned into that and had expected more good local food (sadly the local stuff seemed more aimed at backpackers on a budget).

On another trip we stayed in Phnom Penh and at at a charity restaurant (Romdeng) that trains street kids to cook and serve in restaurants. It was actually really good and apparently very traditional Cambodian food. I think they now have a branch in Siam Reap as well.


#3

I think part of the reason is Siem Reap is a small city that expands quickly because of Angkor Wat. There are a lot of immigrates working there, we don’t really see an interesting local food scene, unlike for example the neighbouring city, Battambang. Activities are tourist oriented. I think it is a city that is still searching for its identity. We tried to find something interesting to eat at lunch when doing the rounds of temples, but ended up in the tuk tuk arranged restaurant, not very interesting. I tried to ask the driver for interesting places to eat himself, but with his limited English, and probably the commission he got with the restaurants he had arrangement, he wouldn’t bring us to places which he ate normally.

We tried a local market to buy some fruits, it wasn’t easy, first we need to buy kilos of the same ones! (Don’t understand why they couldn’t sell less or the flexibility to sell different fruits) and secondly, they didn’t have change with their local money or US dollar and they kept serving the locals and ignoring us. (Only beggars were interested in us).

We went there too on this trip. Very good indeed, we were, like you at their Phnom Penh branch, I will write about it later.


#4

@paprikaboy You left Siem Reap and Cambodia already? Did you try Cuisine Wat Damnak?


(Chris) #5

Only spent 7 days in Cambodia. I was in Laos longer than anticipated and I already had my Vietnamese visa with fixed dates so had to rush through.

I couldn’t get a table so went to Malis instead. A very similar concept with regards to Khmer cuisine. The very definition of a curates egg of a meal. Will post when I have time.


#6

Would like to know more about eating out and transport in Laos, we would like to visit the country in 1 or 2 years’ time. We have once tried to quote the price of transportation from Bangkok, the price of air ticket and inland transport was so ridiculously expensive, we cancelled our plan of our trip and stayed just in Thailand.


(Peter) #7

Cuisine Wat Damnak is closed from January 28-February 26 in the new year. Found that out when I was trying to book as I’ll be in Siem Reap end of Jan. Sigh, have to miss it this time.


#8

Too bad! Seems to me, they are always on vacation!