Malis, Phnom Penh
Malis is Chef Luu Meng’s attempt to clean up Cambodian food and serve it in a fine dining context. They also research and recreate old Cambodian recipes. I chose to sit outside in the pleasant courtyard with the koi pond and the fountain and the stone buddha. I found it slightly annoying to be seated along a narrow walkway in full view of every guest entering the restaurant. I also would have personally preferred to have more comfortable chairs to lounge in to match the garden in paradise theme rather than their heavy straight backed wooden ones. There are many offerings on the menu, and portion sizes are quite large so it is best to go with friends. For what it is, the food is good value for money. Dinner cost me $30. Since I am headed to the coast next I decided to give the seafood a miss. I was stuffed on a gigantic portion of delicious amok, made with goby, which incidentally is yummy. My favourite item was the bamboo soup with dried fish. It did the best job of showcasing the well-balanced subtle flavours that Cambodian food is known for. I also ordered the deep fried eel which was a daily special. It came with a slightly sourish black peppery prahoc fueled sauce. I was slightly underwhelmed by this dish. The sauce was intriguing but the eel was nothing special. After visiting the prahoc (fish paste) market near Battambang it was nice to see how the various preserved fish products are used in good Cambodian cooking. The non-alcoholic drinks menu consisted of very standard juices and soft drinks and could use some livening up. The service was polite and responsive but a little awkward and reticent for a restaurant that is supposed to showcase traditional Khmer cooking to the outside world. Would have appreciated more advice on Cambodian history and food and culture and help with navigating the massive menu!