If you want to dine like Khmer kings and queens in Cambodia, there are only two establishments in the country that offer such cuisine. One is at 1932 Restaurant, Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor. The other is at their sister hotel in Phnom Penh. The recipes have been passed on by royal decree from the king's kitchen directly to both hotels. You might wonder why the restaurant is named '1932'. It was the year this fabulous hotel opened in Cambodia and has been the place to see and be seen in Siem Reap ever since.
There is a timeless elegance to the design of the restaurant. Ceiling fans and rattan chairs are synonymous with the Indochina region. There are gentle hints of the local culture from the ornate metal holder for the glasses to the elegant lotus flowers that adorn every table. The dining space is welcoming, understated and refined.
The menu is a joyous exploration of Khmer cuisine. It's generally regarded as subtler than Thai cuisine. The flavours are vibrant without ever being overpowering. The culinary team has developed a menu that adapts traditional Khmer recipes for the modern palate. The presentation of their dishes are as immaculate as the King's royal palace gardens in Phnom Penh.
Signature dishes include their Chay Yor Bampong which is a deconstructed take on the humble spring rolls. The exciting flavours will dance on your taste buds with a spicy plum sauce as well as a chilli sauce. We opted for an authentic local classic in the form of sweet pomelo salad with fresh water prawn and smoked Kes fish. It had a fine balance between sweet and savoury flavours. The fine seafood is sourced locally from the Mekong and Tonlé Sap River regions. For their fragrant herbs and spices, they have their hotel gardens to help minimise the carbon footprint.
The main course was in the form of soft like butter, braised Wagyu beef cheeks with ma-om infusion (an aromatic local herb), quail egg, green tomato puree and baby carrots. Beef dishes are surprisingly popular in Khmer cuisine but sometimes the quality of the meat can be variable. That is most definitely not the case with the premium Wagyu on offer at 1932 restaurant. They have carefully crafted vegetarian options too like their crusted tofu with slow-cooked sweet potato, French beans and melon along with Som Lor Kari & coconut foam. It has a gentle heat along with a moreish sweetness.
They can offer a Royal Khmer cuisine tasting menu at USD 70 per person or a signature tasting menu at USD 62 per person. They also offer wine pairings along with your meal courtesy of their talented sommelier, Ms Sum Socheata. I am often dubious about wine pairings along with Asian food, but she delivers on the wine suggestions. Often, it is contrasting flavours that help to bring out the complexities of a dish. Her Charles Mignon Premium Reserve Brut pairing with their dessert course is both bold and innovative.
The freshness of the Champagne helped to bring out the fruitiness of the signature pumpkin custard tart dessert. It was also served with mango salsa, hand-grated coconut and pandan sauce. If you ever wanted to have a taste of Cambodia on a plate, this was it. A refreshing, light dessert to end a truly magnificent feast.
The Elephant Bar nearby is a great way to enjoy an aperitif or a digestif pre or post-dinner. They have their famous version of the Singapore Sling, the Grand Hotel d'Angkor Sling which utilises galangal and ginger. The hotel also has a luxury array of boutique shops as well as occasional exhibitions like the "When the Buddha smiles" during our visit. Make sure you allocate plenty of time when you plan your Khmer feast at the wonderful 1932 restaurant.