At home by the river: Malis Siem Reap
Temple hopping can be hungry work, as anyone visiting the renowned ruins of Angkor will attest. However, there is no need to forgo monumental surrounds if your appetite is intrigued by the mysteries of Cambodian cuisine. Siem Reap’s newly opened Malis restaurant, set in a prime location next to the river, delivers wonders both architectural and culinary.
From the outside, you may feel as if you are about to step into a potentate’s palace or a museum. The design, all white walls and clean lines conjoined with traditional Khmer motifs, successfully manages to meld ancient traditions with a modernist touch. Inside, high ceilings keep the atmosphere cool, but wooden panelling and cone-shaped copper chandeliers provide warmth. Tall windows bring in light, gold-and red-lacquered screens lend elegance, and there’s a central courtyard for those wishing to dine al fresco.
Malis has a sister branch in Phnom Penh, long a dining destination for inquisitive tourists and well-heeled locals alike. Chef Luu Meng, the driving force being the restaurants, had long desired to open a branch in Siem Reap, but was keen on waiting for the right plot to become available.
“The success and praise of Malis Phnom Penh encouraged us to open another restaurant in a new location, but it took us a while to look around and find the perfect spot,” Meng says. “We are glad we took our time because we believe our incredible venue in this area by the river, surrounded by 200-year-old trees, raises the bar for the restaurant industry in Siem Reap.”
Meng takes great pride in his menu, which he describes as “living Cambodian cuisine”. Experience as a chef in Singapore and Malaysia forged his vision of collecting traditional Cambodian recipes and presenting them in an updated style.
“Cambodian cuisine is special in that we have many influences from India, China, France and from our close neighbours, so there’s a mix of textures, flavours and ingredients in our cooking,” Meng says. “However two fundamental elements, prahok [fermented fish paste] and kroeung [mix of spices] are found in every kitchen and this is what gives our dishes their unique Cambodian taste.”
Although Malis Siem Reap offers guests the same menu as its Phnom Penh incarnation, Meng is seeking to adapt its offerings to incorporate ingredients grown in the local area.
“This is really what the Malis philosophy is all about – experimenting and playing with different textures, ingredients and flavours. We are all for letting our cuisine evolve,” Meng says.
Malis Siem Reap is located on Pokambor Avenue and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner between 6am and 10pm. Tel: +855 (0)15 824 888 Website: malis-restaurant.com/siemreap/