Combining food and art is something Do Forni’s new chef has off to a tee. Editor Marissa Carruthers and photographer Charles Fox sample the new menu.

For Andrea Genio, there is more to being a chef than just cooking; to him, it’s an art form calling on creativity, imagination and bold moves to experiment with the abstract.

“This is a traditional Italian restaurant; I want to make it a modern and contemporary Italian restaurant,” says the native Italian chef, who has been recruited to help revamp Do Forni’s offerings.

Genio’s passion for art is certainly evident in the dishes he proudly produces. Using the plate as his easel, he experiments with a brave and unusual concoction of ingredients, colours, textures and flavours.

The result is a feast for both the eyes and palette, with the chef taking care and precision to have “fun with the food” while creating masterpieces that leave diners’ jaws dropping to the floor.

The Baci and Abbracci ($26) is a prime example of the chef’s creative mind. Presented on a mirror plate, the dish almost looks too good to tuck into, with blues, greens, pinks, yellows and purples working alongside each other.

Using more than 30 ingredients, the dish sees sweet and savoury collide. Foie gras coated with chocolate and smoothly moulded into delicate blue mouths in dedication to the Italian fashion house the dish is named after, sit next to green pea paste, pink ginger, vanilla biscuit crumble and semi-dried bananas.

The crunch of the chocolate coating followed by the soft and moist foie gras centre surprisingly complement each other; as does the sweet bed of pineapple gel it sits on. Here, contrasts work wonderfully together with the kick of the ginger tamed by the pea paste and crunch of the biscuit crumble.

The carpaccio di finta carne ($9) is another shock dish. Presented in the same style as the traditional carpaccio of raw beef or tuna, it comes as a surprise when a mouthful of the pink rounded “meat” is in fact watermelon. The fruit is simmered for five hours until black, then cleaned and smoked for 90 minutes before drying for a further hour-and-a-half. The result gives a smoky, almost woody taste, which works well with the dull bitterness of the black olives and the crunch of the pine nuts. Pecorino cheese, watercress and a slightly sweet cherry tomato comfit complete the plate.

Genio’s artistic skills are once again apparent in the Cubo Nero di Zola su Barbabietola ($18). A black cube sits in contrast to the deep maroon paste it sits atop. As the knife slices in, gooey Gorgonzola cheese oozes out of its coating of home-made blackening powder, mixing with the red beetroot puree below, which tames the tang of the cheese.

Next up is a mains option that Genio refers to as “something classy”, and classy it certainly is. The Carre d’Agnello alla Valtellinese ($36) sees a juicy and tender lamb rack that is smoked in tobacco to give it a subtle barbecued taste placed on a smooth celeriac mash, purple vitelotte potatoes and raspberry sauce.

“I want to make dishes that are a surprise and that people enjoy eating,” he says.”

Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh.
Tel: 023 999 200.
Open daily from 6.30pm to 10.30pm.