BACKGROUND One of Phnom Penh’s most revered restaurants, Malis serves fine Khmer cuisine by co-owner Luu Meng, whose fan base includes international chef Gordon Ramsay. The multi-storey complex consists of an open-air dining area of water features and landscaped trees on the ground floor and air-conditioned spaces upstairs. As you enter, you are greeted by a Buddha statue, which sets the tone for an evening of exotic dining. The team here has catered to international events including a UNESCO meeting in Italy last year.
THE FOOD Khmer cuisine shares some similarities with Thai food, so the flavours were not too foreign to my palate. Western twists were evident in dishes such as Malis beef carpaccio seasoned in a blend of lemongrass, green peppercorn, fish sauce and a touch of lime juice. Indigenous offerings included mak mee (crispy noodles topped with stir-fried minced pork, fresh herbs and chili sauce) and fish amok, a local dish of goby. It was, unfortunately, not available on the night we visited. We tried the deep-fried soft-shell crab, which, although beautifully presented, was a little too heavy on batter. But the sour fish soup with kreung (lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, garlic, shallots and herbs) packed a nice punch. All in all, our meal was enjoyable.
DRINKS The bar here churns out some decent martini, and there is also an extensive wine list of both Old World and New World choices.
SERVICE Unlike in other parts of the Cambodian capital where the floor staff in restaurants and bars tend to be genuine and warm, the servers here seemed aloof. They deliver what they are asked of, just don’t expect the delivery to come with a smile.
PRICES Breakfast items start from US$2.2; appetisers and soups from US$5.9 to US$9.5; main courses include fish amok for US$7.8 and beef chop and Kampot pepper for US$26.8; desserts are priced from US$3.2
LOCATION 136 Norodom Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. For reservation, call +855 23 221 022; www.malis-restaurant.com
OPENING HOURS Daily 0630 to 2200
VERDICT This is a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh streets that can sometimes get overwhelming. Although expensive for Cambodia, it is reasonable considering the overall package.