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Carnets d’Asie – Siem Reap

Ph Sivatha

We decided to look out for something different on our third night in Siem Reap – we weren’t sure what we were looking for, but we’d know it when we found it. So we set off around the block, ended up crossing the main road (Ph Sivatha) and stumbled across a sign showing the menu for Carnets d’Asie.

The restaurant itself was tucked away behind an arts-and-crafts shop. There were no staff at the entrance, so we wandered in, chose a likely-looking table, and made to sit down at it. At that point a waitress finally did appear. She seemed surprised to see us (after all, it was only a quarter past six in the evening) but assured us that the restaurant was indeed open.

After looking at the wine list, we decided we’d have a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Dave attracted the waitress’s attention and made the order. She dutifully read it back: “One bottle Sauvignon Blanc. . . and Madame is not hungry.” We hastily assured her that Madame was indeed hungry – we just needed a bit more time to read the menu.

And a very interesting menu it was, too. We like to sample a variety of things if we can, rather than wade through a plateful of a single dish each. So we ordered five different dishes. Neither of us had ever had banana flower salad or palm heart salad before, but we were intrigued at the prospect. Both were rewarding – similar to a Thai som tam in some ways, but less fiery and more complex. Well worth trying if you get the chance. The duck foie gras – home-made, apparently – was melt-in-your-mouth smooth. A nicely-presented Caesar salad and a rich, tasty spaghetti in pesto sauce rounded off the meal. It seemed a shame not to stay for dessert, but we were too full!

Visit Two: July 2006

We headed over to Carnets d’Asie again on our second night (our pal Don, who’d come with us to Siem Reap this time, kindly left us to it). It was much busier than it had been on our previous visit, no doubt because we went at eight o’clock instead of quarter-past six. (The service was fine and showed no signs of being unable to cope with the greater numbers.) Sadly, as it turned out we weren’t feeling hungry for their particular menu – we were really in more of a mood for something hearty rather than exotic, subtle flavours. But we still managed to do justice to the duck liver paté, the banana flower salad and the scallop salad (which we’d wanted to order last time but were thwarted by the lack of scallops). And, of course, the obligatory bottle of Sauv Blanc…

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Despite the quirky service the first time round (and after all, it was relatively early in the evening) we thoroughly enjoyed this. Not somewhere you’d want to eat at every night – it’s a little too expensive for that – but great as an occasional treat.

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