Anith Adilah Othman is overwhelmed by the grandeur of an elegant French restaurant.
Nestled on the fringe of the city is a 120 year-old building with striking French colonial imprints, once stood as the Bank of Indo China. Today, it has been transformed into a classical elegant French restaurant called Palais La Poste.
A step into the majestic building right next to the iconic Phnom Penh Post Office reveals a long stretch of covered walkway surrounded with luscious greens, as the path takes guests to heavy green doors of wrought iron that now act as the main entrance. While most of the original structures are still retained to preserve its history, the restaurant also incorporates Khmer-inspired decors, giving a nod to the land it sits on. Foodies who are also architecture enthusiasts would be pleased to note the neo-classical influence in the intricacies of its design.
At the main dining room on the first floor, guests can find the special inscription of the acronym “ICB” for Indo China Bank at the centre of the room, flanked by original natural stone mosaic-terrazzo floor tiles in brown, white, cream and black. The insignia is hard to miss especially with a grand chandelier hanging right above it.
Despite its carefully-curated interior, there is something about Palais La Poste that does not make guests feel swallowed by its grandeur. Instead, guests would feel welcomed every step of the way. A team of 10 waiting staff greets each guest with smile as they show the latter to their seat – either in the main dining room or in one of the two VIP rooms available.
Guests who prefer outdoor seating area can opt to dine in the balcony where smoking is also permitted. Meanwhile, the latest addition to the building is a detached dining hall on the ground floor which can also be turned into a private event space on request.
“We want to provide an experience like no other. It is almost like fine dining in one of those majestic French châteaux, without ever having to leave Phnom Penh.
“The restaurant fits all types of functions – from lunch dates to family gatherings. The serene ambience with lounge music playing in the background keeps the mood lively but at the same time the faint volume allows guests to engage in conversations,” Director of Hospitality Mr Phâlik Yin told Good Times2 in a recent interview.
Aside from the iconic building it occupies, Palais La Poste takes the most pride in its wide array of authentic French cuisine. It also offers the crème de la crème of red wine, white wine and champagne selections to suit every need.
Behind every remarkable dish served is the executive chef Nicolas Malherbe, hailing all the way from Perpignan, south of France. With over 20 years of experience working with numerous Michelin-starred restaurants in the likes of L’Astor and L’Hostellerie des Gorges de Pennafort in France, guests are guaranteed a dining experience like no other.
In fact, Malherbe began his culinary journey under the wings of the late Chef Joël Robuchon, who was dubbed ‘Chef of the Century’. Robuchon was the world’s most decorated Michelin star chef with an astounding 31 stars and had produced stellar mentees including Chef Gordon Ramsay.
Among Malherbe’s most popular repertoires are French classics including Filet de Bœuf Black Angus Châteaubriand Flambé (flambèed beef tenderloin black angus Châteaubriand), Raviolis de Foie Gras Sauce au Porto et Champignons (duck liver ravioli with port wine sauce and mushrooms) and Crêpes Suzette (thin French pancake with a sauce of caramelized sugar and butter, tangerine or orange juice).
However, Malherbe’s most highly-recommended concoctions, according to Mr Yin, are Escalope de Foie Gras de Canard Poêlée, Pain d Epices, Chutney de Mangue, Sauce Cerise à La Cannelle (pan seared duck liver, gingerbread, mango chutney and cherry sauce with cinnamon) and Comme une Pomme Verte au Caramel de Beurre Salé, Pain d Epices et Glace Cannelle (apple-like dessert with semi-salty caramel, gingerbread and cinnamon ice-cream).
“The best part about Chef Nicolas’ foie gras is that he has perfected the art of searing. It is crispy on the outside while the inside is soft and it melts in your mouth. It is just divine,” he explained further on the luxurious French delicacy.
“Meanwhile, the dessert is truly one-of-a-kind. It is Chef Nicolas’ special. He likes experimenting with different ingredients to create a concoction like no other. You cannot possibly get it any other French restaurants. It is a definite must-try,” Mr Yin added.
Those who wish to sample French cuisine at great value can opt for Palais La Poste’s special lunch set options featuring an hors d’oeuvre, an entrée and a dessert with tea or coffee.
For $17+, guests can choose from four appetiser options including Carpaccio de poisson au Kéfir et Vinaigrette au Fruit de la Passion (fish carpaccio with Kefir lime and passion fruit vinaigrette), four entrée options including Gratin de Crabe Sauce Thermidor et Riz au Jasmin (crab gratin with thermidor sauce and Jasmine rice) and three dessert options including Glace ou Sorbet Maison (two scoops of homemade ice-cream or sorbet), with a choice of coffee or tea.
Splurge for the other lunch set menu at $32+ for a more elevated dining selection. Guests have four appetisers to pick from including Fricassée d escargots de Bourgogne et sa crème de cèpes (burgundy snail fricassee and boletus cream sauce), four entrée options including Blanquette de Joue de Veau et Légumes de Saison (stewed veal cheek blanquette with seasonal vegetable) and three dessert options including Assiette de Fromage et Fruits Secs (cheese plate with dry fruit), with a choice of coffee or tea.