A-hoy there Phnom Penh because there’s a new pizza place in town, and you don’t even have to move from your sofa to sample it. Words by Marissa Carruthers; photography by Lucas Veuve.
When I saw the words pirate and pizza, my heart skipped a beat. Two of my favourite things, together. What was this? Pirates eating pizza? A pirate-themed pizza joint? A pizza party with a strict pirate dress code?
Unfortunately, it turns out to be none. However, it does happen to be a pretty good delivery service, with every fine detail carefully covered when it comes to pulling off the perfect gourmet pizza.
“There are some good pizzas in town now that are being done well,” says owner Dah Lee, who heads up operations from the industrial-size kitchen below his apartment.
“We want to do things well and use the best of everything to create what is essentially a bistro on a pizza plate.”
Six weeks were spent sampling various techniques to get the dough just right. More than 60 bases were cooked, experimenting with time left in the fridge, ingredients and hand-kneading techniques until the base was perfected.
The tomato sauce contains 14 ingredients and is cooked for several hours to give it a smooth consistency. And the 15 toppings have been carefully chosen to reflect the offerings you would expect to find in one of Lee’s previous ventures, such as The Duck.
The burnt butter mushroom medley ($10.50) sees sautéed wild mushrooms and a garlic confit topping, drizzled with homemade porcini, cepe-infused extra virgin olive oil and shaved gran padano. While the Khmer pepper crusted-seared choice ($12.50) presents USA hanger steak – rare or medium – alongside caramelised onions, roasted cherry tomatoes, garlic confit and tuk meric, a lime, pepper and sugar dressing.
Opting for the smoked salmon pizza ($12), Lee set about brushing the pizza tray with oil followed by a light dusting of semolina and sea salt, before placing the paper-thin base on top. A light layer of sauce is spread on the dough with generous helpings of Italian mozzarella covering it. Sliced roasted red peppers, shallots slow cooked in oil, and a garlic confit are then added with artistic flair.
Canadian salmon cured in raw brown sugar is hot smoked above American smoking hickory chips. Once the smoke starts billowing out, the lid is lifted and the smoking salmon added to the pizza. A final splash of extra virgin olive oil is applied before being placed in the oven for eight minutes.
The result is a darn good pizza. The smoking of the salmon really intensifying the flavour. The cheese-to-tomato ratio is on point, and the base is perfectly crisp, helped by the dusting of semolina and sea salt. The extensive experimenting has also paid off as the thin base remains crisp with a soft centre, thanks to the dough being left in the fridge for three days.
With more than 20 restaurants under his belt, Lee is convinced his switch to delivering gourmet pizzas is the recipe to success.