Spice up your plate at La Cita Rendez Vous Lounge. Gregory Pellechi speaks with owner and head chef RIchard Rojas about his influences. Photography by Dylan Walker.
From his home in Santiago to Montreal and now to Phnom Penh, Richard Rojas has pursued his mission of creating what he calls “home food, healthy food, fresh food.” The Chilean’s current enterprise, La Cita Rendez Vous Lounge, brings the essence of Latin America to Cambodia.
Tucked into a little place on Street 282, La Cita features a collection of comfortable couches centred on the kitchen—offering patrons a view of the magic that goes into some of the most unique dishes to be found in Phnom Penh.
Having originally opened La Cita Rendez Vous Lounge as a restaurant with a general, wide-ranging menu, Rojas came to realise that competing in the same category as so many others was not the route to success. He decided to focus on Latin American cuisine, with a sampling of food from Central and South America, including Colombia, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
In the kitchen, Rojas draws upon his three years working in Mexico. He describes his menu as “personal recipes from big chefs in the countries where I worked.” Those recipes, combined with his own bakery in the back, ensure the independence of La Cita Rendez Vous Lounge, requiring him only to source the basic products necessary to run the restaurant.
The menu is partly homage to Rojas’ mother, as well as inspired because he has been outside of Chile for so long. “[My] blood calls me, the past needs me to do something,” Rojas says. “Everything is a home recipe.”
Rojas has little in the way of an accent that would reveal him as being from Chile nor does he speak in the parlance so common to younger chefs and foodies with obsessions over the most minute of details. Instead, he has the slow, calm manner of a father of three and the knowledge and passion of an experienced restaurateur.
La Cita Rendez Vous Lounge may be Rojas’ first eatery in Cambodia, but this is not the first time he has launched a restaurant specialised in Latin American fare. He owned one such place in Montreal that he describes as “commercial.” As a man who loves his food, Rojas’ other ventures include restaurants serving Italian and Chinese food. The latter specialty stems from the fact that his wife is from the most populous country in the World.
Rojas is already considering opening a second location in Siem Reap. His intention is to turn La Cita Rendez Vous Lounge into a franchise offering piping hot tortillas and a select menu of his most favourite dishes.
Until another La Cita opens near you, Rojas suggests you come by the current location and try the Lomo Saltado—light but filling, the spiced Peruvian beef and potatoes dish provides a flavourful taste of what Latin America has to offer your taste buds.