South African Chef Timothy Bruyns won high acclaim for his Phnom Penh restaurant “Common Tiger” and I was sad not to have made it there before they closed in October last year.
Luckily the closure was so that they could focus on their new venture, The Tigers Eye which saw him taking over the recently vacated restaurant space on Sotheros Boulevard (previously occupied by The Duck)
Bruyns cooks what has been described as “progressive Asian cuisine” using the very best local produce to create a weekly (ish) changing menu of beautifully plated (seriously, check out their Instagram page its just gorgeous!) contemporary Asian/Western dishes and after visiting for a quick lunch whilst I was in Phnom Penh last week, I knew I had to return on my next trip.
On my first visit I ordered the “Mozzarella” ($8) with Green and Red Tomatoes from the “Lighter Side” of the A La Carte menu. I was impressed that his commitment to using local produce extended to the mozzarella, which I learnt is made in Siem Reap Province, and the tomatoes were the tastiest I have eaten in Cambodia, without a doubt. The salad was simply dressed with some good olive oil, a sprinkling of salt and basil puree and each of the ingredients were really able to shine.
Whilst the bread ($4.50 for 2 people, although as I was alone, I was charged $2.50) was nothing particularly special, both the Smoked Brown Butter and the Green Tomato and Ginger Jam that it was served with were fantastic – I was tempted just to eat the butter with a spoon!
I had not been planning on trying a dessert but the “Pineapple” ($6) with Compressed and Roasted Peanut Pesto and Coconut sounded too interesting to pass up on, as I had order a salad I figured it wouldn’t do me any harm! The Pineapple seemed to have been almost roasted and was served in its natural juice with a coconut espuma, ginger rice dumplings and the peanut “pesto” that added a delicious savoury note to the dish. It reminded me of chilli and kaffir lime roasted peanuts, I guess they may have been used in the dessert as well.
Whilst I really wanted to return to try their 5 course tasting menu ($55 or $80 with wines) it sadly wasn’t going to fit in with the rest of my plans and so I decided to return for another lunch instead when I was back in Phnom Penh earlier this week.
For my second visit I ordered the pasta from the “Something More Serious” section of the menu; Homemade Papperdelle, Prawn, Tomato and Chilli ($13). Unsurprisingly the pasta was cooked nice and al dente and served with a generous portion of prawn stirred into the pasta sauce. I didn’t detect any hint of chilli, however the aniseedy astringency of the local basil cut through the tomatoes nicely and added an interesting layer of flavour to the dish.
On the strength of how good the pineapple and coconut dessert had been the previous week, I decided to try another dessert; “Pumpkin” Crème Caramel, Coconut, Cashew and White Chocolate ($7) as it also sounded really interesting.
This has to be the most beautifully plated dessert I have had in a very long time indeed, on a par with some of the Michelin starred restaurants I ate at when I was last in London. Two miniature crème caramels with coconut espuma, crunchy meringues, frozen white chocolate parfait, cashew nut crumble, compressed melon and little white chocolate beignets with a tiny ball of intense pumpkin ice cream.
Ok I guessed some of those but I reckon I must be at least 80% correct! Regardless, each component of the dish was delicious and all the different textures combined to make for a really wonderful dessert. It was so good I was sad when it was finished, even though it was surprisingly filling in spite of its dainty plating!
Without a doubt this was the best dish that I have eaten in Cambodia; Timothy Bruyns is one seriously talented chef and the Tigers Eye is a very exciting restaurant. I cannot wait to return to Phnom Penh so that I may have the opportunity to eat there again.