Love led to lip-smackingly good Lebanese food being served up in central Siem Reap. Marissa Carruthers finds out more during a visit to Mezze. Photography by Charles Fox.
It was a mutual love of Lebanese food that brought partners in life, Thierry Immergluck and Kim Chun, making a project together. As a Lebanese Frenchman, Thierry has always been familiar with Middle Eastern food. However, it was an alien cuisine to Cambodian Kim until she came across it while managing “Le Liban” restaurant in the capital six years ago.
“I didn’t know how to cook any of the dishes or use many of the ingredients,” Kim says. “But I’ve always loved cooking and really learnt a lot from “Le Liban Chef while I was in Phnom Penh and also from Thierrys mum later.”
Wanting to open their own restaurant and bar, the couple decided to introduce a new concept to Temple Town and opened super-stylish Mezze in Siem Reap in December 2011. With the setting more of a lounge bar than a restaurant, the aim is to offer a series of light bites throughout the evening and well into the night.
“We don’t serve big mezze platters, we like to experiment more with finger food,” Thierry says. “This also means people can sample more of the different dishes and flavours.”
It’s Kim’s love of experimenting in the kitchen, combined with her creative flair, that has led to Mezze’s culinary success. A string of traditional dishes with a contemporary twist are being added to the menu. Take the tahini, a sauce that accompanies Kim’s equally tasty hummus ($3).
“Tahini is difficult to find here, so we have to improvise and it works really well,” Thierry says. Kim’s solution is to blend white sesame seed with olive oil, buying the remainder of the ingredients fresh from the market each day.
Other speciality dishes include Kim’s caviar tuna, where shot glasses are elegantly filled with her recipe of tuna, tahini sauce, lime, garlic and olive oil, puréed into a light and creamy mousse ($3.75). Then there’s the tasty tabbouleh ($3), a refreshing salad made of diced tomatoes, parsley, mint, bulgur wheat, onion, lime and olive oil.
“It can be difficult to source some of the ingredients we need,” Thierry says. “We have a lot of friends who visit from France and Lebanon so we get them to bring a load of ingredients with them.” This guarantees an authentic taste when it comes to using traditional goods such as parsley, spices and bulgur wheat.
“I went to Lebanon in May for the first time in four years,” Thierry says, as Kim heads into the kitchen to rustle up some of her famous hummus before concocting more mini-mezze platters. “I tried the hummus there and couldn’t find anything anywhere near as good as the stuff Kim makes. Just don’t tell them.”