Villa Oeno is the new name of the large and attractive building on the corner of Streets 240 and 19, behind the Royal Palace. The architecture is nostalgic French colonial and the entrance on the corner has an air of grandeur as you walk inside. Upstairs I am greeted by the very friendly staff and escorted to my table, the floor is divided into two halves with a bar and bistro area on one side and the linen covered tables of the restaurant to my left. The bistro seats around forty five people and the restaurant thirty; there are 4 private dining rooms upstairs and one below which can accommodate between six to eighteen people.
Tonight I will be having dinner in the fine dining restaurant with new marketing manager, Elisabeth Noorman. The restaurant has only been open for a couple of months and the staff are trying very hard to please; throughout dinner I will find them absolutely wonderful. Elisabeth who is from the Netherlands is also new to Cambodia, she still has that glint of wonderment and adventure in her eyes, as my host I find her charming, competent and engaging company.
The restaurant bills itself as being fine(r), (sic) dining as opposed to ‘fine dining’ -I don’t think they needed to have bothered with the marketing cuteness, why not just call it a restaurant?
With a large wine boutique downstairs the wine list is -as you would expect- exceptional, one of the finest in the city, containing almost two hundred and fifty different wines. Throughout the evening I notice that the wines are kept in excellent condition and served at just the right temperature.
Chef Pisoth has been with this group for five years, he has a long and impressive culinary history having been the head chef at Knai Bang Chatt Resort and Sokha Beach resort. He is a chef of exceptional skill and experience, one of the best Cambodian chefs in the country.
The menu arrives and looks incredible, tantalizing, there are literally a dozen things I want to try immediately. The style is definitely fine dining, modern French and full of classics like: Foie Gras, Salmon Gravlax, Goat’s Cheese and Beetroot Salad and Beef Carpaccio. Soups include French Onion, Wild Mushroom and a local Tom yum. The seafood selection is a real stand out with hard to find fish like freshwater trout and monkfish. The main course menu offers a selection of high quality beef including Black Angus from both Australia and Ireland.
We start the evening with a warm salad of Japanese scallops, saucisson, caviar and rocket, the greens are fresh and crisp and the scallops succulent, divine. The whole dish is a beautifully imagined creation from chef, it is simple yet complex, with components that compliment and textures that contrast, I love it.
This is followed by a stunning asparagus soup with crab meat and fish roe. The soup is rich and creamy, the crab sweet and juicy, the roe are like little pearls that give a small explosion of sea salt minerality to the dish making it complex, interesting and evolving on the palate, it is a wonder, a pure joy to eat.
The wine is a Spanish 2014, Rueda Blanco from Marqués de Riscal, made from the Verdejo grape it’s an inspired choice that works perfectly with the dish to enhance the experience, subtle, dry and beautifully textural.
The next dish is steamed monkfish in a saffron sauce, it is delicious, my comment to the host is that I would return to the restaurant for this dish alone and I will; it is sublime. The dense meaty tail of the monkfish is lobster like with a firm texture and sweet flavours, the light, airy saffron sauce is a beautiful and informed combination, this is a must try dish in the Penh.
We then have a slow cooked lamb shank with winter vegetables and a rich sauce, it is tender and succulent and a very good dish, suffering slightly for following the spectacular dishes that preceded it.
To finish we select three different French cheeses from the impressive list of imported cheese, opting for a blue cheese, a truffle brie and a comte, served with preserved figs it and an aged Dr. Loosen late harvest Riesling, it is the perfect coda to an outstanding performance both back and front of house.
With entrees from eight to twelve dollars, (twenty for the foie gras) mains around the twenty dollar mark and the steaks up around forty the prices are very, very reasonable for quality like this. With several outlets under one roof the challenge for Villa Oeno will be to maintain consistent quality across all of the outlets and platforms. In their restaurant tonight I was extremely impressed with the menu selections and the execution of the dishes, definitely some of the fine(R), French cuisine in the capital.
Bistro & Deli: 11:00am to 11:30pm
Restaurant & Wine Bar: 5:00pm to 11:30pm
Cnr Streets 240 & 19