From haute cuisine to rustic lasagna and steak, Brasserie du Port has something for everyone. Michael Sloan expands his culinary horizons with owner and chef Jean Pierre Marguin. Photography by Dylan Walker.
Ten minutes after Jean Pierre Marguin pops open a bottle of apple brandy and sets to work flambéing a duck breast, the dish is painting a Sistine Chapel on my taste buds – all thanks to 20 years of French cooking experience.
The duck is melt-in-your-mouth tender and comes topped with caramalised apple. Each mouthful of the $12 dish combines a bittersweet brandy taste with the succulence of the bird.
But it’s not the only specialty of Brasserie du Port – an airy French bistro that lies on the capital’s riverside opposite Phnom Penh’s port. Every dish promises the gastronomic equivalent of a cardiac arrest.
The set menu has a formula of charging $9.80 for an entrée and a main, or a main and a dessert. It includes French classics such as chicken liver salad, pork filet mignon with a creamy mustard sauce and tarte tatin.
Pricier individual dishes include home-made foie gras ($12) and scallops with tarragon cream ($10), but a variety of pasta dishes including tagliatelle with pesto are available for between $4.50 and $5.
For Marguin, the philosophy behind the Brasserie is simple: serve a combination of affordable high concept dishes mixed with “sun food” or lighter Mediterranean fare.
The creamy lasagna ($5.50) is reminiscent of a secret recipe passed down through generations of Italian grandmothers. It comes heaped on a plate in a generous portion, garnished with parsley. An individual diner would be hard pressed to finish it all.
Seafood also features. If you have a sudden craving for oysters, Marguin can arrange to have 24 flown in from Paris or, if it’s out of your budget, satiate you with the catch of the day from the Mekong.
As you’re coming down from your culinary high, it’s advisable to rest your ahead against the bistro’s long wooden bar and nurse some cognac or grappa. Alternatively, wash your meal down with an assortment of French and Australian wines retailing from $3 a glass up to $18 – $20 a bottle.
Since opening three months ago, the Brasserie has attracted a strong following of regular customers that includes a large wooly white dog.
Like any self respecting French canine, the dog has a taste for fine dining. It will happily sit by your table eyeing off your unfinished plate, while you gently pat it with one hand, the other clutching your stomach as you ponder how many weeks of continuous eating you can afford here before you’re financially ruined.