Khéma La Poste has opened its second diner in the capital’s historic quarter. Writer Jessica Tana and photographer Enric Català sample the menu.

The egg-shell coloured building, lined with flourishes of white, opens into an immaculate, yet understated room. Once the headquarters for Messageries Fluviales de Cochinchine, Khéma has transformed the building into a fine dining experience.

Known for its French cuisine, the new restaurant has added to the menu of its Street 51 diner, focusing on Cambodian dishes, vegetarian options, and healthy salads. For starters, we tried the deep-fried Cambodian fish cakes ($6), which were served on a mixed green salad with a tangy sesame oil, peanut and lime dipping sauce. Springy in texture, the fish cakes combined the fresh flavour of coriander with spices and lime.

Next we tried the cobb salad ($8), a hearty layered dish consisting of chicken, bacon, avocado, hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes and corn, served on a bed of mixed lettuce with a creamy French dressing.

Next, we tried the chef’s salad ($8), Khéma’s signature salad made of mixed green lettuce leaves, slices of ham, Comte cheese, hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, peppers and shallots. Served with a mustard vinaigrette, the salad was fresh and varied.

For mains, we tried two different versions of the popular French dish steak-frites. The Steak-Frites Café de Paris ($9) consisted of tender beef slices (120g) served in a bubbling Café de Paris butter sauce on a platter kept hot by warming candles in the base. A complex sauce was made from herbs, anchovies, garlic and mustard, the butter added flavour and richness to the steak.

Steak-Frites ($12) was served as a grilled steak (180g) covered in a creamy black pepper sauce. With large peppercorns throughout the sauce, the dish was delightfully piquant. The star of the night, however was the beef bourguignon ($10). A quintessential French dish, the full-flavoured beef stew is made with Burgundy wine, bacon, mushrooms and onions. The meat melted in my mouth and had a real depth of flavour from the rich, hearty stew. Served with smooth, garlicy potato puree, the combination was divine.

The chocolate fondant ($5.5) is a dark chocolate cake hiding a molten chocolate centre that erupts from the first spoonful. The intensely dark and creamy chocolate centre oozed over to the ball of Madagascar vanilla ice cream atop crushed pistachio nuts and a smear of dark purple berry confiture. The combination of sweet and bitter was a decadent juxtaposition.

Next, we tried the light and creamy cheesecake ($3.50). Made on a crunchy biscuit base with a dense citrusy cream cheese topping, the cake was served with a sprinkling of blueberries. The lemon tart ($2.50) consisted of a zesty lemon cream set in a crumbly pastry cup and surrounded by a flourish of tiny meringues.

With a new menu and beautifully renovated building, Khéma La Poste is every bit a fine dining experience without the heavy price tag.