May 28, 2016

Siem Reap Travelogue: A Taste of Cambodian-French Fusion Cuisine by Cuisine Wat Damnak (30 Jan 2015)

Our "tomb raiding" experience in Ta Prohm was no doubt exhausting. Despite so, it did not temper our enthusiasm to experiment with unique local fusion cuisine, particularly Cuisine Wat Damnak.

Cuisine Wat Damnak is a contemporary Cambodian-French fusion restaurant, quietly tucked in a quaint area of Wat Damnak. I love its homely setting and warm ambiance. With both al-fresco and transparent indoor conditioned dining, it caters well to both Western and Asian diners.

Simplicity was prevalent in Cuisine Wat Damnak - 2 tasting menus every week, 5-course or 6-course at USD24 and USD28 respectively. It sure made our decisions easier - 6-course for both tasting menus please!

Our fine dining evening was ushered by this seemingly familiar amuse-bouche. Though it was not experimental like most, its simplicity was unparalleled; it was the living testimony of harmonious coexistent of crisp and tenderness.

Crispy Beef Tongue Salad with Rose Apple, Cucumber, Sweet Peanut and Tamarind Dressing
Before long, the first appertiser followed. This was the revolution of classic satay, sans the stick, cons exquisite organ belonging to a cow. I must admit that beef tongue was not really my kind of meat but the overall combination was not overwhelming. Thanks to the clever play of natural sweetness from rose apple, the nutty aroma of peanut, and the citrusy twist from tamarind, this crispy beef tongue was the best organ I have ever had in my life.

Fresh Coconut Tree Heart Salad with Lemon Basil, Tonle Sap Puffer Fish and Spicy Pounded Coconut
In case you didn't notice, Cuisine Wat Damnak sources mainly from nearby farms and foraged wild from Siem Reap province. Hence, we had Tonle Sap puffer fish and coconut tree heart gracing our dining plates. While this might not be as challenging as the crispy beef tongue salad, this coconut tree heart salad was intriguing at its own way: who would have thought of eating the coconut tree heart with fried fish? More so with its combination of coconut, lemon basil and chilies.

Black Sticky Rice Porridge with Duck, Mushrooms, Sesame and Chrysanthemum Shoots
By then we were so pleased with our appetisers that we couldn't wait to explore the next adventure our main would deliver: black sticky rice porridge wth duck, mushrooms, sesame and chrystanthemum shoots. I loved how blended was the flavour of duck in black sticky rice porridge. I loved how the texture of thinly shredded duck meat paired with dense sticky rice and fresh chrysanthemum shoots. It had definitely escalated my gastronomy experience to the next level.

Grilled Pahar with Minced Pork and Holy Basil in Turmeric Leaf, Herbs and Local Crudites
Another main presented us with another fish species (I think) we had yet to discover until now, i.e Pahar. Unusual as it seemed, Cuisine Wat Damnak combined both fish and pork into a single dish that was so blended that I could hardly differentiate both. You might think it was predictable but that strong fragrant holy basil and turmeric leaf did lend a hand in proving you wrong.

Slow Cooked Pork Ribs Curry with Pumpkin, Peanuts and Deep Fried Shallots
We just had to have more and guess what, we had 2 more mains to go! This pork ribs curry was probably the least twisted dish in this post. The addition of pumpkin not only thicken the curry, it sweetened it. Oh, and that additional crunch from those crushed peanuts to go with the sweet tender pork ribs. Yes, I would definitely want some rice now!

Mekong Langoustine Spicy Sour Soup with Starfruit, Water Lily Stem and Rice Paddy Herb
Contrastingly, this second main was accompanied by usual flair of mystery. Bombarded with more ingredients unheard of, it anchored itself well with the usage of langoustine so fresh that it felt like it just died. The usage of starfruit added slight tartness to the dish, though easily ignored in the presence of spicy sour soup.

Stir Fried Boneless Frog Legs with Angkor Stout Reduction, Lotus Roots, Stems and Seeds
By now, we were rather full with satisfaction but we were not done. Though I am not a big fan of frogs, I was sold by the Angkor Stout reduction. Fermentation of grains and reduction method of cooking are a strong combination that promised only to bring out the best in our four legged jumpy friend. As expected, its chewy texture gave in to the warm embrace of Angkor Stout reduction. Paired with crunchy lotus roots, stems and seeds, it was a dish that makes any non frog eaters to go head over toe for it!

Pan Roasted Sanday Fish with Cambodian Giant Eggplant, Caramelised Palm Sugar, Fresh Peppercorn and Green Mango
Gracing our dinner plate was yet another fish unknown to us, along with clever combination of palm sugar and green mango. The usage of Cambodian giant eggplant was aptly so: what was better than a soft bed that absorbed all the healthy fat oozing from Sanday fish and the sweet spicy sauce?

Coconut Caramelised Baguette with White Chocolate Light Ganache and Fresh Turmeric Braised Pineapple
To end the night with sweet note, Cuisine Wat Damnak whipped out another unusual combo. Yes, I sure loved the coconut aroma with crumbly crispy baguette but better still, it was soaked with pineapple sweetened naturally by the braising and accentuated with white chocolate ganache. What about the turmeric? Nah, you would probably not noticed it at all.

Steamed Dark Chocolate Cake with Passion Fruit Mousse and Rice Praline
Though this was not as exciting as its another half, it was a well executed dolci on its own. The cake was soft and moist; the mousse was light and refreshing; the rice praline was a nice touch of texture.

Total Damage for 2 Pax = USD78 (6-course for two and a bottle of white)

A meal as good as this will never be complete without a glass of wine


My personal dining ranking (5 being the full score) based on following criteria are:
  • Ambiance - 5/5
  • Price - 5/5
  • Food - 5/5
  • Verdict - I would surely come again! (Psst, menu is changed weekly so you can practically go every week!)


Cuisine Wat Damnak
Address: Wat Damnak village, Sala Kamreuk Commune, Siem Reap, Cambodia (Between Psa Dey Hoy market and Angkor High School)
Operation Hours: 6.30pm - 9.30pm (Tues - Sat)
Tel: +855 (0)77 347 762
Credit Card: Yes

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